Sep 27, 2010

rustic apple yogurt cake

apple season!!!!!! i just love apple season.

i grew up in the midwest not far from some wonderful farms that had incredible farm markets in the summers. the kind of voluptuous farm markets that dependably unloaded large open trucks of fresh sweet corn every few hours, direct from field to pot, everyone we know bought corn nearly every day in the summer. why eat day old corn when you can eat corn that was picked a few hours ago? there was also an amazing apple orchard with freshly made, unpasteurized cider, and great varieties of apples: early, late, tart, sour, sweet, crisp. the orchard was remote, but always busy and bustling. wonderful.

now that the farmer's markets around here are overflowing with apples, i find myself eating a couple of apples a day (namely jonathans, empires, macouns and macintosh, these are my favorites, the tart eating varieties). amazingly, i still have some apples left for cooking and baking. because apples are completely irresistible to me and, i buy them, not by the bushel, but almost. i really loved going to that apple orchard as a child. so crunchy and sweet/tart these farm fresh apples. we make do, of course, as we must, in late winter when the apples are no longer farm fresh. luckily, all kind of apples are still available and good for baking at that time. this year, i was thinking i wanted to try an apple yogurt cake, since they are perfect for breakfast in a hurry or an after school snack and this cake will keep well for days.

after perusing a lot of recipes, this is what i came up with, it was delicious.

rustic apple yogurt cake

3 cups chopped apples, i use organic granny smith
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups organic all purpose flour (i always use king arthur flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional: 2 TBSP brandy instead of the vanilla

preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit

first, chop the apples, i like to make it rustic and leave the peel on. if you have someone who is averse to large apple pieces you could certainly peel and grate the apples instead). pour 1 cup sugar over the shopped apples and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes, this step pulls a lot of the juice out of the apples and flavors the sugar.

next mix 4 eggs with 1 cup yogurt and the vanilla or brandy if using. add in the olive oil. in a separate container, mix the dry ingredients. now, mix the apple mixture with the yogurt/egg mixture. lightly mix the dry ingredients into this, mixing till combined while also mixing as little as possible,. it may look like a lumpy, ghastly mess at this point. that is okay. it turns out delicious. it is not necessary to get the lumps out.

bake in a 9 inch spring form pan that is generously buttered and floured, or since i didn't have that i used a 9 inch insulated cake pan lined with parchment. you could also use a 9 inch rectangular baking pan lined with parchment. i prefer to use parchment in that it doesn't add any butter or flour to the recipe, and this recipe is pretty healthy and not very sweet. no butter, just yogurt and olive oil.

bake in your preheated 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. a casual, yummy apple yogurt cake for snacks and breakfast. for dessert you could serve it dusted with powdered sugar and with some sweetened whipped cream with brandy. yum. this is a super moist cake that keeps very well. yay, apple season!

Sep 24, 2010

cool blue breakfast

hello autumn. so far you are really hot and humid. steamy even. thickly overcast.

for a gentle start to the day, this could only mean something cool and blue and refreshing for breakfast. one needs sustenance and comfort on a day like today. so a bit of yogurt with a few ripe juicy figs, the last of the mount hood cherries, a few northern blueberries and a couple of freshly toasted pistachios for crunch and color. several cups of iced japanese green tea. it's been a long week and change is definitely in the air. have a great weekend everyone, you all certainly deserve it! xo, g

Sep 21, 2010

fresh fish tacos, revisited

okay, these tacos are fantastic and easy and delicious and healthful. they are also completely inspired by the tuna tacos we ate with great frequency at faith's seafood shack on martha's vineyard this summer. they are so good and so easy, it should be some kind of crime. i feel a little felonious every time i eat these, like i am getting away with something slightly illegal. great food should be more trouble than this, right? a disparaging amount of sweat and toil are supposed to be required to achieve such fantastic results. well, that's what i'd always thought, until these marvelous tacos came into my life.

miraculously, the recipe can be altered to serve anywhere from 1 to 50 people pretty easily. a great meal to indulge in by yourself, or with your husband while your children are otherwise occupied for dinner at any number of sports, parties, dances, sleepovers etc. the kids love them as much as we do, but why waste such great food on them? (mostly kidding, of course) my children are completely pampered and indulged, they are also hard-working students and emerging foodies who adore and insist on great food, and are charming in every way. and yet, parents deserve some perks. so go ahead, indulge yourself. this recipe is completely adaptable, add avocados as i've done here, queso fresco or any number of other elements, it is entirely up to you.

one more great aspect of these tacos is no fried fish, (as is often the case in my favorite fish tacos in hawaii and southern california). here, the fish is sauteed or grilled, with no loss in complexity or flavor. which means, no fried food guilt and no messy fish frying, this really puts them over the top in my book.

fresh tuna* tacos with lime cilantro creme fraiche
serves 4
1lb tuna steak, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, washed and dried, stems removed
3 TBSP olive oil
juice of 1 lime
pinch of cumin
stir to coat the fish
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
8 soft tortillas, only 8 if they are thick, (16 if they are thin and you need to double up)

lime cilantro creme fraiche
1 cup creme fraiche or kefir cheese or sour cream
juice of one lime
pinch of cumin (adjust to taste)
pinch of chile powder
1 TBSP minced cilantro

1 sliced avocado
1/2 cup fresh sweet corn, off the cob
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco

first, marinate the fish in lime a little lime juice, salt, cilantro and chile powder or cumin and olive oil in a non reactive glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl. just for a few minutes while you get everything else ready. second, slice your cabbage ultra fine. use a mandoline if you like. i like to do it by hand, its a zen thing. anyone can do it, but you need the right frame of mind to concentrate on it to shave it super thin. you also need a super sharp knife that has a nice wide blade, one you are comfortable using. great knife skills practice. next, mix the creme fraiche with the lime juice, and cumin, chile powder and minced cilantro. place this in a small serving bowl. then slice and avocado or crumble the queso fresco, if using.

now set to work on warming the tortillas. to save time, i often wrap them in foil and place in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes. but to get a better result i heat them individually in small pan on the stove, heating them on high until they puff up a bit, then turning. this is a great job for a kitchen helper while you are busy with the fish. keep them warm by covering with a clean dry kitchen towel as you heat the rest, it really works.

now, when everything else is ready and the tortillas are halfway there. heat a medium teflon skillet on high and sear the tuna on two sides, this only takes 2 to 3 minutes at most. they brown up beautifully very quickly. they might be a little pink inside, that is what we want. don't overcook or the tuna loses a great deal of its charm. bring everything to the table and ready, set, assemble. just the way you like it. serve with some fresh sweet corn or some beans and rice on the side.

*always try to find sustainable fish sources. there are limited options for sustainable fresh tuna steaks, but they do exist, and as farming tuna becomes possible through advances in technique, we may not have to give up this delicious fish after all. i buy my tuna only from whole foods at this point. swordfish would also work well in this dish.

Sep 13, 2010

light as air fruit scones

one thing i did this summer was develop a serious addiction to scones. not those dense, brick-like things you are likely to find at certain ubiquitous global coffee outlets. but rather, these light, delicate, crumbly, wonderful, fresh scones still warm from the oven. fruited scones. it all happened on vacation, as these things sometimes do.

at the delightful hob knob inn in edgartown on martha's vineyard, breakfast was included, a wonderful thing in and of itself. and also, breakfast was perfect. perfectly cooked eggs, choice of sides and breads, tea, coffee, fruit, fresh squeezed juices and the best scones i had tasted in many many years. these were not dry like ships biscuits. they were light as air, delicate crumb, warm and flavorful, crispy edges. wonderful. they served different flavors every day, cranberry, blueberry, peach, raisin. all perfectly addictive, though blueberry was my favorite. and it was self service, you could take as many as you wanted. such generosity!

quite spoiled upon my return, i wanted nothing else for breakfast. luckily, i had the good fortune to have a similar recipe already in my possession, squirreled away several years ago whilst we lived in san francisco. a recipe from a wonderful chef, maria helm sinskey. she once worked at plumpjack cafe in san francisco, and now i believe devotes her time to being head chef at her husband's napa vineyard, (robert sinskey vineyards, where incidentally, they make excellent wines). in any case, maria and i worked together in the kitchen at a charity event where we bonded over butter, the very best danish butter*, and the amazing scones she baked for the event. they were currant, which i didn't hold against them at all, even though i find currents to be so tiny and dry they hold little appeal. (that shows you how good these really scones are, they can even overcome the shortcomings of dried currants!)

there was only one thing to do once i returned from mv: dust off maria's shamefully unused recipe, switch out those currants and make a few other minor adjustments (more sugar, less cream, more fruit). i used a combination of blueberries and nectarines and, wow. they turned out amazing. i will be making more later this week, and possibly every week from now on, maybe with some figs, or the last of the peaches or the early apples. i can't say. anything would be spectacular.

without further adieu,

light as air fruit scones
makes approximately 15 scones
4 ounces very cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks, preferably lurpak danish butter
1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup organic sugar
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup total fresh fruit: berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
and/or peaches, or nectarines chopped into small chunks
(if using chopped fruit and it is very juicy and moist, you may want to lessen the amount of liquid added in the final step.
if using berries, no need to chop, berry sized is perfect.)
3/4 cup organic heavy cream
1/4 cup organic milk

preheat oven to 450 degrees F or 425 if you have a convection oven
mix together the salt, baking powder, sugar and flour in a mixing bowl. add the cold butter chunks. with a cuisinart, pastry blender, or mixer with a paddle attachment, blend in the butter until it resembles sandy, coarse, cornmeal. add the fruit. then add the cream/milk mixture. mix with a wooden spoon only until the mixture just comes together. turn out onto a floured board and knead ever so lightly to incorporate the ingredients. line your baking sheet with parchment paper. drop dough onto baking sheet in two inch mounds. or cut the dough with a 2 inch round cutter. i prefer the more rustic drop method myself. more nooks and crannies that way. bake for just 10 minutes or so. they will be puffed and golden with light brown edges. allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

enjoy. miraculous, life-affirming, delicate and delicious, scones. but be careful, they are powerfully addictive.

* maria went to pastry school in denmark and firmly believes the best butter in the world is danish butter, because it is so very elastic. which makes it wonderful to work with and superior for all types of baking and pastry. in the ensuing years, i have found her to be 100% right. danish butter has never let me down, and always improves my results, by at least a smidge.