Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Living Without (sort of)

In the midst of my [very slow] move, I have realized I've been taking several things for granted in my life.  These things are:

A dishwasher.

Counter space in the kitchen.

Garbage disposal.


Modern outlets (see: grounded outlets).

Washer and Dryer located in a well-lit, ventilated area.  Also located in a non-scary section of the house.

Efficient air conditioning.

I'm sure at times in my life, I've considered the idea of living as they would in Victorian times... or at least in the 50s.  Romanticizing these eras is easy to do from the comfort of a well-cooled living room or while loading a brand new dishwasher.  How quickly we forget the convenience of a garbage disposal or tampons.

Tampons.  That's a convenience to really get behind right there.

Now I'm not saying I haven't been able to afford (or obtain) tampons.  Heavens no.  What I am saying is I've come to appreciate certain modern marvels like updated wiring in a home leaving me enough outlets so that I don't have to wait to toast my bread after the coffee is done brewing.  This is not 1952, so why force myself to live like it?  If I want to do that, I'll just put on a frilly dress and bake something.  You know... just another Tuesday night.

This is not to say I don't enjoy my time spent in my current living situation.  We have a big eat-in kitchen nook thing with great light from the outside.  There's a large backyard with big trees and our neighbors chicken coop.  And the wood flooring is absolutely beautiful when it's clean and polished (the one time I did it).  I love the location and the original windows (when they aren't rattling).  But I'm sorry... there is just nothing on this earth you can convince me is more beneficial to my addiction love of cooking and baking than a dish washer.  NOTHING.

For the next week (or two), I will not be posting much.  As if you haven't noticed.

No... this moving thing has forced me to box up my bakeware, which has left me with very little to do in my free time.  Not okay.  No wonder I've been grumpy pants - I can't make towering stacks of fat and flour!

So while slowly get my crap from three locations and force them into one, I wanted to share something I'd been saving for just this sort of occasion.  Things don't always need to be complicated, and this cake is a great example of just that.  Roasted strawberries are simply dressed in olive oil, salt, and maple syrup.  I'm not even kidding about the olive oil or salt.  When they were roasting it smelled like those strawberry candies my grandmother used to have lying around the house.

The cake is dense, moist, and has a fine crumb so as not to make a huge mess.  I suggest it for breakfast, lunch, and post-dinner.  Dinner cake would be too much.

Or would it?

This cake is so simple that you really only need two bowls and two pans to make it in.  And if you were really getting down to the wire, you could even use the cake pan to roast your berries.  That is if you had all your crap boxed up and you were really jonsing for this cake.  Which you should.  Because it's delicious.  Not too sweet, dense, and has that fantastically satisfying pop of crunch when you bite down on a poppyseed.  You could even add in some lemon zest and rub it into the turbinado sugar topping for crazy brightness of flavor.  Don't like strawberries?  Why not plumbs?  Or raspberries?  Blueberries would be wonderful, and blackberries with dark chocolate would work magic into it.

Oh god.  I need to stop.

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 pint medium strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of sea salt
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (I used fig-flavored)
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons poppyseeds (optional)
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (for sprinkling)

*preheat the oven to 375 degrees - line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper*

In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, and salt.  Place the quartered berries in a bowl, drizzle the oil and syrup mixture over top, and toss to coat.  Pour onto the prepared cookie sheet, spread out into a single layer, and roast for 40 minutes.

When the berries have roasted, remove them from the oven and place into a bowl.  Drizzle the vinegar over the top, toss gently, and let cool in the bowl.

*raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees - prepare a 9 inch round cake pan by buttering the bottom and sides*

Meanwhile, make the cake.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, buttermilk, and butter.  Whisk in the vanilla. Pour all at once into the dry mixture, then stir together until completely mixed.  Add the poppyseeds  and stir.  Pour the prepared cake batter into the pan, then dot the top with the strawberries and all the their juices.  Sprinkle generously with the turbinado sugar.

Bake the cake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Best served within two days of baking.  Keep plastic wrapped at room temperature.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Say (No To) Cheese!

I've been off for four days...  It's hard to come back to work when you've had a small taste of summer vacation.  Waking up whenever the heck you want, planning your day around what you're going to eat/walk to/read/watch on YouTube.  Wearing your "off duty" outfit.  Mine consists of flared jeans that are beginning to fray at the ends, a tank or tee shirt of some kind that isn't allowed at my day job, and flip flops.  We all have our "off duty" uniforms - this is mine.

Usually time off includes me going somewhere.  Like to a cabin in the woods, or on a long road trip to see old friends.  And while the four days didn't exactly enable me to get too far away, I still worked out some awesome things to do in my town.  Like eat.

Of course, me being me, I had to plan my four days around food.  SHOCKING.  I'm sure you didn't see that one comin'.

I made a birthday cake for my dear friend.

Strawberry mojitos for some other dear friends.

And a rockin' dish of vegan enchiladas.

I'm gonna just put this out there, that I thoroughly impressed myself with these things.  I even bought cheese to top mine with, promptly forgot about said cheese, and didn't even miss it!  THAT'S HOW GOOD THESE ARE.

In 2007 I became vegetarian.  Veganism was not on the agenda because I had such a crush on cheese (and heavy cream, and white chocolate, and eggs, and buttermilk).  Several close friends of mine were vegan, and had made delicious vegan food for me occasionally, but seriously?  I loved cheese.  LoooOOOooooved it.

(and still do.)

I just... like to try new foods, so I acquired an amazing vegan cookbook called Veganomicon.  Have you seen this thing?  It's huge, has a beautiful cover, and is like the Joy of Cooking for Introductory Veganism 101.  I've made some stellar things from it, including a pasta dish that requires a crap ton of garlic (see: 8 cloves) and 3 avocados.  Amazing.  Didn't miss cheese there.  Those things I find, like that pasta dish, keep me trying new and wonderfully eye-opening dishes that are sans-animal anything.  I'll keep dabbling, veganites.  I promise.  You just keep serving up excellence.

Looks like ol' Marie Antoinette got some tomatoes thrown at her face again.

The recipe I found on the ever-popular Pinterest site boasted a vegan enchilada dish of tremendous caliber.  The site, Love and Lemons, is run by the married duo of Jeanine and Jack.  One is an amazing cook, and the other is a video game company owner.  They're down in the great city of Austin, TX, and they take beautiful photographs of food.  Seriously... so much white.  I love it.

These enchiladas will knock your socks off for several reasons:

1. There are sauteed mushrooms and spinach for the filling.  Guilt. Free.

2. The recipe gets you to roast your own veggies. If you have never done this, get on the bandwagon quick and roast some peppers.  Seriously the easiest and fanciest thing you'll ever do with home-made salsa.  WHAT??  You don't make your own salsa?  Pshh.  Get roasting!!!

and 3. Poblano. Cashew. Cream.  *claws face*

The last one should become your entire reason for living.  No joke.

See... it's all about the cashews (and the roasted poblano pepper).  Cashews are one of the richer nuts out on the market, and take to sweet or savory very well.  But soak them in water for a half hour or so and then put them in a food processor, and you have created lemonade from lemons.  Pesto from basil.  GANACHE FROM CHOCOLATE.  *ehem*  Goodness.  You've created goodness.

The recipe for this cream may seem like it makes a lot, but trust when I tell you to just pour all of it on your enchiladas.  It's magic, and who is frugal with magic??  No one.

So while I figure out what I'll be doing on my next set of days off (probably packing and some sort of baking action, I'm sure), I'll let you get on to making some enchiladas.  Let's get to gettin'!

Vegan Enchiladas with Tomatillo and Poblano Cashew Cream
Slightly adapted from Love and Lemons

The Poblano Cream:
1 1/2 cups whole raw cashews (submerge in water for at least 30 minutes prior to using, then drain)
3/4 cup of water
1 garlic clove, smashed (you can roast it if you're feeling really fancy!)
1/4 of large sweet onion, minced
1 roasted poblano pepper, skin, seeds and stem removed (instructions at the bottom of the recipe)
2-3 sprigs of cilantro
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt (to taste)

Combine all the ingredients, minus the salt into a food processor or blender.  Add more water to make smooth, if needed.  Continue scraping down the sides of the blender until everything is completely smooth and incorporated  Scoop into a bowl and mix in salt, to taste.  Set aside until ready to use.

The Tomatillo Enchilada Sauce:
1/2 a sweet onion, chopped
4- 5 medium roasted tomatillos, skin, stem, and tough core removed (roast with the poblano pepper)
1 medium roasted jalapeno pepper, skin and seeds removed (roast with the tomatillos and poblano pepper)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2-3 sprigs of cilantro
several pinches of red pepper flakes (optional)
olive oil (for the pan)
sea salt (to taste)

In a medium skillet over medium heat, sautee the onion until brown.  Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Remove from heat and place in food processor, along with the tomatillos, jalapeno, cilantro and red pepper flakes.  Pulse until smooth. 

Put the skillet back on the heat, add a splash of olive oil, and add the tomatillo salsa to the pan.  Bring to a boil and let reduce a little.  Add 1/3 cup of water and a pinch of salt and let reduce a bit more.  Set aside to cool.

The Mushroom Sautee:
olive oil
1/4 of a sweet onion, thinly sliced (this should be all that is left from the 1 onion you bought)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pint baby bella or white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2-3 handfuls of fresh spinach
splash of white wine or light beer
sea salt to taste

1/2 cup cooked (or canned) black beans

*preheat the oven to 375 degrees*

Using the same skillet you've been using this whole time (why dirty a bunch of dishes?), add a splash of olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add the onion and sautee until translucent.  Add the garlic clove and cook 1 minute more.  Add the mushrooms and sautee 8-10 minutes, or until they start to brown up.  Splash some wine (or beer) into the pan and scrape up the crusty bits off the bottom of the pan to deglaze it.  Turn off the heat and add the spinach, turning with tongs until it begins to wilt a bit.  Add salt to taste, and then throw in the beans.  Just... throw em' in there.

To Assemble This Mess:
8 corn or flour (I used flour) tortillas, about 8 inches wide or so
the poblano cream
the tomatillo sauce
the mushroom sautee
2 sliced avocados
1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
lime wedges

Spoon half of the tomatillo sauce into the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish.  Add several splashes of olive oil and mix around until the whole thing is coated on the bottom.  Dip each of the tortillas, front and back, into the tomatillo sauce in the dish.  Coating both sides will prevent them from drying out and cracking, making it easier to roll them.  Once they have all been coated, one by one, fill them with a bit of the mushroom sautee and beans, roll them up, and place them in the dish.  You'll eventually have to snuggle them up to each other to fit.  This is just fine.

Once all the enchiladas have been made and placed in the pant, pour the rest of the tomatillo sauce over them and spread it around evenly.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly when done.  Spoon the poblano cream down the center (there is a lot - use it all!) of the enchiladas.  Top with avocado slices, cilantro, and the chopped red onion.  Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over the top. Great with mexican beers or mojitos.

To Roast Everything:

Turn on the broiler and get out a rimmed baking sheet (your roasted items will leak, so this is kind of important).

Place the poblano, jalapeno, and tomatillos on the baking sheet, evenly spaced apart.  Roast under the broiler for 5 minutes.  Remove the pan, turn everyone upside down with tongs, and roast again for 5 minutes.  At this point, the poblano pepper and the jalapeno should be evenly blistered and ready to come out.  The tomatillos need to be turned again and roasted for 5 more minutes.  Check them, turn them, and roast 5 more minutes.  They are very dense, and consequently need more time.  Once they are done, remove from the broiler, and let everyone cool until you can handle them to take off the skin and remove the seeds.  With the jalapeno, you'll only remove the seeds if you don't want the heat.  Don't forget to wash your hands!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Drink Up, Buttercup!

The weather has been back pedaling a bit lately.  Do you feel it?  Not one week ago it was closing in on 90 degrees, and on Friday I was sitting out on my porch, sipping my morning coffee, and shivering.  Who shivers in June??  Definitely not the expected temperature, but on the other hand... it was refreshing.  I grabbed my sweatshirt and headed inside to begin planning for Sunday's festivities.

I was thinking about strawberries.  Maybe some lime.  Definitely some rum.

I brainstormed for all of these things to meet with lime, have a party, and get down in a glass full of mojito goodness.  And boy was it delish!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cakes Have Layers...

I just beat 9 cups of sifted powdered sugar into 3 cups of butter.  I am a menace to society.

Instead of eating the rest of the frosting that's left in the bowl, I'm taking a break from it all to eat grapes.  Sweet, crunchy, non-frosted grapes.  Later I'll be eating cake, so I should eat grapes now (duh).

This morning I woke up at 7:30 am to finish the cake I'd started last night.  Generally speaking, I don't wake up before 9 unless I'm working super early, so it speaks to the dedication I have to this cake.

This also takes dedication.  TELL ME that's not catchy.  I dare you.  Also, props to the SNL cast at 4:30 in the morning for making this.  You've given me a bag full of reasons to love you even more.

Okay... back to cake, yes?