Lemon Olive Oil Cake

7 05 2011

Most of you know I’ve had to go dairy free while nursing Carter due to his intolerance to the protein in cow’s milk. The first few weeks were a tad shocking and I had myself a little pity party. No cheese or butter? You have to be kidding me! It’s okay, it’s short term, I’ll figure it out. I’ll just eat this sandwich. But wait, there is dairy in EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING  I TELL YOU! Scott would come home from work in those first few weeks, I’d be in tears, Carter’d be in tears, and I’d just hand off the baby and go cry.

I’m kind of like a baby. I don’t do well when I don’t eat. I whine a lot. There might be a melt down or two. And I can’t sleep well. Yep. Juuuuuust like a baby. After collecting myself, I’d come back in and Scott would say “what did you eat today?” The water works would resume and I’d say (all pathetic-like) “a sleeve of saltines” booooohoooo. I seemed to have a difficult time finding foods to eat while holding a baby who refused to be set down in those first 6 weeks (he literally slept ON me (or scott or mimi) for the first 6 weeks – oh, those days were sweet, but it was hard to take care of myself and let him sleep).

One Saturday I was busy feeling sorry for myself because I couldn’t have queso with my college football and my husband disappeared. I noticed his car was gone and thought he had just gotten sick of me and needed a break. I was whiney, I tell you. The next thing I know, in walks my knight with three huge bags of groceries. And guess what? Not one of the items contained dairy. He scoured the aisles and read hundreds of labels to find healthy quick snacks, some junk food, and some delicious fresh produce (duh). Then he made me lunch. I got some calories and collected myself. And all was better.

Once I got over the initial hump of figuring out how to avoid dairy products, I started trying to get a little creative. Olive oil really is kind of buttery. It goes nicely in potatoes (Thanksgiving dinner without creamy mashed potatoes is not Thanksgiving dinner), can replace butter on toast, and can be used for the cooking and roasting of any vegetable. It’s got less saturated fat to boot.

Anyway, when we were in Italy, I saw olive oil cake on a lot of menus. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t quite grasp the flavor and wasn’t willing to try it, but I kept hearing friends and others talk about how great it was. So I finally decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did. It doesn’t taste overly olive oily. In fact, you would barely know. It’s velvety like an angel food cake, but heavier like a pound cake. It’s lightly sweet and a little buttery. Delicious!

Lemon Olive-Oil Cake
Gourmet via Epicurious

3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additional for greasing pan
1 large lemon
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Special equipment: a 9-inch (24-cm) springform pan; parchment paper

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease springform pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.

Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons and whisk together with flour. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.

Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.

Octopus Chickpea Salad

23 04 2011

Ok. Don’t let yourself get tied up in the name. Or the main ingredient.  Hear me out. I tried a salad similar to this at a mediterranean restaurant a few weeks ago. I’ve been dreaming of it since and wondering how I could recreate it. Today, at the market I thought I’d ask the fish monger if he had any octopus. Sure enough, he did! I grabbed a small package (one leg was about $4.50). I had everything else I needed at home.

The goal was a side dish for grilled steaks. A little surf and turf, I suppose. Scott & I both loved it, but I think the recipe needs some tweaking to be exactly what I was looking for! The carrots should be softened some, but not too much…so maybe blanch them? The dressing could use a little more sea salt and some coriander. But, here’s the recipe if anyone feels like being adventurous in the kitchen! It’s a really tasty salad.

If you’re squeamish about the octopus, it’s not bad at all. It’s firm, kind of like cooked shrimp. If you didn’t know it was octopus, you wouldn’t even think twice about it! It doesn’t smell “fishy” or really like anything. It’s just really tasty!

Octopus Chickpea Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette
1 small-medium octopus leg (about 1/4 pound), sliced into bite size pieces
2 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
1/2 of a 14.5 ounce can chickpeas

1/6 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix the octopus, carrots and chickpeas in a bowl. Whisk the ingredients for the dressing together in a separate small bowl. Pour desired amount of dressing over seafood mixture.

Note: the dressing recipe makes far too much for the amount of seafood. I will use my leftovers on salads this week!

octopus chickpea carrot salad with lime cumin vinaigrette

Sunday Supper: Chipotle Sloppy Joes

10 04 2011

We have a confession to make. Between the three of us, we have eaten five hamburger buns tonight. I forgot to buy some at the store for our dinner and didn’t want to go back. So I made my own. Oh my. While they require rising time, they are so ridiculously easy. I will do my best to make homemade from now on (unless you want to bring me some from Fuddruckers). SO, so good. The sloppy joes were good too. But the buns!

I made the sloppy joes from a recipe I found on myrecipes.com. I found them to be tasty, Scott didn’t enjoy the nostalgia as much. Maybe because he was blinded by the goodness of a homemade bun? I also made some homemade potato chips seasoned with sea salt, chili powder, and garlic powder. I LOVE Sunday Supper!

I even took a picture, but sadly, it’s a big blurry mess. So…no picture. But you know what a sloppy joe looks like, right?

sloppy carter joe

Yeah. We are experimenting with new foods. Not sloppy joes + homemade buns for him QUITE yet. Just rice, prunes, oatmeal, and avocado. Anyone want to come do diaper duty for the next few days?

Oh, sorry. That’s so gross of me to talk about during Sunday Supper. Let me get on with it!

Chipotle Sloppy Joes
(adapted from myrecipes.com)
1 dried chipotle pepper
1 pound ground sirloin
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 8 ounce can no salt added tomato sauce

Soak the chipotle pepper in hot water for 30 minutes to an hour. Stem, seed and mince the pepper.

Brown the beef in a skillet over medium high heat. Add chipotle, tomato paste, salt, cumin and tomato sauce. Mix together and let simmer for 3-5 minutes until well mixed and heated through. Serve over toasted hamburger bun.

Hamburger Buns
borrowed from King Arthur Flour
3/4 to 1 cup luke warm water
2 Tbsp butter
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I appropriately used King Arthur brand)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 Tbsp instant yeast
3 Tbsp melted butter (for topping)

Mix and knead ingredients until they form a soft, smooth dough. I mixed mine in a stand mixer and then kneaded with the dough hook for 6 minutes. Turn dough into a greased bowl and let rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until almost doubled in bulk. I put mine in the oven with the light on because our house tends to be a tad drafty. Scott proceeded to turn the light off for me (so helpful!), but they still rose fine.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each   piece into a round ball; flatten to about 3″ across. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.

Brush the buns with about half of the melted butter.

Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven, and brush with the remaining melted butter. This will give the buns a satiny, buttery crust.

Try not to eat every single one of them in one sitting. Include non-bun-eating-baby in count of people consuming buns so it sounds like you only had 1 bun + a few bites of another.

Sunday Supper: Short Ribs With Coffee & Chilies

4 04 2011

Winter can tend to drag on in Seattle. Just when you think you’ve seen light at the end of the dark and rainy tunnel, another “system” drops by and hangs out. Awesome, if you love spring skiing (2 feet of snow in the cascades tonight/tomorrow). Not, if you are a city dweller with a rambunctious child (2-4 inches of rain/wind/cold in the city).

It makes me still crave the warm food that braises for half the day making your house all smelly of goodness and warm. I’ve made these a few times this winter and am leaving this recipe in my “go to” list. It’s very simple, requires very little interaction and makes your house smell like a little dose of chili heaven.

Delightfully borrowed from the New York Times:

Short Ribs With Coffee and Chilies

1 tablespoon oil
4 large or 8 small short ribs
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 dried pasilla chili, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 dried chipotle chili, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup strong coffee

1. In a heavy pot that can later be covered, drizzle oil. Over medium heat, brown ribs well, adjusting heat as necessary to get a dark crust. Take your time, and season with salt and pepper as they cook. Remove them to a plate and turn heat to low.

2. In same pot, cook onions, garlic and chilies, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 15 minutes. Add wine and coffee and reduce over high heat by about half. Return ribs to pot, cover, and cook over low heat (or in a 300-degree oven) for 2 to 3 hours. Cook until very tender — beyond when meat falls off the bone — turning every hour or so. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.

Yield: 4 to 8 servings.

Notes: two of my favorite friends and I just had a riveting email conversation about how to track down less fatty short ribs. They’re super tasty, but sometimes it’s hard to enjoy when you bite into big globs of fat. I ask my butcher to trim them for me. With that request, he’ll usually look for the trimmest ribs to start. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a fatty cut, but well worth it if you eat it in moderation!

I’ve tried cooking them in the oven and on the stovetop. When cooking in the oven, I found I needed to add liquid (I used beef broth) to the pot to keep them going longer than 2 hours – it might mean my oven runs hot. When I’ve cooked on the stovetop, I did not have to add liquid and could keep the ribs at a nice simmer for 4-5 hours. Beyond fork tender.

Lastly, the peppers won’t make them spicy if you seed them. The chiles really just add flavor. Scott wants me to make them spicy next time!

No pictures of this ditty. You wouldn’t want to make it if you saw them. I cannot make them pretty. They just taste darn good.


Meatless Monday: Lemon-Basil Pasta

29 03 2011

What has two thumbs and loves meat? This girl. BUT – we all know animal protein is not very good for us in large quantities, so I’ve always tried to cook a few meals each week that contain no meat and isn’t loaded with cheese. My recipe stash for meatless meals is a little thin so I’m always on the lookout for a filling, healthy meal that sounds delicious too. If it doesn’t even sound good, you know you’re in trouble and doomed to order that ridiculously caloric take-out.

I found this recipe in Better Homes & Garden’s March 2011 issue. I modified it a bit with what I had in the house, but stuck to the recipe as much as I can (it’s really hard for me to cook according to the recipe, it feels so constraining!). My slightly modified version is below:

Lemon-Basil Pasta
start to finish: 25 minutes

10 oz. fresh pappardelle (sorry y’all, I’m OBSESSED with pappardelle)
1 15 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 lemon, zested then juiced
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves (recipe calls for 1 cup, I would have liked more, but my basil was not looking so hot)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding beans for the last two minutes. Remove 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid; set aside. Drain pasta and beans; cover to keep warm.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, let sizzle for 1 minute. Add lemon zest to garlic and let cook, stirring constantly, for another minute, until lightly golden.

3. In food processor combine cooked lemon peel & garlic, remaining 2 Tbsp of evoo, juice from the lemon half, salt & pepper. Cover and process until smooth. Add reserved cooking liquid, 1 Tbsp at a time until desired consistency, processing mixture after every addition.

4. To serve, toss hot cooked pasta mixture with lemon-basil mixture.

The result was a delicious, healthier meal for us! I will definitely add this to my meatless rotation.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, some days we’re lucky dinner made it to the table!