Senin, 27 Agustus 2012

Beaumes-de-Venise Cake

Have you ever had a cake that was made with grapes? If not, this recipe is a must. It is  a wonderful, elegant yet rustic cake. It is easy to make and incredibly moist. It has a subtle citrus flavor with a slight taste of grapes. The batter contains olive oil and butter which gives the cake a very complex aroma. Try it for yourself, you will not be disapointed.

Beaumes-de-Venise Cake
(from Bon Appetit)


1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Beaumes-de-Venise or other Muscat wine
1 ½ cups red seedless grapes (smaller is better), washed and dried

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush 10-inch-diameter springform pan with olive oil. Line bottom of pan with parchment; brush parchment with olive oil.
Sift flour and next 3 ingredients into bowl. Whisk 3/4 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons oil in large bowl until smooth. Whisk in eggs, both peels and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with wine in 3 additions each, whisking just until smooth after each addition. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle grapes over batter.
Bake cake until top is set, about 20 minutes. Dot top of cake with 2 tablespoons butter; sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over. Bake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes longer. Cool in pan on rack 20 minutes. Release pan sides. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Rabu, 15 Agustus 2012

Melon, Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Since it is so hot here in Chicago, we have been eating a lot of salads, cold soups and smoothies. I saw this  recipe in the New York Times and thought it was perfect for the current weather.  Although it might seem unusual to combine melons and cucumbers, they go very well together as this salad proves. To make it more filling, I added some Israelian couscous and we had a very light and refreshing dinner.

Melon, Cucumber and Tomato Salad
(adapted from Martha Shulman)
6 servings

1 European cucumber, peeled if desired and cut in medium dice
Salt to taste
1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded if desired, cut in thin wedges or diced
1 small ripe honeydew melon or cantaloupe, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice or shaped into melon balls
2 to 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon mild honey, like clover, or agave nectar
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil, rice bran oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped chives

3/4 - 1 cup Israelian Couscous or other grain (optional)
Fresh watercress for garnish (optional)

1. Prepare the couscous according to the packaging directions. Let cool. 
Put the cucumbers in a colander set in the sink or a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients.
2. Toss the cucumbers, tomatoes and melon together in a bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, salt to taste, lime juice, honey and oil and toss with the fruit and vegetable mixture. Add the couscous and mix. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
3. Just before serving, toss with the herbs. Line plates with watercress if desired. Taste the salad, adjust the seasonings and serve over the watercress.
Advance preparation: You can make this through Step 2 several hours ahead. Because of the salt, the vegetables and fruit will give off a lot of water, so if you don’t want the salad to be too juicy, salt shortly before serving.
If you are using the couscous, you might have to make more of the dressing. Let your taste buds decide.  

Rabu, 01 Agustus 2012

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma is a classic Sicilian Pasta dish. It is made with tomatoes, eggplant, grated ricotta cheese and basil. Supposedly it is named after the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini. It is a satisfying weeknight meal that the whole family will love.
Most recipes call for frying the eggplant, but Cooks Illustrated cooks the eggplant in the microwave first in order to draw moisture from it and prevent it from soaking up too much of the oil. Genius.

Pasta a la Norma
from Cooks Illustrated

We call for both regular and extra-virgin olive oil in this recipe. The higher smoke point of regular olive oil makes it best for browning the eggplant; extra-virgin olive oil stirred into the sauce before serving lends fruity flavor. If you don’t have regular olive oil, use vegetable oil. We prefer kosher salt in step 1 because it clings best to the eggplant. If using table salt, reduce the amount to ½ teaspoon. Ricotta salata is traditional, but French feta, Pecorino Romano, and Cotija (a firm, crumbly Mexican cheese) are acceptable substitutes; see “Ricotta Salata’s Understudies,” below. Our preferred brands of crushed tomatoes are Tuttorosso and Muir Glen.


1large eggplant (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt (see note)
3tablespoons olive oil (see note)
4medium garlic cloves, mined or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
2 anchovy fillets, minced (about 1 generous teaspoon)
1/4-1/2teaspoon red pepper flakes
1(28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (see note)
1pound ziti, rigatoni, or penne
6tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3ounces ricotta salata, shredded (about 1 cup) (we used Parmesan)

1. Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Line surface of large microwave-safe plate with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over coffee filters; wipe out and reserve bowl. Microwave eggplant on high power, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly.

2. Transfer eggplant to now-empty bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and toss gently to coat; discard coffee filters and reserve plate. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add eggplant and distribute in even layer. Cook, stirring or tossing every 1½ to 2 minutes (more frequent stirring may cause eggplant pieces to break apart), until well browned and fully tender, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer eggplant to now-empty plate and set aside.

3. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and pepper flakes to now-empty but still-hot skillet and cook using residual heat so garlic doesn’t burn, stirring constantly, until fragrant and garlic becomes pale golden, about 1 minute (if skillet is too cool to cook mixture, set it over medium heat). Add tomatoes, return skillet to burner over medium-high heat, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add pasta and 2 tablespoons salt and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water; drain pasta and transfer back to cooking pot.

5. While pasta is cooking, return eggplant to skillet with tomatoes and gently stir to incorporate. Bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring gently occasionally, until eggplant is heated through and flavors are blended, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir basil and extra-virgin olive oil into sauce; season to taste with salt. Add sauce to cooked pasta, adjusting consistency with reserved pasta cooking water so that sauce coats pasta. Serve immediately, sprinkled with ricotta salata.