baking soda

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.

{ 5 comments }

Anna’s almost secret family recipe:  chocolate cake with cooked frosting

Anna’s almost secret family recipe: chocolate cake with cooked frosting

I’ve been a fan of Anna’s blog, Keep It Luce, since shortly after she started publishing. Her Great Aunt Sue’s recipe for chocolate cake with cooked frosting really resonated with me. I’d neither had the cake before nor heard of “cooked frosting,” both of which made this intriguing. But it was the story of her grandfather on his 92nd birthday, weakened by chronic illness, and the intimate portrait of her family life that was so beautiful and memorable. It stuck with me, perhaps because in certain ways it reminded me of my own grandfather. And one day, finally, it was time to make the cake myself.

I served this at the end of a veggie dinner party for eight. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this is my first-ever chocolate cake from scratch. I knew that the cooked frosting was the bomb, as I’d tasted it while icing this ultra moist cake. It was a giant success. One guest asked for some to take home. I gave him a big slice in a doggie bag. I brought the rest to an afternoon barbecue party the following day, much to the delight of the hostess. (I couldn’t let it stay at my house as I’d have gobbled the whole thing up myself in a day or two, then felt guilty about it.)

Basically I followed Anna’s recipe exactly though I did add some rum to the frosting. Also my cake required a bit longer to set than is suggested in the Keep It Luce recipe: about an hour to 70 minutes.

Anna’s almost secret family recipe: chocolate cake with cooked frosting

for the cake:

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
¾ cups unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup hot coffee (I made the cake right after breakfast)
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

for the frosting:

1 cup whole milk
5 tbsp flour
½ cup butter (1 stick) at room temp
½ cup veggie shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp rum

to make the cake:

Pre-heat oven to 325F. Grease and flour a 9”x13” baking dish.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Mix coffee, oil and milk. Gradually mix dry ingredients into the liquid. Once incorporated, beat for about 2 minutes. Add eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat another 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared dish and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Carefully invert from dish onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

to make frosting:

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup milk. Beat in flour and whisk vigorously. Mine reminded me of a roux.
Cover and let cool completely.

Combine flour/milk mix with remaining ingredients and beat until combined. Mmm!

Once the cake has cooled, place on serving dish and frost. Dust with more cocoa powder (optional).

This cake is unbelievably good. Thank you for the delish family recipe, Anna!

{ 4 comments }

Labneh is sort of a Lebanese version of sour cream or perhaps a very creamy cream cheese. Joumana uses it to great effect on her food blog. Look here, here and here for some excellent ideas. Hegui was so inspired that he bought a large container of labneh, mostly to snack on, it seems. I used it with this quick bread as I thought the tanginess would complement the pumpkin and herbs. You can use it like sour cream in most recipes that call for it. I wonder how Polish sour soup would taste with labneh? Mmmm.

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

This recipe comes from cooks.com, though I’ve modified it a bit. Aside from adding dollops of labneh, I used a bit less sugar, soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and more randomly mixed in herbs from our community garden plot. In mine, I used chives, mint and sage. You can add basil and cilantro, too. I thought about Italian parsley but decided that it would overpower everything else. Next time, I intend to top the loaves with jalapeño slices for a bit of heat.

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup soy milk
1 cup mashed pumpkin (here it was kabocha)
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs
1 tsp per mini-loaf labneh

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat eggs then mix in liquid ingredients, pumpkin and herbs. In another bowl, blend dry ingredients. Then mix into wet. I used disposable mini-loaf pans to reduce mess. If you use a regular baking dish, grease liberally. Add batter to mini-loafs just over half full. Dollop labneh in center of each mini-loaf. Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

{ 11 comments }

This is another great recipe from Tess Mallos’ North African Cooking. We served it after the mouthwatering broiled corvina in charmoula marinade, based on a recipe from the same book, the day our super good friend, Kristen, came into town. A meal with guests wouldn’t be complete without dessert, so this adaptation of basbousa, a semolina almond cake, was perfect.

basbousa  semolina almond cake

basbousa: semolina almond cake

The original calls for caster sugar and fine semolina; neither of which we had. So as usual, we improvised. I think that the fine sugar and semolina would’ve made the cake taste smoother. Though I actually enjoyed the rougher texture, as this way it reminded me of Brazilian corn cake, a perennial favorite.

basbousa: semolina almond cake

for the batter:

¼ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups semolina
1tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup plain whole milk yogurt
½ cup slivered blanched almonds

for the syrup:

2 cups sugar
1½ cups water
Juice of a large lemon

for the whipping cream:

1 cup heavy cream
Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add eggs. Keep beating until fully incorporated. Meanwhile sift remaining dry batter ingredients together. Fold it into butter mix alternating it with yogurt. Fold in almonds. Transfer batter to a buttered 9 by 12 baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Begin making the syrup by dissolving sugar in water under moderate heat. Bring to a boil, add lemon juice and let liquid reduce by a third. Remove from heat and let cool down to room temperature. Pour syrup over hot cake right out of the oven.

pouring sweet lemon syrup over hot basbousa

pouring sweet lemon syrup over hot basbousa

Whip cream together with a tiny amount of Confectioner’s sugar until light and fluffy.

Plate cake slices on individual dessert dishes with a dollop of whipped cream.

{ 11 comments }

Steven has been making this buttermilk pancake recipe for as long as we’ve known each other. I like it so much that at the beginning I would insist that he make double batches! It was our weekend ritual. He cooked the pancakes and I would set up the table, brew the coffee and make fresh orange juice. Then we would sit, eat and be happy! Now, of course, with the problems inherent in getting older, elevated cholesterol and weight control, they’re reserved more for special treats, like when we have out-of-town guests.

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

Last week was one of these special occasions. Steven prepared a double batch for our niece, Juliana, and our friend, Chris. Juliana was here visiting from Northern Virginia and Chris slept over after we stayed up really late playing Hearts and chatting over glasses of red wine. (See what I mean? Two batches easily fed four people!)

I suggested a twist to the basic pancake recipe this time. Why not add the extra ripe bananas that are lying around with some walnuts? Banana nut pancakes remind me of our friend, Lúcia. She served us something similar once when we visited her and her family while they lived in an enormous house on Long Island.

The bananas are simply peeled and sliced without mashing. You put them in the pancake after your pour the batter into the skillet. When you flip, the exposed banana develops a lovely caramelized flavor and browns a bit. You should try them one day soon as they’re divine!

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

1 cup flour
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1½ cups low fat buttermilk
1 tbs. vegetable oil with some extra to grease the pans
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
~½ walnut halves

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together and set aside (not bananas and walnuts). In another bowl beat the egg then mix in the wet ingredients. Pour wet into dry ingredients and beat by hand until just mixed and smooth. The batter will have some lumps. That’s ok. If it’s too thick, add a bit more buttermilk. I like it somewhere in the middle between very thick and runny. That way it spreads easily but doesn’t get too thin, like a crepe.

I use two or three non-stick frying pans to make the cooking faster. Grease your pans at the start of cooking with some vegetable oil or butter. Heat pans on high. When heated, add a ladle of batter and lower temperature to medium. Place two banana slices and two walnut halves into cooking pancake. Cook on one side for one to two minutes until bubbles begin to rise to surface of batter and you can maneuver a spatula under cake. Gently flip and cook other side for about the same. Flipping is a little tricky with the heavy fillings, so don’t be distressed if you make a mess. You’ll have to experiment with the cooking times and temperatures as you go. The pancakes should be a golden brown color and cooked through without burning.

Eat right away! You can freeze leftovers, if you have any, but they’re not the same.

enjoying buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts with black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and lots of butter

enjoying buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts with black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and lots of butter

{ 8 comments }

chickpea falafel

by Stevie on January 14, 2011

I was so proud of myself after successfully making this chickpea falafel. (Is that plural or singular? Do you say “falafels” or “falafel” if you’re referring to more than one of these savory balls of goodness or what? Maybe it is like the word “shrimp?”) Falafel is something that I’ve eaten often and really enjoyed.

chickpea falafel

chickpea falafel

There was this great hole-in-the-wall place in the East Village in New York called “Damascus Falafel” that made these incredible falafel sandwiches called, you guessed it, “Damascus Falafel” that had a few of these lovely balls tossed together with tabuli salad, hummus, baba ghanoush, olives, preserved peppers, feta, tahini dressing all wrapped together in an oversized pita bread. It was wonderful!!!

Making them from scratch seemed like a whole different thing. I used the recipe in Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. Najmieh says that falafel is/are originally from Egypt, which I didn’t know. I would have guessed… Damascus? Joumana from T of B agrees though her account makes the attribution sound less than certain.

Silk Road Cooking describes two kinds of falafel: those made of fava and those from chickpea. Supposedly the priests refused to eat those from chickpea and would only dine on the ones made of fava. That’s news to me as I thought that they were all with chickpea. But that’s just more of my falafel naivety. In fact, T of B just published an exciting version with green beans. Her other version has a mix of fava and chickpea.

Here is another recipe, and another, and one more.

chickpea falafel

2 cups chickpeas (dried that I rehydrated)
1 cup roasted chickpea flour
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tahini
½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander (I didn’t have this so left it out)
1 tsp cumin
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup fresh dill and/or cilantro

oil for frying
sesame seeds

Place everything except frying oil and sesame seeds in food processor. Pulse until you get a paste. Pour falafel mix into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to a day.

When you’re ready to make the falafel, heat oil in a deep pan. Shape falafel into walnut-sized balls. If the dough is too soft, add more chickpea flour (I had to). Roll balls in sesame seeds. Press them into rounds. Gently place in frying oil and cook about three minutes per side. Remove form oil and let drain in a dish covered with paper towels.

Serve with hummus, baba ghanoush, yoghurt sauce or however you want. I made a lot so froze and re-heated them in the over later. They were perfect.

{ 5 comments }

My sister, Kris, makes wonderful cakes and quick breads. She lives back East so I don’t see her that often. Years ago she would make this zucchini bread around the holidays in large volume and give it as gifts to friends and family. I’ve never made it before now though I’ve had the recipe for a while. I managed to misplace it in our last move and have finally gotten around to having her send it my way again. It reminds me of her warm kitchen filled with aromas of baking bread, cookies and cinnamon. Aaaaa.

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

Her recipe doesn’t call for sesame seeds but I had some extra (leftover from Hegui’s yummy wakame salad) so threw them into the mix.

This quick bread is easy to make and a real crowd pleaser. I devoured some right out of the oven with butter melting on top. Heavenly! Thanks for this, Kris, and happy holidays!

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

2 cups Italian zucchini, shredded (about three medium zucchini)
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins
¼ cup sesame seeds
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

I used disposable wax paper cake pans. If using a regular baking dish, grease and dust with flour before use.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Fold nuts and raisins into egg mixture. Fold flour mix into wet ingredients in two stages until everything is moist.

Pour batter into baking dishes. I made a ring cake and a smaller loaf from this recipe. My sister says that it can make two regular sized loafs.

Bake about one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. My smaller loaf only needed about 50 minutes. Kris says that muffins might be ready after a mere 20 minutes.

{ 6 comments }

I wanted to subtitle this recipe, “rinse and repeat tropical style,” but decided against it at the last minute as it makes the name too long. Really, this is just a retread of my attempt to create Clotilde’s quince almond cake with the addition of some dried shredded coconut. Hegui was so enchanted by the underdone, first try, that when we came across another batch of quince, he clamored for more. So really, this is a “re-make” or a “re-do,” you choose your preferred term. The “tropical” is the coconut, of course, and our fervent longing for the return of summer. In Brazil, summer starts today. Don’t you wish you were on the beach somewhere right now, toasting under a warm tropical sun? I do, too!!!

bolo de marmelo com côco e amêndoas

bolo de marmelo com côco e amêndoas

This time, instead of lining my baking dish with wax paper, Hegui found for me some disposable wax paper forms which I was able to use without any other baking dish at all. I made a tiny loaf and a large ring cake with this recipe.

The name for the post is Portuguese for “quince cake with coconut and almonds.” And here it is in all its delicious glory:

bolo de marmelo com côco e amêndoas

2 fresh, ripe quince
¼ tsp vanilla
¼ cup brown sugar

1 2/3 cups flour
¾ cup ground almonds (I used whole almonds and pulverized them in a food processor)
½ cup dried shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup plain yogurt
splash of rum
coarse sugar to sprinkle on top

To poach quince:

Peel quince with a vegetable peeler. Carefully cut quince into quarters and remove seeds, stems and inner fibrous parts. Cut quarters into about ½ inch cubes. Put cut cleaned quince into pressure cooker with vanilla and brown sugar. Cover with just enough water to submerge fruit. Cook for thirty minutes after pressure cooker starts to whistle. The fruit released a wonderful aroma while cooking and came out a stunning deep reddish color. Remove and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

poached quince

poached quince

To prepare cake:

Preheat oven to 360F.

Drain quince and chop coarsely.

Mix flour, almonds, coconut, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar together for a couple minutes. Add yogurt, rum and vegetable oil to egg mixture. Stir to incorporate. Fold quince into egg mixture. Gradually mix dry ingredients into moist. Once everything is wet, pour into baking dish. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. (I didn’t have this so used more regular sugar to sprinkle on top.)

Bake about one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool. Remove from dish and peel wax paper away. Serve. We had this as an after dinner treat and for breakfast. Yum!

Ubatuba, SP, Brazil

Ubatuba, SP, Brazil

{ 0 comments }

Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

December 17, 2010

Irene is my paternal grandmother, though she prefers “Granny” to “Grandma.” Apparently it makes her feel younger. For a year when I was a child, my family and I lived in Geneva, Switzerland where I attended a private English-speaking school in the Third Grade. I had a Scottish friend in my class who taught me […]

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quince almond cake

December 10, 2010

The recipe for this marvelous quince and almond quick bread comes from the delightful Chocolate and Zucchini. I’ve recently stumbled across Clotilde’s site and have been a fan since. According to her “about,” she’s French and lives in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. Already that seems pretty glamorous, sitting as I do in my apartment […]

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