15 May 2006

Cranberry ~ Orange Coffee Cake

Ahhhh, what to make to accompany the luxurious purchase of organic heavy cream? Why, an ethereally light cranberry orange cake from the Moosewood of course! For those wondering about my tiny recipe archive, it's true. My sweet cookbooks are limited to: "Moosewood Restaurant: Book of Desserts" a Christmas present from dad, "In the Sweet Kitchen" by Regan Daley (a gift from Mom), "Professional Baking" by Wayne Gisslen (a post- George Brown Baking course reference book), "Home Baking" by Toronto's Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (a wedding present from the actor), and a small recipe box section of photo copied and scrawled recipes. My hopes for the future do involve a larger personal collection of baking and dessert books-- however, this will follow the paying off of the student loan and the acquisition of a reliable day job! In the meantime I rely on the Moosewood for many recipes that can be whipped up without making an additional run to the grocery store or a large dent in the weekly food expenses. Funny how these often turn out to be the most satisfying recipes as well! I have attempted a few desserts from Daley's book--one was outstanding and some others required more time and cost than were warranted for the results. Has anyone found this with her recipes? Antonio approximated the cost of one tart I made at around $60 (but this of course included much more of some expensive ingredients than could be used for just 1 dessert--organic almond extract for example)!

The tart sweet cranberry topping was so deserving of its buttery light base! My first attempt at this recipe, it will definitely become an old standard, especially because the ingredients will usually be on hand.

Recipe, slightly adapted:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar (or combo or white sugar + molasses)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/4 cup milk (or cream!)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups rinsed cranberries (fresh or frozen & thawed)
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar (or white + molasses)
1 1/2 tsp grated orange peel and/or
dash of grand marnier or cointreau
pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a light coloured 8" square or 9" round pan
2. Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a small bowl
3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light, add egg and mix well
4. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk and juice and ending with the vanilla, mixing gently to incorporate
5. Scrape into the pan and bake for about half an hour, until the top springs back and a skewer emerges clean
6. While the cake bakes, combine the topping ingredients in a small pot over medium heat, stirring until the berries soften, about 10 minutes--put aside to cool
7. After cake has cooled about 10 minutes, unmould onto a plate and cover with cranberry topping
8. Serve with softly whipped organic cream, or ice cream, or even thick yogurt... (the whipped cream had already been devoured by the time I got around to taking the photo--I'm sure you can use your culinary imaginations!)

11 May 2006

Luscious Banana Bread Breakfast~

Confronted with the situation of too many ripe bananas due to the fact that A. hadn't peeked at the fruit bowl before visiting the grocery store, I scanned my favourite Moosewood Desserts cookbook. Having settled in to make muffins, a new package of paper muffin tin liners already on the counter, A. complained "I thought you were going to make banana bread!" Ever the eager- to- please wife (except when it comes to anything soccer related), I relented and decided to use my large loaf pan (9 x 5) for the recipe. It turned out deliciously moist and flavourful--little pockets of not quite mashed banana here and there providing great texture. I adapted the recipe by adding unsweetened apple sauce to make up the remainder of the 3 cups of mashed banana called for, by using white sugar with a spoonful of blackstrap molasses in place of the brown sugar (mine is too hard!), by reducing the oven temperature and increasing the baking time (since it was originally for muffins) and by reducing the sugar overall. Probably as far from an Italian recipe one can get, this loaf nevertheless makes an enchanting breakfast as is, and an addictive snack spread with butter or apple butter.... Enjoy!

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2- 3/4 cup brown sugar (or 1/2 cup white sugar + 1 tbsp molasses)
2 eggs
4 bananas, mashed (or combination of banana and applesauce to make about 3 cups)
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees and butter a loaf pan (9 x 5 inches)
2. In a large bowl mix the oil, sugar, eggs and banana mixture until well combined
3. Sift the dry ingredients together into a small bowl and fold them into the wet mix carefully, until just combined, folding in the vanilla near the end
4. Scoop the batter into the tin and bake for about 50 minutes, until a tester inserted comes out clean
5. Cool on a rack in the pan for about 10 minutes before unmoulding, and wrap well in a cotton towel once completely cool
6. Feed to loved ones or take heart in it yourself!

05 May 2006

Last Evening with the Actor

My pleasant evening last night began with a leisurely walk through Queens' Park, where the leaves are (finally) beginning to grow. I stopped and sat on a park bench for a while, maple tree seeds blowing into my hair, and a little Asian child, dressed in an adorable yellow jumpsuit, probably under a year old came over to me and was looking at me--what a cutie! I tried to ask her grandparents who were with her what her name was but they didn't speak English, so we just ended up laughing and gesturing. I was trying to kill a bit of time before walking over to my friend Marc's place, or rather the beautiful house of friends of his, for whom he house sits, in the Annex. I then walked west on Harbord in the late afternoon sun-- a pretty street that I haven't walked much since my full time school days. After arriving at Marc's, and after we nearly had to call the fire department because the tray of fat underneath the barbecue in the backyard caught fire, we had a lovely relaxed meal outside (using the fine crystal wine glasses that the home owners apparently never use!) of a jarred broccoli soup, enhanced with some white wine, milk, and sliced fennel, some herbed "black rice" (I don't know if that is what it is called--we found it in a paper bag and decided to cook it), some broiled tilapia fish with lemon, garlic and olive oil, and some sauteed veggies (that Marc had intended to barbecue!) that actually turned out delicious: sweet potato, red peppers and asparagus. Afterwards, we cleaned the kitchen to the likes of Sarah Harmer and decided to go out for a walk in the remaining light to get some Korean walnut cakes.... Along the way we encountered an ice cream truck and looked at each other.... of course the walnut cakes were sacrificed (though I did pick some up for Antonio) and we indulged in the chocolate dipped twist ice cream cones of childhood... Back home Marc served up some gin and tonic water with slices of lemon and frozen wild blueberries, probably my one regret of the evening because I am the world's lightest weight and started laughing a little louder after that. I think it also must have contributed to me walking into the bathroom doorknob when I got up last night, the pain, the agony.... But a great night nonetheless.

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02 May 2006

Night in the Kitchen: Carrot- Ginger Soup, Salad, Leek- Caper Frittata & Honey- Spice Cake (in the oven)

No time for anything not food related tonight! I decided to cook for myself tonight, instead of the toast and cheese or yogurt and fruit I usually eat when alone. The carrot soup was stupendously flavourful without being heavy~ the ingredients include carrots, ginger, vegetable broth, a leek, sherry and at the end, some milk. Mmmmmmmm... We bought a non-stick, all metal frying pan (including the handle) with our favorite frittatas in mind--we cook the eggs lightly over medium- low heat and then stick them under the broiler to finish. Usually the frittata puffs up and becomes all bubbly- this one did a little less of that but was still very tasty. The first variation we ever made was Spanish- inspired, with chunks of red potato, peas, red onions, capers and saffron strings. All of these scrumptious recipes can be found in my absolute favourite cookbook "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen," where you can try any recipe and be pleased with its simplicity, intense flavours, and detailed, time- saving instructions. By the way, word just in on the cake, from Antonio home from soccer practice: realllly good! Recipe will follow at some point...