Monday, November 12, 2012

Olive Oil and Ricotta Cake with Blueberry Marsala Coulis

I remember the first time I had olive oil cake, at the White Dog CafĂ© in Philly (back when it was owned by Judy Wicks), and thinking that it sounded absolutely awful, and that there was no possible way that olive oil could be in a dessert. The moment I bit into my piece, I immediately took back my previous sentiment. It was light, fluffy, and avoided being cloyingly sweet – a great dessert for people who aren’t big on desserts. I’ve always meant to make an olive oil cake myself, but had never gotten around to it. Recently, however, I picked up the new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and saw this recipe for olive oil and ricotta cake and decided to give it a go.  The recipe for the cake itself is straight out of the book, the sauce is my own adaptation.

Olive Oil and Ricotta Cake:
1 Cup Ricotta/Famers Cheese (recipe follows)
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon lemon zest
2 large eggs
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Butter and Flour for the pan
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Blueberry Coulis:
1 heaped cup of blueberries
3 TBSP Sweet Marsala
1 TBSP Lemon Juice
2 TBSP Sugar
¼ cup water
Pinch of salt

Ricotta/Farmers Cheese
½ Gallon Milk (don’t use ultra-pasteurized – it won’t curdle correctly)
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
3 TBSP white vinegar

Add the milk, cream, and salt to a large pot, and bring up to a near boil (200°F if you want to be exact about it) over medium-high heat. Add in the vinegar while stirring, until the liquid begins to curdle. Drop the heat to low and simmer for two additional minutes, stirring. Strain the mixture into a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Bundle up the cheese cloth and tie some twine around the cloth. Hang the cheese above your sink, or in the refrigerator suspended over a bowl for one hour. Don’t squeeze the cheese, just let gravity do its thing. The cheese can then be refrigerated for up to two days. Yields 2 cups.

Oh you know, just hanging out

For the Cake:
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Add ricotta, olive oil, sugar, and lemon zest into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking to combine. Sift the flour in top of the mixture, and add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Bring the mixture together with a spoon until just combined. Butter and flour a 9” springform pan (I used a 9.5” pie dish) and transfer the mixture into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

For the coulis:
Add everything into a small sauce pan, and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender to liquefy, being careful not to splatter blueberry juice everywhere. Simmer for about 5 more minutes, until the liquid is reduced to the consistency you would like.

Awwwww sheeeeeit, it's Pacman

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Churros with Chocolate Dipping Sauce

I followed verbatim, so I won’t reprint the whole thing here. Well, I left out the dulce de leche, but that’s minor. 

I was afraid when I tasted the milk mixture that there was too much nutmeg, but it really blends into the background of the finished product. The most difficult part of this process is transferring the dough from the mixing bowl to the pastry bag (and subsequently washing said bowl). I’ve never had churros before, so I don’t have a point of comparison, but I was watching the Cooking Channel’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” (or was it “The Cheapest Show We’ve Ever Produced”?), and they had a segment on Rick Bayless’s XOCO where they talked about the churros there. One of the chefs mentioned that the creaminess on the inside was from undercooked dough – mine turned out the same way, so go me. Here’s some more pictures: 

Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers with Chipotle "Aioli"

There’s a plotline in Parks and Recreation where health-nut Chris Traeger challenges meat-enthusiast Ron Swanson to a burger cook-off. Chris makes this whole elaborate portabello mushroom burger, with various gourmet accompaniments. All the judges gush over how great it is, while Ron looks on with a bemused look on his face. When it’s Ron’s turn, he puts a plain beef patty on a bun and serves it. The judges (and Chris) unanimously agree that Ron wins.

This is my usual take on vegetarian versions of meat dishes, so when I do cook something vegetarian, it’s purely coincidence (ie, gazpacho). Well this week’s theme is vegetarian, so I thought I’d give meatlessness a fair shake. The burgers had a tendency to fall apart (I didn’t refrigerate them  before cooking; maybe I should have), but tasted absolutely great. Like, ‘who needs meat?’ level of great.

I didn’t have any eggs, so instead of making an actual aioli, I made a facsimile with yogurt. I was all proud of myself, thinking that I managed to make this meal completely vegan, all the way until halfway through eating when I remembered where yogurt comes from. Seriously, how do vegans do it? Seems like a royal PITA to have to cook with those restrictions. Anyway, I adapted this recipe:

½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup vegetable stock
½ medium onion, roughly diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 fifteen ounce can black beans (1.5 cups)
1.5 cups water
¾ tsp smoked paprika
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Tomato slices
Avocado Slices
4 kaiser rolls

Chipotle “Aioli”:
2 tbsp crema
½ cup greek yogurt
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon garlic, diced

For the burgers:
Rinse the quinoa under cold water, and bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a pot. Add the quinoa, season with salt, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until the grains have little spirals on them. You should have 1.5 cups cooked quinoa. Set aside.

In a pan, add some olive oil and sweat the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute. Add ¾ cup black beans (half the can), the water, and the paprika/oregano/cumin/salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until most of the water is evaporated. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor.

Add ¾ cup of the cooked quinoa (half) to the blender. Process until smooth. Place the puree, the remaining quinoa, and black beans to a bowl along with the mustard and Worcestershire. Mix, and form into 4 to 6 patties, depending on how large you want them. At this point it couldn’t hurt to toss them in the fridge (covered with plastic wrap) to let them firm up a bit.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet, and place the patties on top. Bake for 20 minutes, flip, then cook for 10 minutes more. Toast your buns (to the buns!), and serve with tomato and avocado slices, chipotle aioli, and cilantro.

Chiptole “Aioli”:
Chop garlic and chipotle, add to a small food processor and pulse a few times. Add the yogurt, crema, and lime juice, and process until smooth. Taste, and season with salt if you think you need it. Refrigerate until ready to serve.