Friday, January 23, 2015

We Have a Winner: Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

I am typing this post from sunny Sicily, where I am eating fresh blood oranges and drinking Etna Rosso.

Don't I wish.

The title calls this cake a "winner", because it is.

I bake a lot of cakes, ones that appeal to my tastes, simple cakes made w/ nuts, apples, and olive oil.

This is one of those cakes, and it's a winner, trust me.

The only reason January is tolerable (here in NJ), is the citrus coming from Florida (and Sicily?).

Blood Oranges are now grown in the US, thankfully, and are available RIGHT NOW, so go and get 'em.

They are a pain to peel, and stain like beets, but they are worth the trouble.

I pinned this recipe for a blood orange upside down cake, and it was the most perfect cake I have ever made.

Moist as can be on the inside, with a nice golden crust on the outside and those delicious caramelized sliced blood oranges on top. And what a smell! Beautiful!

I followed the recipe exactly, and to my surprise, the cake came out of the pan WITHOUT ANY PROBLEM!

A Christmas miracle (I know, Christmas is long gone).

I have made this cake twice so far, both times with amazing results. It also freezes beautifully.

If you can find some blood oranges (you only need 2), then I suggest you make this gorgeous cake right away, before spring comes, and you can't find them anymore.

It's the perfect cake.

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (adapted from Coffee & Crumpets)

1 1/2 cups/225g all purpose/plain flour
3/4 cup/110g cornmeal, organic
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup/200g cane sugar
1 1/2 sticks/170g butter, softened
1/4 cup/60ml neutral flavored olive oil (or veg or canola oil)
1/2 cup/120ml blood orange juice (I used 1/4 c of regular orange juice mixed w/ 1/4 c of blood orange juice)
3 eggs, large and organic
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla

"Upside Down Part"
4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
2 blood oranges, (preferably organic), sliced thin, rind/skin left on

In a 350F preheated oven, melt the 4 tbsp of butter and the brown sugar in a 9" heavy round cake pan (I used a Nordicware cake tin). This should take 5 minutes.
Spread the butter sugar mixture with a silicone spatula to cover the bottom of the tin.

I buttered the sides of the pan as well, after removing the pan from the oven, because I wanted to guarantee NO STICKING.

Lay the thinly sliced oranges on top of this mixture in the pan, it's ok to overlap them, because they do shrink after baking. 2 oranges should be enough.

Set the cake pan aside while making the batter.

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cornmeal and salt) in a large bowl.

In another bowl, beat the sugar with butter, vanilla, zest and eggs. Add in the juice and oil last and mix together.
Add the wet to the dry and mix to form a nice batter.

Pour into the pan over the orange slices in the butter/sugar mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Let rest only 5 minutes in the pan (you may need to run a knife around the edges, but I did not).

Invert onto a cooling rack and tap lightly to release.

My cake came out of the pan like a dream.

Let fully cool before slicing (you want the top to harden a bit).

One of the best cakes I have made in a long time (until next week, you know I will post something else yummy!).


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pasta w/ Hot Smoked Salmon, Fried Capers & Arugula

What's a girl to do with a pound of leftover kippered (hot smoked) salmon from Russ & Daughters?

I can't keep eating it on a bagel w/ a schmear of cream cheese, so I made a big bowl of pasta and fried some capers.

Fried capers?
Um, where have you been all of my life, and how did I never try you before?

Frying briny capers makes them crisp and gets that vinegar taste out. They get nice and crunchy and are addictive.
They fry up in 2 minutes time and are a great addition to any pasta or salad.

Do it.

The kippered salmon question.
What is it?

I grew up with it, cause it's a Jewish thing (and also a Scandinavian thing, which I am not).
It's hot smoked, therefore is cooked, but still has that smoked flavor. I love it. It's very rich, so beware.

Russ & Daughters?
If you are in NYC, I suggest you visit this fantastic 100+ year old institution, which sells (and mail orders) the BEST smoked fish and chopped liver and whitefish salad on the planet.

We go only once a year, but this year we had it delivered for my husband's birthday party.
Hence, the leftovers.............

This pasta dish is wonderful and super easy.
Best eaten at room temperature.

You can certainly use regular leftover cooked salmon, or regular Norwegian smoked salmon (belly lox).

Pasta w/ Hot Smoked Salmon, Fried Capers & Arugula: (adapted from BBC Good Food)

1 lb. pasta (spaghetti, fusilli, farfalle)
1 lemon, zest and juice
3 tbsp capers
olive oil for frying
red onion or shallot, chopped
big handful of arugula
1/2 lb. leftover cooked kippered or regular smoked salmon
peas (optional)
cherry tomatoes, halved (I didn't have them, but will add them in next time for color!)

Start by frying your capers while the pasta is boiling.

Coat a heavy skillet w/ olive oil and fry the capers for 2-3 minutes. Use a splatter screen, or your stove will be a mess. They should be golden brown and crispy.
Drain w/ a slotted spoon and set aside.

Save the oil.

In the same pan, heat the zest and juice of a lemon, while the oil is still hot. Add in the chopped red onion and shallot. I never turned the gas on, because my pan was nice and hot.
You can add some garlic if you like (like the original recipe says), but I despise garlic on fish. :(

Drain the pasta to a big bowl and pour over the lemon shallot oil and toss.

Break up the leftover salmon and add to the bowl with the fried capers and arugula.
I also added in peas for sweetness (I love salmon w/ peas!).

Taste and adjust seasonings.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Grapefruit Brulée

I'm being fancy calling this "bruléed" instead of just "broiled" grapefruit."

I received a big box of Florida citrus, and since I don't love grapefruits, I figured I would broil them with some raw sugar on top.

Kind of defeats the purpose right?

Remember the grapefruit diet back when?

Too much grapefruit gives me canker sores.
Too much information, sorry.

These were delicious, and I would even serve them for dessert if I was desperate.

Grapefruit Brulée:

Slice grapefruits in half, and section out the pieces with a grapefruit knife, placing them back into their slots (I have Henry do this, he is a pro).

Lay in a baking dish and sprinkle with turbinado (raw) sugar.

Broil about 3" from the flame for about 4 minutes until bubbling and getting caramelized.

Let cool a bit before serving.

Very tasty!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Traveling Appetizer: Shrimp w/ Feta, Lemons & Olives

The next time someone asks you to bring an appetizer to the party, make this.

It's so simple, and delicious.

You can also make it at home in a glass bowl if you are not traveling to a party........

I got this genius idea from Lori Lynn's blog.

Here's how to make it:

Place cooked shrimp in a zip-loc bag (I clean my shrimp, tails left on, and boil 3 minutes, then plunge into ice bath).

Add in lemon slices and good hunks of feta cheese.

Throw in dried oregano and lots of red chili pepper flakes.
A squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice and good fruity olive oil.

Let the shrimp marinate in the time you are driving to the party!
Keep the olives in a separate bag so they don't darken the feta cheese.

When you get to the party, take off your coat, dump out the shrimp and lemons into a pretty bowl and top with kalamata olives.

Voila! Once again you are the star of the party.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Sunday Dinner: Chicken Vesuvio Chicago Style

I think I like complaining about winter, because I always seem to do so.

What I do love about winter are stews.

Luscious, slow cooked meats or poultry with lots of ingredients in a big Dutch oven make me happy.

Good food smells and warmth in the house for a day spent indoors cooking.

For last night's dinner, I chose Marie's Chicken Vesuvio.
A Chicago dish, made of cut up chicken pieces with fried potatoes, a yummy sauce made w/ white wine and whole garlic cloves, broth and parsley, topped with peas.


We have Chicken Savoy in NJ, Chicago has Chicken Vesuvio. I love regional cuisine.
My husband orders "Pork Vesuvio" at our local red sauce joint (Reservoir Tavern in Boonton, NJ), it's a similar dish made with a big fried pork chop with a garlic sauce, potatoes and mushrooms (of course he picks out the 'shrooms).

When I saw this on Marie's site, I knew I had to make this.
This was the ultimate easy Sunday dinner.

The only pain was FRYING the potatoes on my stove, which make a big MESS. Make sure you use the splatter screen, and be patient, they will brown to perfection, eventually.

Then fry up the chicken until nice and brown, more mess on the stove.

Get the Windex out and make this DELICIOUS dinner.


Chicken Vesuvio (adapted from Proud Italian Cook & Roadfood):

8 pieces of chicken (legs, breasts, thighs)
10 whole cloves garlic
4 large potatoes (I used a bunch of Yukon gold), cut into wedges
olive oil
kosher salt & pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder (yes)
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/3 cup of fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups of white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup defrosted frozen peas

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large Dutch oven heat olive oil covering the bottom of the pan.

Add in the potato wedges and push around until nicely browned. This will take about 15 minutes, so be patient if you want them nice and crispy.

Beware of potato thieves while cooking.......

Add in the garlic and cook a few minutes with the potatoes. DO NOT BROWN THE GARLIC or the dish will be bitter. Keep an eye on the cloves, if they are getting too dark, remove them and discard. I like to keep my garlic for the sauce, but some recipes have you throw them away (what a waste!).

Remove potatoes and garlic to a pan and set aside. Season the potatoes w/ salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder.

Season the chicken w/ lots of kosher salt & black pepper.
Brown the pieces in the same pan where you browned the potatoes.
This will take about 8 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the 1 1/2 cups of white wine. Cook until the wine is reduced by half.

Add the potatoes back in with the chicken.
Add the chicken stock and cook (uncovered) in the 375F oven for about 40 minutes (or until chicken registers 155F).

Add the defrosted peas the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Let rest a few minutes, then spoon this AMAZING garlicky sauce over everything.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Little Portuguese Orange Cakes

Even better than all of my olive oil cakes are these little Portuguese Orange Cakes, also know as
"Bolinhos de Laranja".

They are the perfect winter dessert, made easily in a muffin tin (sans liner).

I brought them to a party and everyone went crazy. They stay super moist and are perfect for breakfast the next day, if you have any leftover.

I got the recipe from my friend Paula at My Portuguese Kitchen.
Paula is an AMAZING cook, and I have tasted her food first hand! We met in NYC last summer.

You will need 2 muffin tins, as they make 24 little cakes.

Portuguese Orange Cakes "Bolinhos de Laranja" (makes 24 little cakes)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 2 oranges
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup unsalted butter, melted (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon vanilla
sanding sugar (also known as pearl sugar, not easy to find, so use turbinado sugar for the top)

Spray 2 muffin tins (24 cups) with non-stick cooking spray or butter.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, zest, sugar orange juice and melted butter with the vanilla.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients to make a wet batter.

Pour the batter 3/4 the way up in the tin (they will not puff up, the tops will stay flat).

Sprinkle with the pearl sugar and bake 14-16 minutes, until edges are crispy brown.

Let rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a knife around edges and transfer to a cooling rack.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter Vegetable Gratin

I'm desperate for color.

Any colorful vegetable would help me chase away the winter blahs.

Beets to the rescue!

Though my garden is dead and no local produce to be found, there are still pretty beets for me to buy at my market.

Sweet potatoes are always in season, and they pair beautifully with the colorful beets.

I got this nice idea for a winter vegetable gratin at Edible Louisville (yes, Kentucky!).

I didn't really follow a recipe, but loved the photo and knew I had to try it.

There are no rules to gratins, they are just about the layering, baking and a crunchy topping.

Here's how I made mine:

I used about 6 beets, and 2 sweet potatoes for one 9" dish.

Peel the beets and sweet potatoes. Cut into thin slices.

I layered the slices of sweet potatoes, overlapping them, in a well buttered pie dish, sprinkled with kosher salt & pepper.

Then a layer of thinly sliced beets (red and chioggia), kosher salt & pepper.

I took the liberty of throwing in some fresh sage leaves, rosemary and thyme, that I still have alive in pots in the garage.

Next, a tiny sprinkle of cinnamon and chili powder (like a dash) on each layer of the potatoes.

Keep repeating the layers, until you finish with a last layer of sweet potatoes.

Pour about 1/4 cup of chicken stock (from the box is fine) over and around the vegetables and press down.
Then pour in 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Season w/ more kosher salt & pepper.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a 375F oven for 45 minutes.

Remove the foil and sprinkle on some panko breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil on top.
Bake uncovered for 15 more minutes (1 hour total), until the top is golden (you can also place under the broiler for 3 minutes).

This was so good!!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter Chill: EASY Sausage & White Bean Cassoulet

I love a cassoulet. Who doesn't.

Every winter I try a new version. Sometimes w/ duck legs and Toulouse sausages (when I can find the stuff) making it an all day affair, and sometimes w/ Italian garlic sausage and chicken thighs. It's all good.

White beans with herbs, tomatoes and some sort of pork and poultry, how can you go wrong?

Here is Julie's version of a quick weeknight cassoulet.

You can add toasted breadcrumbs on the top to make it more authentic, but we ate it with a good loaf of bread and butter instead.

I always make a point to say (and I will do it again now) buy GOOD QUALITY SAUSAGES.

You know, the kind that a butcher makes, not a supermarket shrink wrapped factory package.
Your market may have an in-house butcher who has his own recipe for sausage, but I doubt it.

I am lucky enough to live in an area with a ton of good Italian, Polish and German butchers, all of them making at least 4 different types of sausages (by the way, please don't correct me, it is proper to say "sausages" or "sausage" when referring to the plural of sausage).

Make this tonight, your house will smell SO GOOD.

Easy Sausage & White Bean Cassoulet (adapted from Sweet Sugar Bean & Dinner w/ Julie):

6 good quality sausage links
1 onion, cut into wedges
pint of cherry tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, smashed
handful of fresh thyme sprigs
kosher salt & pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
2 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock

In a cast iron skillet, lay the tomatoes, onion wedges and smashed garlic on the bottom of the pan.

Next, lay the sausages on top and drizzle everything w/ olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Season w/ kosher salt & pepper.

Cook in preheated 425F oven for 25 minutes until the sausages look done, and the tomatoes are bursting.
Add in the beans and mix together.

Add in the wine or stock and place back in the oven for 15 more minutes.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chopped Salad w/ Apples, Walnuts, Arugula and Bacon

Chop Chop.

I love a chopped salad. It's a big mess of whatever you want, cut into small pieces.

Here I made a version of Ina's Cape Cod Salad, using feta, walnuts, apples & bacon.

Use any lettuce you like, Romaine is also a good choice.
and a fried egg on top is always a great choice.

Chopped Salad w/ Apples, Walnuts, Arugula & Bacon:

big bunch of arugula, chopped
1 apple (I like Gala), skin on, cut into small dice
handful of toasted walnuts
4 slices of good quality bacon, fried crisp and cut into dice
handful of feta, gorgonzola or blue cheese


1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp olive oil
sea salt & pepper

You know what to do.

Whisk the dressing with a fork and chop away.
Mix everything together with the dressing and plate, or eat from the bowl (like I do!).


Monday, January 12, 2015

Smitten's Chocolate Chip Scones

This is a simple, tried and true recipe for chocolate chip scones.

Smitten Kitchen posted it back in 2006 when she was just a young blogger and I have been making them ever since.
I felt it was time to share the recipe with you 9 years later.

Scones are never great the next day, so either freeze them as soon as they cool, or eat them all.

Chocolate Chip Scones (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, (Deb recommends a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury)
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup heavy cream
turbinado sugar for the top

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

Using your hands, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in chocolate.

Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds.

Form scones with a biscuit cutter w/ fluted edges (you can also spread the dough out into a greased pie dish and cut into wedges).

Place rounds or wedges on paper lined baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Your house will smell very yummy.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Torta di Noci: Italian Walnut Cake

I've never met a nut I didn't like.

I love nuts.
I am nuts, and that's maybe why.

Torta di Noci is a dense, Italian walnut cake using fresh nuts from the tree.
Yeah, good luck with that. I don't have a walnut tree.

I am a freak about the freshness of nuts.

Did you know that nuts go rancid very quickly? It's true.

They are very oily and can spoil rather quickly, so don't store them opened in the cabinet for months, you will find them to have a bad smell and taste.

Instead, I like to store them in my refrigerator. I have a separate nut drawer.
See, I told you I was nuts. (you can also store nuts in the freezer with good results).

I have made this type of nut cake/torte numerous times, but each time I had a problem.

The torta fell apart once and was all cracked in the middle, and another time, it was so wet and dense that I couldn't serve it (though they both tasted delicious).
The problem was that the nuts were ground too fine, and they became more of a paste.

One Italian baker recommended I grate the nuts by hand on a cheese grater.
Now there is a project I am not interested in doing.

Domenica to the rescue.

Evidently, other people had problems baking this cake too (especially with all the European metric measures.......a scale is good for baking, which I don't have).

Domenica made this cake w/ hazelnuts and perfected the recipe for us by lightening up the batter, using less nuts and more whipped egg whites.

I knew I would be safe baking this cake.

I did not grate my nuts to a powder or meal, instead kept them in tiny pieces.

This is the most delicious cake you will ever eat. Perfect w/ wine or coffee.

One of my new favorites.

Torta di Noci (adapted from Domenica Cooks):

2 1/2 cups of walnuts (or hazelnuts), lightly toasted
1 stick of melted butter (8 tbsp); or 6 tbsp of melted butter w/ 2 tbsp walnut oil (which is what I used)
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp of baking powder
pinch of salt
confectioners sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F.

Coat a 9" springform cake pan with about 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Place a round of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan and coat the parchment with butter. Set the remaining melted butter aside.

Process the cooled toasted nuts in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until they are ground (I kept mine course, not finely ground). Don't let them get pasty. Transfer them to a bowl and stir in the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the egg yolks and sugar. Drizzle in the remaining melted butter (or melted butter and nut oil, if using), a little at a time, mixing all the while, until the butter has been fully incorporated.

Using a silicone spatula, stir the walnut-flour mixture into the egg yolk-butter mixture.

In a cold bowl, beat the egg white to form stiff peaks.

Mix in 1/4 cup of the egg white mixture, to loosen up the batter, then carefully, fold in the rest of the whites.

The batter will be thick but spreadable. Using the silicone spatula, spread batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until top is golden. Let rest 30 minutes in the cake tin, then unmold the sides.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!