archives: food

olive oil polenta cake

Over Memorial Day weekend I had a huge bagful of cherries, the assignment to make dessert for a friend’s barbecue, and no clear idea of what to do. Mom was visiting and we’d already made her signature chocolate cupcakes, but we wanted to do something with the cherries. She found a cherry olive oil polenta cake recipe online that we chose over other cherry-oriented recipes because we had all the ingredients for it in the house and it seemed like a cinch to make—no waiting for butter to soften, no melting ingredients and dirtying a pot!

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It was delicious! A bit more like a breakfast/coffee cake than a true dessert cake, but moist and tender and with a nice crumb. We brainstormed what other fruits would be good, given how fleeting the cherry season is. A week or so later, I tried it with a pint of blueberries (but didn’t take a picture). Tasty, very breakfasty, but needed more blueberries (and for my timer to work; that one got a bit overcooked). Jason said that what he liked about the cherries was that the sweetness isn’t so one-dimensional; there’s a bit of a tang. So when Fresh Direct had a sale on pluots (plum-apricot hybrids), I grabbed some and figured I’d give them a shot.

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The pluots are moister, and definitely tarter, but I cooked the cake exactly the right amount of time and the result is sublime. I also added a generous sprinkling of raw sugar to the top, which was  the right choice.

I’ll try it with straight up apricots, maybe mango, and someday if I can spare pieces for baking instead of eating them immediately, pineapple. At first I wasn’t sure how versatile this recipe would be, and now I am eager to stick all the fruits in there! Try it with whatever you have on hand, and let me know how it comes out!

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(Cherry) Olive Oil Polenta Cake
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup extra-virgin extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup polenta or cornmeal
2 1/2 cups fresh fruit (1 lb cherries, pitted / 1.5-2 pints blueberries / 4 pluots, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces)
Sugar in the raw, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10″ round cake pan with nonstick vegetable spray. I found that cutting a round of parchment and placing that in the pan, then lightly spraying it, was a big help in getting the cake out of the pan cleanly.

In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high until light in color, about 4 minutes. Add vanilla, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and polenta. Add to egg mixture and mix until combined.

Spread two-thirds of batter into the prepared pan. If you put a round of parchment in, it’ll slide all over the place, but soldier on and you can get the batter spread and the parchment centered. Cover completely with the fruit, pressing in lightly. Spoon and spread the remaining batter over the fruit as best you can. Sprinkle generously with sugar in the raw to make a sweet crust. Bake until top and edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on rack. Enjoy!

olive oil polenta cake

 

my current favorite sandwich

I first made this basic sandwich years and years ago, and in fact I took a photo of myself eating it one day I was feeling so smug about it (that photo is at the end of this post), but it just sort of fell out of my rotation when I wasn’t eating sandwiches as much. This week I brought it back, and I’m so happy with it every time I eat it that I just had to share.

1. spread avocado on a slice of oatnut bread

Smear a piece of Oatnut bread with half an avocado. I think Oatnut is the most perfect bread for this. Sometimes I wonder if it should be lightly toasted for texture, but I like its softness, to tell the truth. Oh, sprinkle it with a touch of salt if you don’t eat the sandwich with kettle cooked potato chips.

2. add a layer of sliced radishes

Top with sliced radishes.

3. a slice of havarti cheese

Add a slice of Havarti. I forget that delis slice all sorts of cheeses besides just American, Swiss, and Provolone. I feel like Havarti is what makes this sing, but perhaps you’d enjoy Provolone instead. I would not recommend American or Swiss.

4. now a layer of cucumber slices

Top with some cucumber slices.

5. a whole mess of alfalfa sprouts

Add a whole mess of alfalfa sprouts. I’m talking 1/3 of the package. Someday I’ll start growing my own from seed, because I know it’s easy, and given how perishable they are I’m often disappointed in what I get from the store. But I want a LOT.

avocado, radish, cucumber, sprout, and havarti sandwich

Top with the other slice of bread and cut in half. Enjoy every bite. Like I said above, I think it needs some saltiness, and just eating it along with a nice crunchy kettle cooked chip is a match made in heaven. If you don’t have that, you might want to add a touch of salt. This sandwich is dubiously healthy (that’s a shameless amount of avocado and cheese despite the number of vegetables!) but I don’t care, I love it. I feel a little self-conscious posting this—what if other people hate this or think it’s a bad balance. Still, I like the combo of the soft bread and avocado, the crunch of the cuke, the spice of the radish, the brightness of the sprouts, all melded together with the creamy cheese. Maybe try it if you’re looking for a new sandwich and you like all these ingredients.

Here I was back in 2009 (FIVE YEARS AGO) enjoying this sandwich. The kitchen doesn’t look anything like this anymore, and that table is long gone, but, um, I still have (and wear) that shirt!

salted caramel popcorn

Ages ago, when friends of Jason’s got married, I perused the registry and was elated to see they’d requested an air popper for popcorn. Something about an air popper makes me smile—even though I’ll be the first to admit that popcorn properly popped with oil in a pot is crisper and infinitely better—so I jumped at buying it for them. That year, Jason surprised me with my own air popper for Christmas. I don’t make popcorn all that often, and sometimes I still opt to cook it on the stovetop, but the air popper is always magical.

This weekend I decided to make a batch of salted caramel popcorn for a friend as a pick-me-up after she’d gone through a rough time last week. Out came the air popper and a look at Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for spicy salty caramel popcorn. I modified the recipe enough that I wanted to jot it down here for posterity—I just know the next time I go to make it I’m going to see “3 cups of sugar” and balk again, but I won’t remember if I successfully changed the recipe and just how. Turns out that is far more than is necessary to coat this much popcorn! The recipe below doesn’t have any spiciness; just add some cayenne to taste if desired.

salted caramel popcorn

Salted Caramel Popcorn
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
Pam spray oil
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Pop the popcorn in  your air popper! Catch it all in a giant bowl that you sprayed with Pam. [alternatively, pop the popcorn with some oil in a pan.] Spray two large baking sheets and two spatulas with Pam and get them in position on the counter. Combine the sugar, butter, salt, and about 6 tablespoons of water in a saucepan over high heat. Leave it to bubble until light golden, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the baking soda, and give it a good whirl in the pan to combine (it will bubble up). Pour it over the caramel and start tossing with the spatulas until all the popcorn is covered. Transfer to the baking sheets and spread out and separate into small clumps or individual pieces. When cool, store in an airtight container.

beurre & sel jammers

Despite my all-around crafty hobbies, and even though on a call I once explained my passion for handmade by saying I’d churn my own butter if I could (that is a lie: I have no desire to ever churn my own butter), one thing I know a lot about but never do is can. I haven’t (yet) spent a day boiling sugary substances and sterilizing jars and then listening to the telltale ping of a seal. See, I know the lingo and the theories both from reading Twitter and from having proofread some canning cookbooks, notably Canning for a New Generation. But while I haven’t done it myself, I have plenty of friends who are masters at it—and they share the fruits of their labors (heh) with me.

jam jars

Our pantry is actually bursting with filled jars of jams, jellies, cordials, and sauces that my friends have made. Some jars are finished immediately: Give me a jar of dilly beans and they’re gone within an hour. Introduce me to Cowboy Candy, and I’ll eat so many in one sitting that I end up curled up in a ball with the worst heartburn I’ve ever experienced. But the truth is, we rarely put jam on things. We almost never have bread in the house, and though there are times when I make biscuits, they are few and far between. Even though I rarely eat them, I will not refuse them or part with them—I consider them some of the most special foods we own! I realized that baking them into cookies would be the perfect way to finally enjoy them.

beurre & sel jammers

Enter Dorie Greenspan’s Beurre & Sel Jammers, which were featured in Bon Appetit’s Christmas cookie issue from last year. What a fussy recipe—right up my alley, I suppose. You make a sugar cookie dough that is rolled out, frozen, and cut to shape from the hard discs. Then you make a separate streusel. Assembly is actually easy once all the parts are prepped: Drop a disc in a muffin tin, dollop with jam, sprinkle with the streusel. I did learn some things about making these cookies as I went: Make a lot more streusel because you’ll run out (I had to make more twice!), and add more jam right before baking because it’s tastier with more jam. Oh, and maybe you like to fuss with making streusel by using your fingertips but I believe in better living through technology so I use the food processor.

beurre & sel jammers prep

beurre & sel jammers prep

beurre & sel jammers out of the oven

The taste? Like a delicate, light shortbread with a morsel of sweet jam. I used 4 different flavors of jams: cherry, lemon, lime, mint marmalade from JulieFrick, nectarine also from JulieFrick, mango-lime jam from Nova, and then strawberry-raspberry from a storebought jar (we wanted a 4th complementary flavor that was also pretty, and it seemed the right fit). The recipe recommends a firm jam, but I didn’t mind a little spreading under the streusel.

Beurre & Sel Jammers, adapted from Bon Appetit
Dough
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

Streusel and Assembly
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
various jams, about 1 cup total

Special equipment
A 2-inch cookie cutter; 3 standard 12-cup muffin tins

Preparation
Cookie Dough
Beat butter in a large bowl in a mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add both sugars and salt; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour and mix just to combine. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky.

Divide dough in half. Place each half between sheets of parchment paper. Flatten dough into disks. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough, occasionally lifting paper on both sides for easy rolling, until 1/4 inch thick. Freeze dough in paper until firm, at least 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep frozen.)

Streusel
Mix flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the butter and vanilla into the dry ingredients until the mixture is sandy. Cover and chill. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

Assembly
Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Using cookie cutter, cut out rounds of frozen dough from freezer. Place rounds in bottom of muffin cups. Gather scraps and repeat process of rolling out, freezing, and cutting. I found it made well more than the recipe-specified 34 rounds—I got something like 40. Spoon about 1 teaspoon jam into the center of each round of dough. Using your fingers or a small spoon, sprinkle 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons streusel around edges of each cookie, trying not to get any in the jam. Top off the dollop of jam with more jam to cover an errant bits of streusel.

Bake cookies, in batches if needed, until sides and streusel are golden, 20-22 minutes. Let the area around the jam be pale. Let cool in tins for 15 minutes. Run a small knife or offset spatula around edges of muffin cups; gently remove cookies (it’ll pop right up) and let cool completely on a wire rack.

beurre & sel jammers

another crafty retreat

A long weekend away with my knitting besties? Just what the doctor ordered. We made our way to a cabin in West Virginia for three days of 80s movies (on VHS no less), bacon, birthdays, knitting, cross stitch, and nature.

I didn’t knit a single stitch, giving my thumb a nice long rest; instead I cross-stitched and embroidered. At night I slept in the top bunk over Caro and listened to the rain fall on the roof in a darkness that I cannot find here in Brooklyn without an eye mask. Mornings, I made lemon-ricotta pancakes. One day we went blackberry picking, which JulieFrick later made into a cobbler. Pam devoted 11 avocados to her amazing guacamole. Nova finished a shawl, while Specs finished a legwarmer and a cross stitch project (that’s for me!). Heather spoke to us in French and kept us stocked with wine. We celebrated Christy and Julie’s birthdays (and Diana and Ashley’s, in absentia). Caro made us her famous Mephistopheritas (Margaritas with habanero-infused tequila). We went out at midnight in the 50-degree night and craned our necks to watch the Perseid meteor shower. We laughed until it hurt.

All in all, an excellent crafty weekend away.