Thursday, December 9, 2010

Italian Apple Cake

Anyone who has ever been to my house knows that more often then not an unknown or new face will pop up out of nowhere. It started six years ago and continues to this day, my home has become a bed and breakfast of sorts or the 'European Youth (not so youthful) Hostel' as my friends so eloquently refer to it. Some guests are here for just a few days, many return, others stay for months at a time and on the rare occasion, some are so deeply despised that just the utterance of their name can make me shudder. Regardless of the circumstance, it is fair to say that in my house you are more likely to find a face you don't recognize than one you do. This can be nice in moments of solitude, providing the unique comfort that only a conversation with a stranger can offer; a void filled, even if just for a moment. The guests can also be a cumbersome pain, like when they don't pick up on the fact that you may like to have coffee in quiet in the morning and no, you don't feel like talking. Disconcerting at times, the constant flow of strangers does create one unique opportunity, a reason to cook.
Dorie Greenspan Apple Cake
The other day, while working on a batch of granola for a few of my die-hard granola fans (yes, they exist and I love them), I discovered that an Italian guest would be arriving only a few days later. There are a lot of things I like about Italians, they tend to be good looking, they have lovely accents, and most importantly, they eat cake for breakfast. We also eat cake for breakfast, I suppose, but we like to name it something more 'acceptable' like muffin or loaf. Not my Italian brethren though. Nope, they take last night's dessert put it on the table in the morning and call that breakfast. Right on. Since my granola had already been allocated, I figured I had no choice but to make this guest a breakfast cake.
Dorie Greenspan Apple Cake
I have been wanting to make a cake like this one since I ate for breakfast when I was living in Italy. My favorite part? The very high fruit to batter ratio, the apples are the stars and the batter merely there to bind the thing together. It's lightly sweetened and delicate, verging almost more on a pudding than on a cake. It's everything I look for in a sweet, at any time of day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Plum (Pear) Kuchen

I have never really considered myself a slacker, until now. About a month ago was the last night I wrote a blog post, around that time I also made this cake for the next blog post. It has taken me until now to share it. Pathetic, I know. I feel pretty terrible about the whole thing, not because there are so many readers out there dying to see what's next (there aren't), but because I pride myself on my ability to maintain this blog no matter how much other stuff I have going on. However, as my friends' favorite t-shirt reads, 'Shit Happens.' Right on.
The only issue with the whole waiting period is that this cake was much more seasonal when I first made it (I have a solution, be patient). When plums were at their peak, my house was chockful of them in all shapes and size; and what started off as an innocent evening at home one Friday turned into a full-blown plum tasting. Yes, for real. "The yellow sugar plums are definitely the sweetest, but a little mushy." "I must tell you, I like the texture of the Italian blue ones best." The best and worst part about this is that's it's not the first time a Friday night has turned into this kind of 'event' and I assure you it certainly won't be the last.
plum cake recipe
But back to the cake. This cake was a product of the aforementioned abundance of plums and a year-long desire to make a yeasted kuchen that I had seen in Gourmet a year prior. So I made it, but when it came out a leaden brick of underwhelming plum-ish cake, I went back to the drawing board (aka Epicurious).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Summer Vegetable Torte

As I sat on the subway on my way to work the other day, there was a group of 'kids' (I feel weird saying that) talking and laughing awkwardly. I eavesdropped enough to pick up on the fact that they were college freshman who were in that fittingly awkward getting-to-know you phase of orientation. I laughed to myself as I watched and listened to them, clearly uncomfortable, one-upping each other with stories of badass high school parties, crazy nightclubs, and that time that they got caught by their parents. Part of me wanted to tell them that rather than being so uncomfortable, they might as well loosen up now, because they would eventually anyhow, and why waste time being anxious? My more cynical side wondered who would still be friends after four years, who would be eaten alive by New York City, and who had already decided that these were not the people that they wanted to be friends with. And then, just for fun, I wondered which girl was the sluttiest, which guy might be ashamed of going to college a virgin, who was lying about their past and if anyone was standing there with a smile, but secretly wanting to cry. Come to think of it, it's no wonder freshmen drink so much.
eggplant layered vegetable torte
Four years ago, I would have been the girl who smiled, told her stories and stood there wanting to cry. Not because I was unhappy, but because I was scared. Shitless. Understandably so, I found myself in Canada, far from home, surrounded by unfamiliar faces who kept saying weird things like "eh." Well the long and short of it is that sooner rather than later I, too, was saying "eh." It was lovely and remained lovely, including the very unlovely moments that I complained about to no end. Seeing these freshmen on the train was the first time I really realized that I am done with school. It's actually kind of cool that back to school commercials are no longer giving me an awful sinking feeling in my stomach. I am also not busy calculating how many combined essay pages I am going to have to write this semester. And even more unusual, my job isn't just something to fill my summer days, but reality. It's bizarre, new and different, but rather than standing there wanting to cry, I feel refreshed, invigorated and excited. I guess on some days I also kind of wish that I were hearing a few more "ehs" around; alas, I suppose I will have to make the trek the Canada here and there. Problem solved.
summer vegetable torte
This torte has nothing to do with any of this, except for the fact that it tastes like August. August, that once bittersweet month indicating the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, the only type of year that exists when you're a student. Turns out that the flavors of August are just luscious. It's too bad that I have so often tainted them with negative thoughts of back-to-school, because they should be appreciated for their fleeting goodness.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Corn and Jalapeno Hash

I was at a loss for what to name this dish, hash? mash? grated corn? All of the above? All I am sure of is that it ain't pretty. At all. Thank goodness for that stunning cobalt bowl, which slightly detracts from the sheer unattractiveness of what I am fairly certain looks like prechewed corn. People, please don't judge a book by it's cover because I assure you that what this corn dish lacks in the looks department, it more than makes up for in taste. All that without butter or cream or much salt. Sounds too good to be true? That's why it has to be ugly, you can't have it all, that just wouldn't be fair.
sweet corn
I actually ripped this recipe off of a friend after having dinner at her house. I can't actually call it a total rip-off because it's so simple that calling the preparation a recipe may not be fair. However, making this does take a little bit of dedication and arm work, but I assure you the benefits outweigh the costs. Consider the corn grating a workout if you wish. If you do so, let me warn you that this is a very unbalanced workout. As my 'guns' prove I make excessive use out of my right arm's strength. Alas, at least it's summer and there is sweet corn to grate, right?
sweet corn
So here's how it works. You chop an onion and mince 1/2 a jalapeno, set the jalapeno aside. In a dutch oven heat up a tablespoon of oil. Cook the onion over medium heat until soft and translucent. Set this aside. Shuck 10 ears of corn. Cut the kernels off of 3 of them.