Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Citrus-Almond Poundcake

A few years ago when I was obsessed with pastry-baking, I went through my citrus phase.  Anything that had citrus included that could be classified as a dessert was fair game.  And if it had hazelnuts or almonds in it, that made it all the better.  So when I saw this offering from Mark Bittman in the food section of our local Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California, I was jotting down a shopping list before I had a chance to even look through the entire recipe.
It was the ingredient halfway down the list that put the breaks on my enthusiasm.  Over a pound of almond paste.  Not cheap.  Unfortunately, I am.  I related my sorrow to a friend from Sicily who has more sense and kitchen ability than me who told me I could make my own.  Hmmmm  I hadn't thought about that before.  But it did seem more doable than shelling out big bucks for a tube of gold.  And a few tests later, I had a pretty decent recipe for almond paste down which I will include here.  If you have money to throw around and don't want to make your own, go ahead and buy it and while your at it, throw some of that cash my way.  Make sure you share this with your family, friends and people with whom you want to be friends.

Citrus-Almond Pound cake

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into cubes, plus more for pan
-flour for pan
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
3 cups plus
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 17-oz tube almond paste (or follow recipe below)
7 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350f. Butter and flour pan. Put lemon juice and orange juice and 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of sugar into a small sauce pan and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. Put almond paste and remaining sugar in food processor and process until well combined. And butter and continue processing until light and fluffy. With the machine running, add eggs one at a time along with zest and vanilla, and continue to process until smooth.
3. Stop machine and add the flour, baking powder and salt, and pulse a few times, just until the dry ingredients are integrated.
Pour into pan and bake until golden about 1 hour and 10 min. Let cool slightly.
4. Pour the citrus syrup over the cake and let it set for about 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the cake releases from the pan easily.

Almond Paste

Grind 1 1/2 cups blanched almonds in the food processor for about 2 min, add 1 cup icing sugar and process until well-blended. Stir in 1 teaspoon almond extract and enough egg white to make it come together in a thick paste.

Roasted Manchurian Cauliflower

When I made my first recipes from Suvir Saran's first book, Indian Home Cooking, I knew I had struck gold.  They were more than I had hoped for.  Each was delicious and possessed the ability to transport me to another realm of tastes and aromas.
Now, years later, Suvir is still taking me on the culinary ride of my life in his newest book,  Masala Farm, a collection of stories, insights and recipes that carries the reader through the seasons of an upstate New York farm and feeds him on the way with a variety of treats from biscuits that would make any of my southern friends smile widely to a cauliflower recipe unlike any other I have ever tasted.
I have made Roasted Manchurian Cauliflower three times, so far.  The last time occurred this past Saturday when I made an Indian dinner for guests using all three of Suvir's books, Indian Home Cooking, American Masala and Masala Farm.  Next to the Haleem, a north Indian muslim dish that I must have and must have often, the dish my guests enjoyed most was the cauliflower with its rich sauce of tomatoes and garlic which glazed the vegetable already roasted in a coating of oil and spices.  This recipe really goes pretty quickly once you've started and will disappear from the serving dish once it's finished!
Roasted Manchurian Cauliflower

3 tablespoons canola oil
3 green cardamom pods
3 dried red chilies (optional)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1- 2 1/2-3-pound head of cauliflower, cleaned and broken into medium florets
1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease a 9x11-inch baking dish with 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and set aside.
Grind the cardamom, chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and peppercorns in a coffee grinder until fine.
Mix the spices with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl.
Add the cauliflower, toss with the spiced oil and sprinkle with the salt.
Transfer to the baking dish and roast for 20 minutes.
While the cauliflower is roasting, make the sauce.
Heat the oil and the black pepper in a large frying pan over medium-high heat for one minute. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring to avoid burning. Add ketchup and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cayenne and salt.
Cook until the sauce thickens and becomes a deep red, stirring occasionally, 6-8 minutes.
After the cauliflower has roasted for 20 minutes, add sauce and stir to coat. Return to oven and roast for another 20-30 minutes, stirring half-way through the allotted time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hoppin' John

I cannot believe that this survived 25 years to see an anniversary issue put out after the flack it raised for its un-pc name and contents.  I only wish Mr. Mickler had survived as long to see it out as an e-book.  He would have been proud.
I have an original which was trashed by this white dude from plenty of use.
When I first got my copy I never dreamed that I would be reaching for it so many years later to draw from one of my favorite recipes in it for a cooking show.  But tomorrow never knows as the boogie guy from Liverpool once observed.
As we are just beginning the new year, I wanted to start my first show of the year talking about foods traditionally eaten on New Years Day and the first one that came to my mind was the southern favorite, Hoppin' John, a combination of black-eyed peas and rice which is supposed to bring good luck.  (If you want some monetary luck, serve a side of greens such as collards or mustard greens.  Even cabbage is acceptable.)
The recipe I use is pretty much based on one in the book called, "Charlyss's Black-Eyed Peas."  (One year I was so poor that I even put the fixings for these in a box and gave them as a gift at an Epiphany party I attended along with the recipe.)  Hope you don't wait until next New Years to try these.  Hey, you still have time to  serve them on Epiphany!!!

Hoppin' John

2 cups dried black-eyed peas, cooked and reserved
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 cups ham, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooked rice
Hot sauce (optional)

Heat oil in a pot and add onions. Saute a few minutes then add parsley stirring it in to combine.
Lower heat to medium low, cover and cook stirring every few minutes until onions are tender.
Stir in ham, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 15 minutes.
Add black-eyed peas, season, and cover cooking for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Correct for seasoning and serve over rice with hot sauce to pass.