Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seaside Crumbcake

the product = more crumb than cake!
One of my first summer jobs as a teenager was working at a seaside bakery on the coast of New Jersey. It's hard now to imagine myself getting up at 4 AM to go to work, but at the time, the pre-dawn (and pre-humid) walk along the lake was whirring with the sounds of night bugs and getting off work at 10 or 11 made for a lovely afternoon snoozing and swimming in the ocean. One of the most common sales at this shop was their amazing crumbcake - we would sell out of it almost every day. Though I don't work there anymore or live enough close to it to get a fix every now and again, I like to make it occasionally (though no more than occasionally - you'll understand when you see the butter content!). I worried that something about the salty sea air is what made the crumbcake so amazing, but I'm happy to say that I've been able to closely approximate the delicious texture of the seaside crumbcake at home! This recipe is a lot of fun to make!

Seaside Crumbcake

Use a 9 x 12 glass pyrex pan.

3 tbl canola oil
the batter phase
4 1/4 c flour
1/2 c sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter (told you there was a lot in here!)
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325. Melt butter in a saucepan and set aside to cool.
2. Brush 1 tbl of canola oil in the pan and sprinkle about 1/4 cup flour over it. Shake the pan gently over the trash/sink to remove the extra flour
3. Mix 1 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
4. In a separate medium bowl, mix egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to this mixture.
5. Spread batter into the pan - it should just form a thin layer at the base of the pyrex.
6. In a small bowl, mix 2 1/2 cups of flour, brown sugar, and spices. Some recipes call for cinnamon alone, but I prefer the more complex flavor of having sprinkles of some additional spices.
7. Pour butter over mixture, and mix with a fork to form crumbles.
8. Sprinkle the large crumbles over the batter (this is my favorite part of this recipe).
9. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
10. Cool completely. Once cooled, sift powdered sugar over the cake. Cut into slices and enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cheddar-Dill Scones

A few years ago, my friend Kate threw a scone party. I went over to help with the preparations and baking and before I could start, she sat me down with the scone bible: the Once Upon a Tart cookbook. I've since tried many of the scones (and tarts) recipes and have loved them all. However, the one I return to the most is the cheddar-dill scone. It somehow tastes refreshing no matter what the season, and has the perfect savory flavor to eat alone or with other dishes. Here's the first batch I've made in my NYC apartment (photographed with handmade stoneware from France, a stainless steel spice plate from Finland, and a Thai table cloth)

I've found the recipe written out on another blog, so will direct you there for this cheddar-herb deliciousness:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Q:"How Do You Do This?" A: "With Love"

our master chef for the evening: Jose 
I tend to host dinner parties frequently, but I find that I attend far fewer, and when I do, it's hard not to get involved with the cooking. So when I was invited to some new friends' house warming party at their gorgeous new pad in Brooklyn and I arrived to find that everyone had a chopping/cleaning task and all was taken care of, I decided to sit back, take photos, enjoy the conversation, and take it all in.
Antipasti of Fresh Brown Bread, Tomatoes,
Fresh Moz, and Onion

Bacon Chopper Luke

On the Menu for the Celebration of Breaking in the Brand New Kitchen:

Green Bean Salad with Bacon and Onion
-This dish is so delicious and totally easy. Boil or steam your green beans. Add cooked bacon slices, sauteed white onions, salt and pepper, and serve. In this case, Jose used this colorful dish as a beautiful nest for the centerpiece of steak.
Green Beans, Bacon, and Onion

Mushroom Washer Matt

Bacon-Wrapped Steaks Topped with a Blue-Cheese Paste
Jose wrapped the edge of these thick steaks with a layer of bacon and affixed it with small cooking needles. Toothpicks will also do, but either way be sure to remove before serving!

The blue-cheese topping for the meat was my favorite part of the meal. Mix one container of crumbled blue cheese (6 oz) with a few drops of hot sauce, some worcestershire sauce, and about a half cup of buttermilk. Jose asked me to stir these things together, which I did, but realized by his disapproval that these need to be fully blended together so that the cheese really makes a paste with the liquid. Absolutely delicious!

All together, the flavors of the green beans, meat, cheese sauce, and bacon complemented each other for a rich, almost nutty, heavenly meal!
Steaks Getting Ready for the Oven
Bacon-wrapped Steak before

... including the mushroom flipping

Master Chef has it all under control...
Celebrating the Finished Product
Look at that presentation!
Home-made Apple Pie

the perfect dessert
And the meal's capstone: dessert. Gina's gorgeous, perfectly cooked apple pie.  She made her own pie crust at home, and made sure not to the let the butter melt in advance of baking so that she could have a perfect, flaky crust. And it was divine! Check out the leaf details on the top crust as well! 
Gina's Gorgeous Apple Pie

 It was a great dinner party with a fantastic group of interesting people, and simply delicious food. Over dinner, Gina asked Jose, "How do you do this?" He replied without missing a beat, "With love." Jose's cooking is home-trained and exudes all of his passion and energy for making good, complex meals with excellent complementary flavors. I look forward to future dinner parties with this crowd, both for the fun & for the food!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Late Summer Watermelon Salad

... And we're back! After a two month hiatus while I was traveling in Scandinavia, saying farewell to Paris, and getting settled in my new home in New York City (no small change!), I'm planning to get back into my cooking blog! I have lots of restaurant notes from my summer in Paris, but before I get to those, here's my recent end of summer salad, made with goods from the Hell's Kitchen CSA, which I joined immediately upon arrival in the city! Every Thursday, fresh farm veggies! This recipe combined this week's harvest - watermelon, carrots, tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, with store bought olives, feta cheese, lime juice, and olive oil (Chateau Vivant - my favorite from Aix-en-Provence, recommended to me at the lovely Restaurant Hugo in Paris).  I love this salad because it combines the sweet of the melon with the tart and salt of the cheese and olives. Enjoy!

Watermelon Salad

1 small watermelon, sliced into small chunks and seeded
1 package feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, seeded
1/2 cup black olives, pitted (I used Moroccan cured black olives and pitted them myself)
1 small red onion, diced
2 tbl lime juice
2 tbl good quality evoo
coarse salt and pepper to taste

*This is a great salad for whatever you have laying around - I included carrots, a bit of lettuce, a few pieces of diced jalapeno pepper, but this recipe is really flexible. 

1. Place diced onion in a small bowl and add lime juice. Let sit to temper the onions while you make the rest of the salad.
2. Combine watermelon, tomatoes, seeds, olives, then onion and feta into a large bowl. Sprinkle coarse salt and pepper and a little bit of olive oil (the watermelon will make enough liquid to 'dress' the salad, so just a sprinkle of oil will do). 
3. Enjoy for the next day with fresh bread - I picked up some whole wheat 4 grain from Amy's Bread around the corner from me.