Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maple Apple Upside Down Cake

Fall is my favorite season. I was born in the fall, married in the fall, Thanksgiving is in the fall...what's not to love about those events?! Apple picking is another event Chris and I take advantage of during this season. We usually go to Terhune Orchards in Princeton and sometimes we stay for the festival. They have pumpkin carving, wine tasting, grilled chicken, chili, hot apple cider and, as my husband always remembers, bees. Well if you just wouldn't swat at them they'd stop bothering you! Here are some shots from last year:

This year we went straight for the fruit. It was mid-October and there were only Granny Smith and Staymen Winesaps left, which was OK with me. I like the tart, crisp varieties myself. And both of these are great for baking. I decided to try an upside down cake--maple apple style. I tried another recipe from Food and Wine but split it into 3 cakes to share with family. The apples I prepared were enough for 2 but I had so much batter leftover I couldn't just throw it away. I had roasted some figs earlier in the week so I put those on the bottom of a pan to see how they'd come out in this cake...not sure yet since that one went to my parents but I'll follow up!

Maple Apple Upside Down Cake
Makes three 5" cakes or one 10" cake

1 cup pure maple syrup
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 in slices. The recipe says eighths but that was too thick for my pans
2 cups ap flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
creme fraiche for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour your pan(s). In a small saucepan bring the maple syrup to a boil over high heat, then simmer over low heat until very thick and reduced to 3/4 cup, about 20 min. Pour the thickened syrup into pan(s). Arrange apples in concentric circles, overlapping them slightly. This is harder than it looks, do your best but don't worry about it too much. It will still taste delicious!
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl whisk the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. In the 3rd) bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the wet and dry ingredients over low speed in 3 alternating batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the batter is smooth.
  3. Pour the batter over the apples and spread in an even layer. Bake the cake for 40 mins (5"cakes) or 1 1/2 hours (10"cake) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of crumbs. Let the cake(s) cool on a wire rack for 45 minutes.
  4. Place a plate on top of the cake(s) and invert. Tap lightly to release the cake. Remove the pan and let the cake continue to cool slightly. Cut into think wedges and serve with creme fraiche.
I forgot the creme fraiche for the pictures but it was quite good with it. The cake is sweet so the tangy creme was a lovely complement. Greek yogurt would work well too.
    I don't know why this picture is blue.


    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Trapanese Pesto

    Last year (June 2010) I encouraged you to experiment with pesto, especially in the summertime when herbs are fresh and abundant! Pesto is easy to make in the food processor or even a blender and it goes well not only with pasta, but grilled bread, chicken, fish, pork, even the chimichurri on my husband's favorite steak dish is a type of pesto. You can freeze portions in ice cubes and save it for another day. Here is another variety that I found in the magazine Saveur. It comes from Trapani, a city in northwest corner of Sicily. Like many dishes from Sicily, this pesto calls for capers, tomatoes, anchovies, basil and unfortunately, raisins. I'm sorry, but raisins belong in oatmeal cookies, rice pudding and the rum soaked ones belong in rich vanilla ice cream. Chris would say they belong only in the garbage. If you ask me, Italians have much better uses for those grapes!
    Needless to say I left the raisins out of this recipe. The result was a dish we couldn't stop eating. My sister was visiting and lucky for her she stayed for dinner. It was salty, savory, luscious and light! I know it's not the season for grape tomatoes anymore, and my basil plant is now a graveyard for squirrel treasures, but keep this one in mind for summer! Bookmark!

    Trapanese Pesto
    adapted from Saveur

    • 1 pint heirloom cherry/grape/pear shaped colorful tomatoes (don't you love how we describe fruit using other fruit??)
    • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
    • 1/2 cup basil leaves
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
    • 6 Tbsp evoo
    • 2 Tbsp capers, drained but not rinsed
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    • 3 anchovy filets in oil, drained
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 pepperoncino, stemmed, seeded and chopped

    Place tomatoes in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Pour tomatoes into a fine mesh strainer and drain off excess juice. Save the juice for soup! Back to the processor with tomatoes and add almonds, basil, Parmesan, oil, capers, red pepper flakes, anchovies, garlic and pepperoncino. When finely ground, taste and season with salt and pepper. Don't keep tasting. Save some for the pasta! Keep refrigerated until ready to prepare.

    Place some pesto in the bottom of your serving bowl.  Boil the pasta of your choice in salted water until cooked to your liking. Using a spider strainer, transfer the cooked pasta to your serving bowl, carrying a bit of the pasta water along with it. Stir pasta and pesto until combined and dressed. Taste again for seasoning and serve immediately before you finish the bowl. Don't forget extra cheese for passing.

    Buon Appetito!

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Salt Baked Leg of Lamb

    This endeavor seemed so much more complicated than it actually was! Have you eaten anything that was salt baked? It's flavorful, not too salty as you might expect, tender and the "reveal" is impressive. I got my grass fed leg of lamb from Whole Foods where they kindly de-boned it for me. Good thing because that would have been a mess. This particular recipe from Food and Wine was paired with a lovely Malbec that complimented the lamb nicely. I tend to take the wine recommendations as more of a "a general direction" rather than another essential ingredient to a meal. After all, who is anyone to tell you no Sauvignon Blanc with your steak or no Merlot with your mussels? Well, perhaps I wouldn't go that far.

    Try this salt baked method! I felt like I was back in elementary art class creating a paper mache mask. Moisturize those hands afterwards, though.

    Salt Baked Leg of Lamb based on recipe from Food and Wine

    • 1/4 cup evoo
    • 3 lb boneless leg of lamb
    • freshly ground pepper
    • 5 1/2 cups kosher salt, + more for seasoning
    • 2 Tablespoons Herbs de Provence
    • 8 large egg whites
    1. Preheat the oven to 375. In a large skillet, heat evoo until shimmering. Add the lamb and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over; about 8 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish and season with pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile in a medium bowl combine 5 cups kosher salt with herbs. Add the egg whites and stir until the salt is evenly moistened. I needed a little extra salt because I used large eggs, so hopefully you have some salt leftover. The mixture shouldn't be too goopy--it has to sit tights on your LOL.
    3. Pack the salt all over the lamb in the baking dish. Try not to leave any cracks! Roast in the center of the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until instant read thermometer stuck through the crust registers 120 for medium rare. Keep an eye on it; I found the lamb went from a little too rare to a little too done in 7 or 8 minutes. It will continue to cook a bit while it rests. Let the lamb rest for 10 minutes then crack the crust and remove it.
    4. Remove the strings and thinly slice the lamb. Serve with potatoes and mixed greens.