Tuesday, December 18, 2012

'Tis the Season - Cranberry Spice Cake

It's funny how food-moody I get. I was flipping through all the recipes that I have torn out of magazines, and I kept and looking at the summer-y recipes, like tomato salads and berry pies, etc, which just don't sound good to me. I am craving hearty, spicy, holiday-y tastes. I have been consuming a scary amount of mulled drinks and rich food and this past weekend was no different. I was going to a small holiday fete at a friends and decided to bring along a little something more than just my usual bottle of wine. I found a recipe that I tore out a year ago for a Cranberry Spice Cake which sounded like it had all the perfect components for a holiday treat (cranberries, citrus, spices and sugar).

I will preface this post by saying that there is no photo of the actual "finished" cake because by the time the glaze set it was dark out, I was late and I am happy to report that it was gobbled up before I had a chance to photograph it. Instead you get a photo of a pseudo-complete cake.
 To make the cake:

Combine 1 1/2 cups AP flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, generous pinch of salt, heavy dash of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in a bowl. Next, pulse cranberries until they are roughly chopped, set aside.
Stir 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, 2/3 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup canola oil together. Add in 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing completely. Then whisk in 1/2 cup sour cream, the zest of one or two oranges, the zest of one lemon and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Now, in 3 additions alternate stirring in your dry ingredients and 1/3 cup apple cider. To finish, fold in the cranberries and pour into a parchment lined cake pan (I used an 8-inch round). Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.

Remove the cake from the oven and while it is cooling mix 1 cup powdered sugar, the zest of one lemon, the juice of 1/2 a lemon (maybe a little more) and a pinch of salt. Once the cake is cooled drizzle the glaze over the top. Let the glaze set and dig in. This cake was terrifically moist and tasty and not too sweet, thanks to the citrus (which I like). Bon Appétit served theirs with a citrus cranberry compote that sounds delicious but I didn't make. I wanted to save my  cranberries to try make a shrub! I will have to save that for a later post.

Here is an article from Ms. Irene Virbila about shrubs, just to pique your interest.

For the original recipe, without my tweaks - click here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Apple Spice Muffins

Happy Post-Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday has come and gone, I have eaten my weight's worth in every type of Thanksgiving food imaginable and now I will have to fill the void - mm, more gluttonous food. I decided to go the non-traditional route this year and made osso buco (I needed an excuse to splurge) but largely because I knew there was a post-Thanksgiving day celebration with friends where I would be sure to get my fix of stuffing and potatoes and gravy (mission accomplished).  In keeping with the spirit of the season I bought some apples at the local market and made some spice muffins on a gray day.

I adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen's version which can be found here. I found myself out of AP flour (! I know - it was a very upsetting moment, but, to defend myself, it was due to a slightly intoxicated chocolate chip cookie baking moment where I used up the flour - at least it was for a good cause). 

To make the muffins:
Combine 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 teaspoon each baking soda and powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg and set aside. In a separate bowl cream 1 stick unsalted butter and 1/2 cup each of granulated sugar and dark brown sugar. Add 1 egg to the butter mixture and stir to combine. Then, gently fold in 1 cup buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir to combine. To finish the batter fold in the apple (I used Honeycrisp but choose your favorite - Granny Smith, Pink Lady, whatever you please - peeled them and chopped them into little chunks).  Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins and top with a little bit of brown sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cause for Celebration - Rack of Lamb

We have many reasons to celebrate - in addition to good health and being surrounded by good friends we have had milestone birthdays and work triumphs. Apparently, in a nod to the momentous occasion, there was a sale on some beautiful racks of lamb and I gobbled one up, literally. 
Lamb is one of my favorite special occasion foods - it is generally what I request for my birthday dinner - so I jumped at the chance to make my very first rack of lamb. I went a fairly traditional route, serving it with a breadcrumb crust - it was perfectly simple and delicious. I served it with an Indian summer panzanella complete with a decadent amount of burrata. Everything was perfect and we enjoyed it all with a celebratory bottle of wine, a highly recommended accompaniment.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Trying New Things - Pastitsio

Fall must be upon us because I got my first craving of the season for hearty food. Instead of wanting a refreshing salad with tomatoes I wanted some cozy comfort food. I had seen a recipe for pastitsio in Saveur that piqued my interest and decided to give it a go. I wanted to mix it up a little so I found a variation on that recipe in an old Gourmet that used eggplant and had a feta bechamel (because the lamb meat sauce just wouldn't be rich enough by itself). I LOVED this recipe - of course I tweaked it slightly (less salt, nutmeg instead of clove, less cinnamon) . . .suffice it to say, we both had thirds.
Along with ushering in fall foods I had the great pleasure of attending the beautiful wedding of some great friends  and wanted to follow up the rehearsal dinner photos with some quick snaps from the main event.