The recipes on this blog are a combination of things I've learned over the years and meals inherited through generations of adoration for good food. They are a cherished property, so please be good to them.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Balsamic Drunken Strawberries (over Pound Cake with Fresh Whipped Cream)

Aside from baking the pound cake (which is a simple cake to make), this dessert is the perfect summer treat and a great one to serve when you've got a few people to entertain in your backyard.

The pound cake is one of the most basic yet satisfying kind of cake to make and is named such because it used to be made with a pound of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. A more modern version of the recipe has modified these measurements, but the cake is still as wonderful as it once was. You could also use my recipe for hot milk cake as the base to this dish.

I got some wonderful strawberries at the Waverly Farmer's Market and just had to use them for this perfect warm weather dessert. A dear friend bought me a really tasty Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar last year for one of my birthday gifts, and I have only used it with salads or reductions. I thought this would be the perfect dessert to use the already fruit infused vinegar.

For the topping:
To get those strawberries drunk, core and halve them and place in a bowl. Place about 1-3 c of balsamic vinegar over the strawberries. To the mixture, add 3 tbsp sugar and stir well. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

For the pound cake:
Preheat oven to 350*F ( I used a heavily greased bundt cake pan)
1 3/4 cups (230 grams) cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl with your hand mixer or with your electric mixer cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating another 2 minutes. Add the zest of lemon, the flour and mix until incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

For the whipped cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar

Whisk together the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.

Slice the pound cake, top with the strawberries and whipped cream and prepare yourself for true decadence!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pesto Parpadelle with Sauteed Spinach and Grilled Chicken

This was an easy weeknight dinner last week when we had a craving for fresh pesto (must be all that fresh farmers market basil) , a need to cook this beautiful spinach sitting in my refrigerator (i get a little crazy with greens at the market...).

I grilled some thin sliced chicken breasts that I marinated in the juice and zest of 1 lemon, 2 tbsp fresh ground pepper and sea salt and 4 tbsp olive oil.

First, bring to a boil enough water for your parpadelle (I used store bought parpadelle). Add about 1 tbsp sea salt to your water. Prepare pasta according to directions, less 1 minute.

Basic Basil Pesto:
2 c loosely packed basil leaves
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp minced garlic (about one clove)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c plus 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
In a food processor, combine the basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic, and salt and puree. While the motor is running, drizzle in the oil until incorporated. Season with pepper to taste.

(Cooks note**Use immediately or store in the refrigerator with a piece of plastic wrap placed right on the surface of the pesto to prevent discoloration, for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.)

For the spinach:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 lb fresh spinach leaves, washed and ready!
1 tsp sea salt

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and saute about 2 minutes. Add spinach and salt and allow to cook, tossing the spinach lightly until it begins to wilt. Reduce heat to medium low and allow spinach to cook about 1 more minute, until mostly wilted.

When the pasta is ready (1 minute less the package directed time), transfer the parpadelle to the pan with the spinach, tossing to incorporate. Add basil pesto (to taste) and continue to toss. Add about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liqued and continue to toss, cooking over meduum low heat for about 2 minutes. Serve immediately, topped with grilled chicken and paremesan.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Springtime Risotto

During the spring months, the farmers markets are filled with early spring produce and for people who love to cook, especially seasonally, the spring vegetable season is the beginning of many months of fresh vegetables and fruit.

Last week the 32nd Street Market (Waverly) had an abundance of vegetables and the asparagus and leeks were overflowing! I love asparagus and enjoy it in risotto as you can see from a previous post, here.

For the last few days in Baltimore, it's been either sunny and unseasonably cold, or a torrential downpour of rain and cold. Last night I decided to use the opportunity for good, comforting, warm risotto confettied with spring vegetables.

Preheat oven to 400*F.

For the spring vegetables:
1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch peices
2 large leeks, sliced in half, cleaned and cut into 2 inch peices
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Lay vegetables on baking sheet and toss together with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes.

For the risotto:
1 c Arborio rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and finely diced
3 tbsp dry vermouth (you can use a dry white wine, but I love the vermouth in this particular recipe)
4 cups heated chicken stock ( I like to have a little extra in case. Use as much as needed to get the rice al dente)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp heavy cream
a wooden spoon (the essential tool)

Using a large skillet with a heavy bottom, heat the olive oil and butter over medium low heat and saute the onions until translucent. Add the Arborio rice, stir to coat with the oil and butter, and saute with the onions to toast each grain of rice, about 4 minutes. Once the rice is lightly toasted, add the vermouth, slowly stirring. After the rice has absorbed the vermouth and the skillet is nearly dry, add 1 cup stock, stirring occasionally, and cook over low heat until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding the stock, 1 cup at a time, until all the stock has been absorbed. Continue to stir the risotto as you add the stock. (Adding the liquid in stages, instead of all at once, allows the grains of rice to expand more fully, adding to the risotto's creamy texture.) Once the rice has been added to the pan, the entire cooking process will take about 20 minutes.

Remove the roasted leeks and asparagus, and add to the risotto. Stir to combine, add the heavy cream and parmesean, stirring once more and allow to cook about 1 minute.

For garnish:
I added 1/2 c fresh peas (not roasted) and 1/3 c fresh mint. The mint and the peas really add the extra flavor kick to this risotto, that I think is essential to this springtime dish!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cammarata's Hot Milk Cake

Hot milk cake is a traditional cake, and I'm pretty sure its a Mid-Atlantic recipe. Living here in Baltimore, the hot milk cake has been a staple of my childhood, and this recipe was passed down to me from my Aunt Ruth.

Words of wisdom for those who've never made this: When you beat scalded milk into a cake batter, a thick mixture turns thin, runny, and looks ruined.
Do not fret! Something magical is happening, and the results are light buttery and golden.

This cake dates back to the Great Depression era, and was an easy recipe to use because the butter was rationed out by the government (which wasn't butter at all, but a square of white lard that you added a few drops of yellow food coloring to). So this recipe allowed families to celebrate an occasion a little easier.

1/4 lb butter
1 c milk
4 eggs
2 c sugar
2 c flour
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Add butter to milk and heat to boiling - turn off heat.
Beat eggs until fluffy and add sugar, then flour, salt and baking powder and beat thoroughly.
Add to the hot milk and pour into a bundt cake pan and bake 350 degrees until done, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack and invert and serve.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Key Lime Pie

I made this pie for my mother for mothers day. It's a household favorite and lime is my favorite citrus! Mom, Dad and I had a great day together, picking out flowers for her garden, chatting and spending good quality time together.

My dad is a master on a wok, so my mother asked him for stir fry and I brought the pie.
This is a basic key lime pie recipe, with a little special twist. My family loves gingersnaps... a lot.
So instead of graham cracker crust, I did a gingersnap crust. The tartness of the lime, with the sweet whipped cream and spice of the gingersnap is a beautiful gastroexperience.
For the crust:
good quality ginger snap cookies (about 3/4 lb)
1/4 c of melted, unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar
In a food processor, pulverize the cookies into a fine crumble. Add sugar and melted butter and blend together with a fork. Once combined, press the mixture into a 9" pie plate. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 10 - 12 minutes until lightly browned. Place on a rack to cool.

For the pie filling:
4 large or extra large egg yolks
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup key lime juice
2 teaspoons lime zest

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks until they are thick and turn to a light yellow. Turn the mixer off and add the sweetened condensed milk. Turn speed to low and mix in half of the lime juice. Once the juice is incorporated add the other half of the juice and the zest, continue to mix until blended. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake at 350 F for 12 minutes-15 minutes. Pie filling should be firm with a slight wiggle in the middle. Allow to cool, and place in refrigerator for 2 hours.
For the whipped cream :
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Whip cream until it begins to thicken slightly. Add sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until soft peaks form.

Remove pie from refrigerator and dollop the pie with the whipped cream, covering the filling. Add some lime zest on top for garnish, and serve.
These pictures don't capture this pie enough, but we were inhaling it so quickly I had very little time for exposure and white balance!