Monday, October 26, 2009

deb's mom's apple cake

i'm in a phase.

a rustic-cake-laced-with-fresh-seasonal-fruit phase. this summer i baked cake after cake with all kinds of beautiful fruit: blueberries, blackberries, peaches, plums, pluots and cherries. now that it's fall, i did a search for an apple cake recipe. that's how i found deb's mom's recipe on smitten kitchen.

it had a soft but sturdy crumb and was framed by a gentle crust. in my version of her recipe, the lemon and orange zest and the lemon juice added a tartness that really brightened the flavor. it was absolutely delicious with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. i make a dessert every week for sunday dinner, but this was the first time my friends demanded to take a piece of cake home. the slice in the picture was the only one left!

deb's mom's apple cake
(adapted from smitten kitchen)

6 mcintosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
about 1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
zest from one blood orange and one lemon
juice of one lemon
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup blood orange juice (around 2 oranges)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon, sugar, zest and lemon juice.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, wisk oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

the call that never happened

i used to be painfully shy. like in 5th grade, i was afraid to raise my hand in class - that kind of shy. but i quickly developed into a talkative and confident 6th grader, when i got cast in in the school play. and you couldn't shut me up when i was the president in high school.

now, i wouldn't consider myself shy at all. soft spoken - sometimes, but shy - no.

so i was kind of surprised when i realized that a part of me really is still shy, at least in some situations...

i had already planned to bake the gateau therese from david lebovitz's hilarious new book, when i found out he was going to be interviewed on by adam roberts on the same morning. the interview was streaming live online, and callers could ask questions. let me be clear: david lebovitz was one phone call away, at the exact moment that i was baking this cake.

i quickly tried to think of a question. the first thing that came to mind was "did you forget the vanilla in this recipe?" what a horrible question!!! i didn't want to insult the author before i even tried his recipe. adam kept asking for people to call in and ask david questions. ok come on, christina. think of a good question. um... "i only have an 8.5 inch glass pan and a 9.5 inch metal pan. Your recipe calls for a 9 inch loaf pan. Which one should I use?" yawn, booooooring. i want to ask him a question that makes him think and smile at the same time. come on, christina!

as i listened to the interview, my internal battle intensified. at one point, i even picked up the phone and dialed a couple numbers. then suddenly, the interview was over. i slipped the cake in the oven and plopped down on the couch, dejected. did i really let this opportunity slip out of my fingers? the timer beeped before i could get too depressed, and what emerged from the oven actually made me smile: a soft, dark, fudgy, intense, bittersweet rectangle of goodness.

later, i wrote a bland review of the book and recipe, but i never posted it.

so why am i telling you about the call that never happened right now? because david lebovitz is coming to the bay area! and i am not going to miss out on another opportunity.

i'm going to meet him, and tell my little story. then we'll laugh and eat dark chocolate.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

costa rica: desayuno

i was in costa rica for month this summer. i spent time exploring crowded city streets and laying out on beautiful beaches. wherever i went, i made sure to taste every weird looking fruit i could find. and i talked about food with anyone that would answer my questions: chefs, home cooks, taxi drivers and kids. because of this persistent (annoying?) curiosity, i was able to learn quite a bit about costa rican cuisine.

most people eat desayuno (breakfast), but it's not the most important meal in costa rica. this is one of my first meals in the country: gallo pinto (rice and beans), scrambled eggs, cheese, bread and coffee. so why is my coffee so light? i'm not really a coffee drinker - it's too bitter for me. so instead of cafe con leche, i drank leche con cafe: 50% coffee, 50% milk and buckets of sugar. i know, i know...
i stayed with friends for most of the month, but we drove to the coast and stayed at the doubletree in puntarenas for a couple days too. it was my first time staying in an all-inclusive resort hotel, so i tried to pace myself in the buffet lines. this is what i are for breakfast one day: freshly made corn tortilla filled with black beans and cheese, a big plate of fruit and juice. the green and white fruit (on top of the pineapple) is guanabana (sweet and floral) and the juice is made from cas (tart citrus).

this jam was soooooo good. at first, i thought it was blueberry. that's what the picture looks like anyway. it's a german company so the label says it's johannisberre. in spanish it's grosella negra. i didn't know exactly what fruit my favorite jam was made from, but i didn't really care!

the sweet, dark, gooey spread has the softest whisper of tartness. here i'm eating it on a piece of toasted baguette with salty white cheese. salty-sweet goodness!

i usually have a sweet tooth, but this day, i didn't want any jam. my taste buds were craving savory gallo pinto, salty bread and cheese and bitter coffee. queso fresco is a soft, fresh cheese that costa ricans eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between.

look at all that food - i must have been hungry! the bananas were so much more flavorful than the ones that are shipped to california. the flavor was floral, and the flesh soft under my teeth.

my sweet tooth returned, and so did my favorite jam. i made sure to pack a couple jars in my suitcase, and i found it online in case i run out. who knew black current jam was so lovely?

minimalist breakfast. cafe y pan. simple, yet satisfying.

i'm sure you probably guessed that gallo pinto is the national dish of costa rica. it's substantial, but not too heavy, and simple enough to put together using leftovers from yesterday's lunch.
gallo pinto

1 tablespoon oil
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
garlic powder (to taste)
2 cups cooked black beans
2 cups cooked white rice
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

heat oil in a skillet. cook vegetables until they begin to soften. add beans, stir gently and simmer for 2 minutes. add rice, stir gently and simmer 3 minutes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

pop quiz: rustic fruit desserts

i was expecting a free cookbook in the mail, since i was a finalist in a culinate blogging contest. but for some reason, i was suspicious when i saw a mystery package on my welcome mat. what on earth could ten speed press be sending me? after a few seconds, i figured it out and ripped open the package. yay...rustic fruit desserts!!! i did a little dance and thought about how this is the perfect cookbook for the beginning of summer - the recipes are even separated by season.

as i flipped through the pages, i found myself wondering what are rustic fruit desserts exactly? i thought i knew what crumbles, buckles and cobblers were, but what on earth are pandowdies? i found the descriptions in the introduction and quizzed myself. when i was at my mom's house a few days later, i quizzed her too. we both knew a lot, but we also learned a lot too.

what do you think? do you really know rustic fruit desserts? here's a little quiz to test your knowledge. these descriptions came directly from the introduction; i just changed the order.

i'm going to describe the recipes i tested - and give you a few hints. ;)

my friend candace made the stone fruit slump, with a little coaching from me. this was her first dessert! not bad, huh? she adjusted the recipe by adding a pinch of cardamom to the simmering white and yellow nectarines. then she covered the skillet and steamed the dumplings on top of the fruit. it was sweet, but not too sweet and the cardamom perfectly complemented the nectarines. the dumplings were fluffy and flavorful and a scoop of vanilla ice cream was the perfect topping. you can find the recipe here.
a few days later, i made an upside-down sweet cherry cake (not in the quiz, sorry). it was my first time making caramel, and this recipe seemed easier than others i've seen. i just boiled butter, sugar and lemon juice until the color changed from beige to amber. after pouring the caramel in the cake pan, i arranged pitted bing and rainer cherries on top. it was a standard orange butter cake, but soft egg whites were folded in just before baking. this cake was sweet and rich, but with a very light crumb. i didn't know that cherries and oranges complement each other so well.

to make the lemon blueberry buckle, i mixed the cake batter and sprinkled the crumb topping over the cake. then i drizzled lemon syrup all over, as soon as it came out of the oven. the sturdy texture reminded me of a muffin. it was wonderfully tart and a slice would be great for breakfast. you can find the recipe here.

so tell did you do on the pop quiz?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

mo' better food

i heard mo' better food returned to west oakland on june 13. when i went to the farmer's market the following weekend, there were only 2 booths, but don't worry. there was a large selection of fruits and vegetables.

scott family farm displayed baskets of onions, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, onions, green beans, potatoes, lemons, oranges, nectarines, peaches, red and green tomatoes. wow! i was surprised at the variety of fruits and vegetables.

my heartbeat raced as my hands hovered over the basket of fragrant nectarines. i picked up a nectarine and breathed in the floral perfume. the skin was almost silky and it felt heavy for it's size. without squeezing too hard, i pressed a finger into the nectarine, ever so gently. a grin appeared on my face as i realized these will be perfect for the recipe i read earlier that day: stone fruit slump.

as i inched to the other side of the table, i saw all of those beautiful vegetables. again, i felt flustered as my imagination went into overdrive. the possibilities are endless! i settled on some zucchini and squash for a side dish, tomatoes and lemons for a raw pasta sauce, and oranges and lemons for cookies. at $10, my first visit to mo' better foods was a bargain.

watch mr. scott's interview to see what he has to say about the industry and his farm. on top of the "chemical free" and "natural" fruits and vegetables, it's a business i feel good about supporting.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

easy pork skewers

i buy food from several different places, depending on what i'm looking for, the day or the time. you can find me at the farmer's market, berkeley bowl, whole foods, lucky's and trader joe's (or tj's for short). i created this recipe after a recent trip to tj's, but of course you can get the ingredients anywhere. i really like trader joe's but the produce isn't always fresh, so be careful.

this recipe is easy enough for a fast weeknight meal, and impressive enough for company. make them for your dad on father's day! i used the broiler, but feel free to throw these babies on the grill. if you don't eat pork, just make chicken or veggie skewers.

happy father's day!

easy pork skewers
serves 6

1 pork tenderloin, cut into 2 inch pieces
onion powder
garlic powder
1 container fresh pineapple, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 1/2 red onion, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 red bell peppers, cut into 2 inch pieces
stir fry sauce

soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. preheat broiler. put pork in a small bowl and season (to taste) with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. toss to cover evenly. put ingredients on skewers in the following order: pineapple, pork, onion, pepper. place skewers on baking sheets in one layer. cook under the broiler for 5 minutes. remove baking sheets then brush stir fry sauce over skewers. place back under the broiler for another 5 minutes. remove baking sheets again, brush with sauce and cook for another 3-5 minutes. serve over steamed jasmine rice.

Hoisin-Glazed Pork Skewers on Foodista

Saturday, June 20, 2009

uptown unveiled

on thursday, the sun finally broke through a thick gray layer of clouds. is june gloom finally over? uptown is a burgeoning area in oakland. it seems like there's a new business opening every few months! uptown unveiled was a free street fair on telegraph avenue between 16th street and grand avenue. live music performances, walking tours, skate boarding, dj's, art and food filled the streets.
looney's smokehouse is opening their second location in july at 5319 martin luther king way (where sweetie pie and poppy's used to be). i didn't taste the food but this plate of brisket, baked beans and mac and cheese looks pretty good to me.

it was a beautiful day in the town...