Archive for the 'Recipes' Category

Strawberry Ginger Upside Down Cake

Strawberry Ginger Upside Down Cake

Sweet strawberries from the Echo Park Farmer’s Market and my recent habit of adding fresh ginger to almost everything I eat led to today’s cake creation.

A last minute addition of frozen blueberries balanced out the slight tartness of the strawberries and  resulted in an unexpectedly yummy caramelized crust.   I like the cake served by itself, although a little whipped cream couldn’t hurt.

I’ve used this cake recipe before, with different spices and loquats, here.

Berry Topping:

3/4 stick butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2″ piece ginger, peeled and very finely chopped

2 baskets or about 12 ripe strawberries, trimmed and sliced 1/4″ thick

1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (I used Trader Joe’s frozen wild blueberries)

Cake:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 stick butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs at room temperature

3/4 cup buttermilk (regular or soy milk can be substituted)

Equipment: A 10″ cake pan or a 10″-12″ ovenproof cast-iron skillet

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For berry topping:  Melt butter in skillet or cake pan (using potholders, of course!) over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low, sprinkle brown sugar and chopped ginger evenly over butter, then cook, without stirring, for 2-3 minutes.  Not all the sugar will be melted.  Remove skillet/pan from heat and arrange strawberries, cut sides down, in a circular pattern over the brown sugar/butter mixture.  Scatter blueberries around the outside edge of the pan.

For cake:

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and soda, salt and ground ginger.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 1/2 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one and a time until mixture is creamy and has doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk.  Beat until just combined.

Gently pour batter over berries.  Bake cake in the middle of the oven until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes.

As soon as cake is done, invert a large plate or pan over the skillet and flip skillet over, inverting the cake onto the plate.  Lift skillet off cake and replace any fruit still stuck to bottom of skillet.  Serve warm.

Cake will last, covered and refrigerated, for several days.  Reheat in a low oven.

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Best Biscuits Ever

Leftover biscuit, served for breakfast with jam.

I have been attempting to make the perfect biscuit for about a year now.  And failing, miserably, every time.  I knew I just needed to find the right recipe, so I tried dozens of different ones with the same result:  hockey pucks.  I really should have known better, but i’d lost my biscuit mojo and just couldn’t get it back.  Until last week, when I finally mastered the art of biscuit-making.

I finally got around to a long neglected task:  organizing a file full of recipes clipped out of various newspapers and magazines.  In it I found a New York Times recipe for Scott Peacock’s Classic Buttermilk Biscuits.  It sounded promising- lots of butter and salt and a very different recipe than any i’d tried before.  The biscuits turned out better than I could have imagined, tall and puffy and ready to be split.  I was worried about the 500 degree baking temperature, but maybe that was the magic missing link to perfection.  That, or the fact that you mix your own baking powder out of cream of tartar and baking soda.

This recipe also has the added bonus of being really fun (and slightly messy) to make.

Scott Peacock’s Classic Buttermilk Biscuits:

Ingredients:

Makes 12-20 biscuits, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter.  I recommend halving the recipe- these biscuits are big!

1 tablespoon cream of tartar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

5 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed.

1 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon kosher salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

2 cups chilled cultured buttermilk, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Set a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.  Sift together the cream of tartar and baking soda to make baking powder.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the butter.  Working quickly, rub it between your fingertips until half is coarsely blended and the remaining pieces are 3/4-inch thick.

Make a well in the center of the flour.  Add all the buttermilk and stir the mixture quickly, just until it has blended and a sticky dough forms.  (If the dough appears dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons buttermilk.)

Immediately turn the dough onto a generously floured surface.  Using floured hands, briskly knead about 10 times until a ball forms.  Gently flatten the dough and, using a floured rolling pin, roll to 3/4-inch thick.

Using a fork dipped in flour, pierce the dough through at 1/2-inch intervals.  Flour a 2 1/2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter.  Stamp out rounds and arrange on a heavy, parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake until golden, about 12 minutes.  Remove and brush with melted butter.  Serve hot.

Tomato, Basil and Sweet Corn Risotto

Risotto

Crisp corn plus chewy risotto makes a delicious pairing

It’s the tail end of summer and i’m not ready for fall.  I want a few more sunset barbeques and lots of garden tomatoes.   This risotto came about with a grocery store deal on 5 ears of sweet white corn and a taste for some stick-to-my-ribs comfort food.   I love making risotto, and have never understood why people think it’s a difficult dish to perfect. Hopefully I can demystify risotto a little bit because it’s really quite easy!  This recipe can be adapted to accommodate endless combinations of vegetables and herbs. My latest favorites have been butternut squash with sage, and carrot, lemon and dill. Vegan risottos are easy to do by omitting/replacing the cheese and butter from this recipe. Lately i’ve been thinking about making a vegan snap pea risotto thickened with coconut milk… but I digress…

Ingredients:

Feeds 6-8

Half a stick of butter, divided

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 leeks, white parts only, sliced 1/4″ thick

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

5 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

5 ears of white corn

3 cups Arborio rice

1/4 cup dry white wine

64 oz. vegetable broth

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 small bunch basil leaves, chopped

Directions:

Place the vegetable broth in a pan on low heat while you prepare the onion/leek mixture.

Melt half of the butter and all of the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot.  Saute the leek and onion over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and saute 1 min.  Add tomatoes and cover, stirring occasionally for  8-10 min. While the tomatoes are cooking, cut the corn from cobs with a sharp knife and set aside.

When the tomatoes have gotten juicy and fallen apart, add the rice.

Turn the heat down to low and add the white wine.  Cook, stirring, until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.

Start adding about a cupful of vegetable broth at a time to the rice mixture and stirring until the liquid has disappeared.  Continue slowly cooking, adding and stirring until all the broth is gone and the rice has plumped up and softened.  This process takes about 30 minutes.  Some people prefer their rice more al dente or the dish more soupy, so when the risotto is almost to your liking, stir in the corn, basil, parmesan, and the rest of the butter.  Serve with red wine, a green salad and a good crusty bread.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

The secret to any zucchini or carrot-based dessert or bread is simple:  add double the amount of veggie the recipe calls for.  This has never failed me and always results in an uber-moist, melt in your mouth texture.

I found this recipe in the September issue of Gourmet magazine and, after adapting it to suit my tastes, i’ve made these cupcakes twice (and it’s not even September yet).  A great way to turn zucchini haters into zucchini lovers, these cupcakes can be adjusted in many ways.  Amp up the cocoa powder and remove the chocolate chips to make super dark, fudgy cakes, remove the chocolate completely for straight-up zucchini cupcakes, or turn them vegan by using egg substitute and vegan chocolate chips.

Ingredients:

Makes 12 cupcakes.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil or Crisco

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 to 2 cups zucchini ( 1 if you want to follow the recipe exactly, 2 if you want to do it my way ), grated.

6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips ( I usually add the whole bag…)

Muffin/cupcake pan(s) with 12 (1/2-cup) cups with paper liners.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat together sugar, oil (or Crisco), egg and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended, about 2 minutes.  Mix in flour mixture until just incorporated.  Using a large spoon, stir in zucchini, then chocolate chips.

Divide evenly between lined muffin cups.  I fill my cups almost to the top because these cupcakes don’t rise much.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until tops spring back when lightly pressed.  Cool and enjoy!

Note:  I usually double the recipe and I recommend you do to, as these cupcakes seem to disappear in seconds.

Bullock’s Popovers

Popovers straight outta the oven

Popovers straight outta the oven

Growing up, I used to spend summers and winters in the Bay Area, at my Granny’s rambling house in the El Cerrito hills.  I’ve heard that when my Granddad was alive, the kitchen, with its huge range and two ovens, was alive with cooking.  Unfortunately, when Granny lost Granddad, she also lost her love of food.  However, according to my mother, there was one family member who maintained a sense of love and fun in the kitchen:  Aunt Polly.  My mom’s main culinary mentor, because “she made all the things my parents never would.  Baked Alaska, gazpacho, plum pudding and tall, eggy, air-filled popovers.  She also made the best birthday cakes, like a fresh strawberry shortcake big enough to feed 14 people.”  My mom also told me that Aunt Polly “was a happy cook.  My mother was a good cook, but she wasn’t ever happy cooking.  It makes a big difference, duty versus enjoyment.”  Having spent most of my time cooking for pleasure, I second that.

In Aunt Polly’s honor, let me share this recipe for Bullock’s Popovers, made famous at the now defunct Bullock’s Wilshire department store.  These popovers taste great with a simple soup and green salad, or with a big Saturday morning breakfast:

Ingredients:

6 eggs

2 cups milk

2 cups flour

3/4 tsp. salt

6 tbsp butter, at room temperature

Equipment: 8 ramekins or large muffin tins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk or an electric mixer.  Beat in milk until well blended.

In a small bowl, sift flour and salt.  Work butter into flour mixture with whisk or mixer.

Gradually add flour mixture to eggs and milk and blend well.

Fill 8 buttered ramekins 3/4 full.  Place on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes (for a more eggy interior) and 1 hour (for a more crispy, dry popover).

Loquat Upside Down Cake

Loquat Upside Down Cake

Loquat Upside Down Cake

Between my house and my neighbors, there must be at least 5 loquat trees packed with ripe fruit.  And other than eating them straight from the tree, i’m never quite sure what to do with all the loquats.  Most of the recipes i’ve found are for loquat jelly or jam, which just isn’t that appealing to me.  So I made up my own recipe- Loquat Upside Down Cake.  This is a fun, skillet-to-oven dish that takes very little effort and results in a layer of caramelized loquats atop a vanilla-scented cake.

Loquat Topping:

1 Stick Butter

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

About 30 fresh, ripe loquats, halved and pitted

Cake:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp ground cardamom or cinnamon (optional)

1 stick butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs at room temperature

3/4 cup buttermilk

Equipment: A 10″-12″ ovenproof cast-iron skillet

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For loquat topping:  Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low, sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter, then cook, without stirring, for 3 minutes.  Not all the sugar will be melted.  Remove skillet from heat and arrange loquats, cut sides down, in a circular pattern over the brown sugar/butter mixture.

Loquats in the skillet

Loquats in the skillet

For cake:

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and soda, salt and optional spice.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 1/2 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one and a time until mixture is creamy and has doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk.  Beat until just combined.

Gently pour batter over loquats.  Bake cake in the middle of the oven until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes.

As soon as cake is done, invert a large plate or pan over the skillet and flip skillet over, inverting the cake onto the plate.  Lift skillet off cake and replace any fruit still stuck to bottom of skillet.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Cake will last, covered and refrigerated, for several days.  Reheat in a low oven.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup with all the fixins

Tortilla Soup with all the fixins

After spending 6 years living in Texas, moving back to Los Angeles made me miss certain dishes that just don’t seem to crop up here often.  Frito Pie, Mexican Martinis, and my ultimate comfort food, Tortilla Soup.  I’ve never managed to find a restaurant that serves a vegetarian version, so I decided to perfect my own.  And when I say perfect, i’m not kidding.  This soup is so filling and good that it’s hard to believe how easy it is to prepare.

Ingredients:

Serves 6

1 onion, chopped

1/2 tsp to 1 tsp Ancho chile powder

6 cups/48 oz. vegetable broth

2 14 oz. cans fire-roasted tomatoes with adobo and jalapeño

1 bunch/2 cups spinach

1/2 package of vegetarian chorizo such as Soyrizo

Juice of half a lime or lemon

1 package Queso Oaxaca

1 bag Tortilla chips (I use a mix of blue and white corn chips)

2 Avocados, peeled, seeded and diced

Directions:

In a large soup pot, sauté the onion on medium heat until glassy, about 10 minutes.  Add ancho chile powder and stir to coat the onion.  Turn the heat up to high and add vegetable broth and roasted tomatoes.  Let boil, then turn down heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

While soup is simmering, fry the veggie chorizo in a non-stick skillet for 5-8 minutes.  Do not add oil to the pan, as the chorizo has enough oil in it.

Prepare the soup garnishes: grate the cheese and dice the avocados.

With a hand-blender, blender or food processor, blend soup to a smooth purée.

Add the veggie chorizo, spinach and lime juice and stir.

To serve, place handfuls of the tortilla chips, cheese and avocado in each bowl.  Ladle soup over garnishes.