break-ie

Steven’s co-worker owns a rental property in the Central Valley. The small apartment building sits on a big chunk of land which her husband planted with fruit trees. A few months ago she gave us bags and bags of citrus. Now that we’re nearly in summer, we’ve entered the stone fruit season. Thus far, she’s given us some cherries, plums, apricots. I don’t even know if cherries qualify as stone fruit. Are they berries? Anyway over the past week we got two bags of sour plums from her garden. The first batch I devoured in no time after dinner. Yum! The second one Steven wanted me to bake into something. So, ta-da: sour plum upside-down cake.

sour plum upside-down cake

sour plum upside-down cake

Sour plums tend to be a little sweet in the middle but sour near the skin and close to the pit. I love taking a bite of a plum and tasting all these flavors. Well with this cake, despite the sugar caramel coating the bottom of the pan, the sour flavor came out in FULL! We loved it: perfect with some tea or a cuppa coffee. We ate this entire cake in a couple of days for breakfast.

sour plum upside-down cake

~2 lbs sour plums, skin on, pitted
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup soy or almond milk
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp butter
Cast iron pan (12 inches diameter, 2 inches deep)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Add one cup of sugar along with one tablespoon of water to cast iron pan over medium heat on your stovetop. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar melts and acquires a nice caramel color. If some sugar sticks to the wooden spoon scrape it off and let it melt until all lumps are gone. Spread the caramel all over the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat to cool down if caramel starts to burn. You just want a caramel color, not a smoking ruin. Cooking to long will make the flavor bitter. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, put remainder of the sugar, then eggs, salt and vanilla. Whisk it to combine. Add oil, soy milk, flour and whisk it again to combine. Lastly incorporate baking powder into the batter.

At this point, although still warm your caramel may be hardened and stuck to the bottom of the cast iron pan. Worry not! Spread the butter until all melted over caramel and sides of the pan. Add sour plum, along with juices if any and spread the fruit evenly over the bottom of the pan. Gently top with the batter. Bake about 35 minutes. Check for doneness via inserting a tooth pick in the center. If it comes out clean then baking is done, if not then you know what you have to do.

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I know I should have bought a smaller container of Greek yogurt in the first place…

We don’t normally eat yogurt by itself. In fact, we usually only have it at home when a recipe calls for it. Like Ottolenghi’s Greek yogurt baba ghanoush. But that scrumptious dish only required two tablespoons. What to do with the rest??

Blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes, of course!

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

The day before I made these pancakes NPR’s Morning Edition aired a special report on Smitten Kitchen during our morning breakfast ritual. Not about pancakes, the story spoke about how that now famous blogger turns out beautiful dishes in her tiny Manhattan kitchen (That sounds so familiar! Do you think that she got the idea from Julie Powell? Just a thought…)

Obviously, Deb Perelman was also promoting her new cookbook over the radio. Congratulations, Deb! She prepared latkes for Lynn Neary during the story—so not pancakes exactly but bear with me here. The following day I googled blueberry yogurt pancakes and one of Deb’s entries came up first.

So influenced by the morning news and Google’s high ranking, I decided to give the recipe a try. I didn’t have all the ingredients that she calls for. Here’s my adapted version of Smitten Kitchen’s dish.

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

1 large egg plus one egg white
1 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
2 to 4 tablespoons soy milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cup (62 grams) whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
Some butter to grease the skillet

Sift together sugar, salt, flour, baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl add egg, egg white, soy milk, lemon zest, vanilla extract. Whisk to combine then whisk in yogurt. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add a bit more soy milk if batter seems too thick.

Place two non-stick skillets on stovetop over medium. Melt a bit of butter in each pan. Add one small ladle full of batter to each pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side, sprinkle some blueberries on top, flip and cook for about 3 minutes more on other side. Continue in that way until batter used up.

Serve with butter, maple syrup and a good cup of freshly brewed black coffee.

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Steven’s been complaining about my cooking lately. Well, maybe not complaining exactly but pointing out a bit clearly that we’ve been in a breakfast rut for a while—bread and coffee, bread and coffee, bread and coffee. Perhaps we’ve both been a little bored with this monotonous refrain. We do eat whole wheat, which is very healthy. He has his with jam and nut butter; I have mine with Earth Balance. Sometimes though what starts out as a virtue can become a culinary straightjacket.

nut and seed granola with date and pomegranate molasses

nut and seed granola with date and pomegranate molasses

Breakfast food is normally loaded with cholesterol so we try to stay away from eggs, cheese and butter as much as possible. Plus during the week, we have virtually no time to cook in the morning. Both of us want to maximize sleep so we get up and leave for work in about thirty minutes. That includes showering, taking out Clarence, getting ready and sharing a little breakie together. So forget cooking!

Granola is a Northern California stereotype and certainly I’ve seen more than one hiker whip out a pouch of the stuff or a few bars in the middle of the woods. Despite the silliness, just like Martha says, “it is a good thing.”

I adapted this recipe from Alton Brown and David Lebovits. I think they adapted their recipes from someone else because they seem fairly similar. You can vary the ingredients to customize your granola or improvise and just toss in whatever’s at hand in the pantry.

I had originally intended to use maple syrup like that other granola I wrote about years ago but realized at the last second that we’d run out. The date and pomegranate molasses were wonderful substitutes.

nut and seed granola with date and pomegranate molasses

5 cups organic rolled oats
2 cups chopped pecans
½ cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup cashew nuts, chopped
½ cup Brazil nuts, chopped
½ cup dried grated coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup raisins (or a mix of dried fruits)

2 tbsp walnut oil
1/3 cup rice bran syrup
¼ cup date molasses
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
½ cup warm water

Pre-heat the oven to 300F.

With exception of the raisins, place all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix and set aside.

Add wet ingredients to a separate bowl and whisk to combine. Pour over dry ingredients. Use your hands so it gets absorbed evenly. Spread the granola on two large baking trays and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Stir granola with a spatula every 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool a bit then add raisins and toss to combine. Let cool completely. Transfer to an air tight container and have it for breakfast with some soy milk, or on a hike to somewhere gorgeous.

do you feel the call of the wild

do you feel the call of the wild?

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This is my first time ever cooking rhubarb. I have eaten it before of course. Steven made a beautiful rhubarb streusel cake last year. His recipe used rhubarb with very red stalks. At the time I didn’t think much of it. The stalks are always red, no?

rhubarb and buttermilk quick bread

rhubarb and buttermilk quick bread

We inherited a rhubarb plant in our new garden plot. The leaves are enormous and so are the stalks. We waited and waited for them to turn red but they never did. They only sort of reddened at the base of the stalk. I thought that they looked ready but what’s up with that color?

Last week I decided to harvest some of the stalks still ‘green’ just to give them a try. Since everyone knows that rhubarb can be poisonous, I read up on it. Turns out that there are several types and that the green ones with red at the base of the stalks is a traditional variety and are fully mature and ready for harvest. Hooray!

my picked over rhubarb plant

my picked over rhubarb plant

rhubarb from my community garden plot

rhubarb from my community garden plot

Sadly, that same informative site recommends refraining from harvesting after the end of Spring to give the plant time to recover. So this is it for this year. Those jams and chutneys will have to wait till 2013.

This recipe comes from rhubarb-info. It is a very informative site. Some more interesting facts about Rhubarb can be read here. I’ve changed the flour types, oil, nuts and the amount of rhubarb.

I love the combo sweet and sour rhubarb flavor. It goes perfectly with a good cup of coffee.

rhubarb and buttermilk quick bread

~ 2-3 cups ripe rhubarb stalks, cut into chunks
1½ cups brown sugar
2/3 cup almond oil (or other neutral oil such as canola)
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup of mixed broken almonds and walnuts
1½ tbsp butter at room temperature
¼ cup coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 13”x9” Pyrex glass dish.

Whisk together brown sugar, egg and oil. Add salt, buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and flours. Continue mixing to incorporate. Fold rhubarb and nuts into batter. Transfer batter to baking dish and spread evenly.

Mix sugar and semi-soft butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until bread passes the toothpick test.

Cool and serve.

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The white corn cake that Fer from the Brazilian blog chucrute com salsicha made the other day caught my eye because she uses an ingredient of which I have plenty in my pantry: harina de maiz nixtamalizada, or Mexican corn flour. It’s been sitting around since Steven prepared delicious vegetarian tamales awaiting the next tamale cook-off because we didn’t know what else to make with it.

Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

Fer is based here in Northern California. She shares the same trouble I do when it comes to buying corn flour for Brazilian dishes. In the US it is ground too coarsely. So she resorted to the Mexican corn flour which has a similar texture to the Brazilian. I think that’s wonderfully creative in-and-of-itself and has given me loads of new ideas already.

I’ve wanted to test this flour for some time but never got around to doing it. I guess was afraid that the way the corn was processed, nixtamalization, would impart a different flavor to the cake. Well, that was completely wrong. Thanks for debunking that myth, Fernanda!

I basically followed her recipe except that I used pastry flour in the combo corn-wheat flour. This made the cake extra fluffy. It came out deliciously corny, not too sweet and super moist.

Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

key ingredients for Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

key ingredients for Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

1½ cups harina de maiz nixtamalizada (Mexican corn flour)
2½ cups whole milk
2 cups pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup canola oil
¾ tsp fennel seeds

Pre heat oven to 400F.

Grease a large baking pan with canola oil and set aside.

Put corn flour in a large bowl, add milk and whisk together to combine. Let this mix sit for about 5-10 minutes. Add eggs and mix it again to combine. Blend in pastry flour, salt, sugar, fennel seeds and baking powder.

Transfer mixture to prepared baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Serve with a nice cup of black coffee.

{ 10 comments }

decadent French toast

by Heguiberto on January 20, 2012

Things with custardy fillings, textures and flavors taste like heaven to me. I love Portuguese custard pies, crème brûlée, flan, English bread pudding and of course, any decant cream-soaked French toast. A toast to French toast, I say!

decadent French toast

decadent French toast

Last Friday I went to the new La Boulange bakery that has just opened nearby my office in the Financial District of San Francisco. My co-workers Caroline and Megan wanted to taste their popular open faced smoked salmon sandwich and soup for lunch. It looked delicious, like everything else on the menu. The pastries seemed amazingly crispy and browned to perfection. While waiting in line, I couldn’t take my eyes off of this shinny, glossy, sesame seed-covered, braided brioche (challah). It was begging to come home with me. What can I say? I’m irresistible.
I used the brioche for this marvelous breakfast the next morning.

key ingredients for decadent French toast

key ingredients for decadent French toast. Mmm, that brioche loaf looks good!

decadent French toast

1 challah/brioche loaf cut into thick slices (about 6 to 8 )
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup half and half
½ tsp Kosher salt
3 tbsp sugar
~ 1 tsp canola oil
powdered sugar

Add eggs, sugar and salt to a bowl and whisk until incorporated. Add half and half and whisk again to combine. Soak bread slices on both sides for about ½ minute each. Allow bread slices to soak up liquid to almost completely saturate them with the cream mixture. Don’t let them break apart though, as it will ruin the presentation.

Meanwhile heat up a skillet with ½ tsp of canola oil, add as many slices as your skillet accommodates and fry them for about 3-4 minutes, flipping them half way. Be careful not to burn or under cook. Transfer to a serving platter, repeat with remaining. Dust powdered sugar over and serve. We had ours with some blueberries, butter, maple syrup and a nice big cuppa strong coffee.

frying the cream soaked brioche

frying the cream soaked brioche

dig in!

dig in!

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cranberry sour cream upside-down cake

cranberry sour cream upside-down cake

I found this wonderful recipe for cranberry upside-down cake on Moveable Feasts, a great foodie blog that we’ve been following and enjoying for a while. Right now, Barbara, with a group of other blogger friends, is in the middle of this really engaging series called “Gourmet’s 50 Women Game Changers in Food,” where she’ll post a biographical sketch of one famous woman chef/entrepreneur at a time with one of her recipes which she prepares as part of the story. It is truly amazing to learn about these talented folk and all the interesting ways that they’ve made food their passion and life. Follow this link for the recent story about Nancy Silverton from La Brea Bakery, among other places.

Anyway, back to the cranberry cake. I’ve been on the hunt lately for an appropriately Thanksgiving-ish dessert that seems original. I’m not too into chocolate (I know, it is a real flaw) and I’ve already been asked to prepare classic pecan pie, so another pie’s out. So what could be better than a cake with cranberries?

In her post, Barbara warns about the caramel spilling out of the dish while baking. I used a deep 10-inch glass baking dish and placed mine on top of a baking sheet covered with foil to catch any spillage. There was a bit though really not much at all. Because my dish was larger in diameter, I needed more cranberries to cover it. Also, her recipe specifically calls for “unsulphured molasses,” but I’m not sure what that is. I had some date molasses at home already, so used that instead. Otherwise, the recipe is essentially the same.

The cake had a dense almost poundcake texture that was really complimented by the sour sweetness of the cranberries, caramel and sour cream. It makes a wonderful dessert and is excellent for breakfast, too. This yummy treat is well on its way to becoming a holiday classic in my home.

cranberry sour cream upside-down cake

2½ cups fresh cranberries
2/3 cup light brown sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp date molasses
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Pre-heat oven to 375F. Thoroughly grease baking dish with butter. Then cover base of dish with wax paper cut to size.

In a small pan, add 4 tablespoons melted butter, brown sugar, molasses, and ¼ cup water. Bring to boil, mix then pour into base of prepared cake dish.

Next fill base of cake dish with cranberries, making sure to lay them evenly and cover caramel sauce as much as possible.

Sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat eggs together with sour cream. Add remaining butter to egg mixture and combine. Add flour mix to egg mix and beat until smooth.

Gently cover batter over cranberries. Bake 50 to 60 minutes. Test for doneness with a clean toothpick. Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes. Then run a small knife around the edge of the cake and gently invert into a serving dish.

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batter fried apple rings

by Stevie on October 24, 2011

This is not something that I’ve ever tried before: deep frying apple rings in a corn flour batter. I read about it in the New York Times Magazine recently. The article had a dozen recipes for apples. Of course, I was only drawn to the deep-fried section ;) Aside from this one, they recommended a way of making tempura-style apple rings, which sounded great but looked more complex; plus the more widely-known apple fritter.

batter fried apple rings

batter fried apple rings

This dish calls for corn meal, but I didn’t have that, so I used corn flour instead. I made this for breakie, though I think that it could be a fun sweet-treat, especially served à la mode with vanilla ice-cream. If you’re feeling particularly frisky, then add hot fudge or caramel sauce and some whipped cream. Now that sounds good!

batter fried apple rings

2 medium apples—I used Granny Smith
½ cup flour
½ cup corn meal or flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/8 tsp cayenne
Canola oil to fry with

Peel and core apples. Cut into about quarter inch thick rings. Soak in the buttermilk.

Mix dry ingredients together. Toss apples into flour mixture. Fry in hot oil until golden brown. Let drain on paper towels. Serve warm.

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rustic pear tart

October 4, 2011

Our next-door neighbor, Ann, keeps bringing us fresh produce from her country home, and we like it. Thanks for your amazing generosity Ann! This summer we were regaled many times with ultra fresh tomatoes, basil, bok choy, sweet corn, lemons, eggplants, oranges, and pears: all delicious and organically produced, and all consumed with gusto. We […]

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potato omelet with zucchini blossoms

September 23, 2011

This recipe comes from Culinaria Spain, that grand book with the vibrant yellow cover. Do you know it? We often enjoyed tortilla espanõl on our long-ago visit to that marvelous country. Until the other day, I’d never made the dish. The Culinaria gives a standard recipe then suggests that various toppings that can be used […]

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