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Saturday
May142011

A BIRTHDAY CAKE.

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My personality falls somewhere around type A-. I like order, organization, a moderate routine and things done right, but only to a certain extent. My bed is made before I leave my room in the morning, I could tell you every item in my fridge and in what order I need to use said items to not waste any food, I give copies of my travel documents to my parents before I leave the country, I have never run out of gas, missed an appointment or been late on a payment. On the contrary, I have a terrible habit of not always putting on my seatbelt and exceeding the speed limit. I've been known to go days without drinking water. I choose which rules do and do not apply to me, hate reading or listening to directions and am a terrible measurer (which makes writing a cookbook sort of interesting).

I have been wanting to make a layer cake for quite some time, it even made my list of 'things to do before I turn 30', so I set out to cross that off my list while I still have a few years to perfect the goal. My discretion in baking, as it is more about perfection, is typically off (see paragraph 1). It is not a science I am invested in. I did however want this cake to be my own, so I flipped through numerous books comparing ratios of liquid to dry to cocoa, to make sure that with my expectations and friends coming over to celebrate my birthday, it would at least hold itself together. I tried to lighten it up as much as I could, but I didn't want to take too many risks - a layer cake is kind of an investment, not the time to get hard pressed on caloric content. So I gladly spent my birthday afternoon, in the kitchen, measuring and taking careful note of my baking project. I settled right in to that A- spot, allowing myself freedom with ingredients while conceding to the ratio I'd studied.

Myself and the blog share the same birthday, so as fun as it's been celebrating with my sweet husband, family and friends, I am also so grateful that you are here. This space is responsible for creativity, encouragement and new friendships for me, and the community continues to amaze me. You are wonderful people. Thank you. I wish I could share cake with you. undefinedundefined

COCOA LAYER CAKE WITH BLACKBERRIES + MASCARPONE CREAM
Makes one 9'' Layer Cake

You can make the pastry cream a day or two in advance to get ahead. I frosted my cake about three hours before I served it and it held just fine in the fridge. If I were to guess, I'd say it would be fine in there for about 6-8 and keeping the integrity of the whipped cream. I am a big fan of muscavado as a natural cane sugar, but light brown sugar is a fine alternative.
Lastly, this cake is on the dense side. The batter is pretty thick and it doesn't cook for long. The filling and whipped cream balance this out, but if you like a more moist cake, swap in oil for the butter. I haven't tested this, but it's worth a shot. undefinedundefined

Pastry Cream
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Lowfat Milk
1 Vanilla Bean (or 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract)
4 Egg Yolks
1/4 Cup Natural Cane Sugar
2 Tbsp. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
Pinch of Salt

Cocoa Cake
1/2 Cup Muscavado Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter, room temperature
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
1 1/4 Cup Lowfat Buttermilk
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Cup Unbleached Cake Flour
1/3 Cup Non Alkalized Cocoa Powder
3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Sea Salt
3 oz. Good Quality Chocolate, chopped well (milk or dark, your choice)

1/3 Cup Blackberry Preserves (I used Bonne Maman)

Mascarpone Whipping Cream
1 Pint / 2 Cups Whipping Cream
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar
1/4 Cup Muscavado
Pinch of Salt
8 oz. / 1 Cup Mascarpone Cheese

Handful of Fresh Blackberriesundefinedundefined

1. To make the pastry cream, heat the milk, cream and vanilla bean in a saucepan until just boiling at the edges. Turn off the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes. Open up the vanilla bean and scrap the seeds into the milk. Whisk the yolks and sugar together in another bowl. While whisking, add a bit of warm cream to the yolk mixture to warm it up, add another half cup, continuing to whisk. Now that everything is the same temperature, add the warm yolk mix to the saucepan. When the mixture starts to simmer, add the flour 1 Tbsp. at a time, while whisking, like you're making a bechamel. It'll take about 30 seconds and you'll see it start to thicken, once it looks like the consistency of sour cream, turn off the heat, and continue to stir a few more times to make sure everything is smooth. Stir in the butter and salt. Let it cool and transfer to the fridge while you prepare the cake.
2. Preheat the oven to 350'. Butter two, 9'' cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment for cake removal insurance, and rub a bit of butter on that as well, set aside.
For the cake, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the eggs, agave and buttermilk and mix until evenly combined. In another large mixing bowl, sift all of the dry ingredients together, getting rid of any clumps. Add half the wet mixture to the dry, stirring gently, add the remaining wet mixture and stir to just combine. Stir in the chocolate and divide the mix between the two cake pans. Bake on the middle rack for 14-16 minutes. Check for doneness by sticking a butter knife in the center, being sure it comes out clean. Remove and cool completely.
3. Once the cake is completely cooled, invert it out of the pan and remove the parchment. Place one layer, with it's most even side up, on the plate or stand you'll serve it on. I like to slide a few pieces of parchment around the outside to keep it clean. Spread the pasty cream all across the top surface (you'll think it's a lot, but add it all, the cake absorbs it while it sits, it's not as thick as you think). Gently spread the preserves on top of the cream, it will mix in a bit and that is fine. Place the other cake on top, pushing in any filling that smushed out.
4. Whip the cold whipping cream with an electric or stand mixer, once it starts to hold shape, add the confectioners sugar, muscavado, vanilla and a pinch of salt. When you get stiff peaks, about 3 minutes, add the mascarpone and continue to whip until evenly combined. Frost the cake generously and garnish with fresh blackberries. Cake can be kept in the fridge for about 6 hours. If it chills in teh fridge, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you cut in to it. Cold cake isn't as flavorful.
* I piled all the frosting on top and gently pushed it down the sides to frost. undefined

Tuesday
May032011

MUSHROOM + POBLANO TART IN CORNMEAL CRUST

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Sometimes I make things that sound good to me, and though I'm not sure they appeal to the masses, I go forth with the idea. I put hummus on my eggs, spread greek yogurt on my toast and am aware these habits aren't normal. Like last weeks quesadilla, it raised a few eyebrows, but some of you made it and liked it! Thanks for not making me feel nuts. This recipe is a culmination of inspiration - a crust from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals and a twist on a frittata I saw in Bon Appetite this past month. It's sort of like frittata meets mexican quiche meets breakfast casserole... or something. All to say, this versatile tart could easily pass for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Also, I wanted to direct you over to the Saveur site, where we were nominated for 2011 Best Cooking Blog! I am beyond flattered to be included amongst all that talented company, as each of them are bloggers I have long admired. You do have to register to vote, but they will not send you a bunch of spam. Thanks to those of you who believe I deserved to be there in the first place :) undefined


MUSHROOM + POBLANO TART
Inspired by Bon Appetit May 2011 and Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck

The crust does not rise, so adjust the thickness as you prefer. Next time I may make it in an 8'' square and bulk up the filling amounts a bit. Maria did not suggest cooking it before adding filling, but mine seemed pretty moist and I made a completely different filling than her recipe, so I found this step necessary. Just keep an eye on it in the oven, it doesn't need to fully firm up, but you don't want it smushy. The crust can be made a day in advance to save time.

1 Cup Vegetable Broth
1 Cup Water
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
3/4 Cup Polenta or Corn Grits
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 Egg
Fresh Ground Pepper

Filling
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Cups Thinly Sliced Mushrooms (I used Crimini but Button will work as well)
1 Small Poblano Pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced thin
5 Eggs
3/4 Cup Milk (Whole or 2%)
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/4 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper
2 Scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 Cup Feta Cheese, plus more for garnish

Chopped Cilantro
Tapatio or Hot Sauce of choiceundefined

1. Bring the broth, water and salt to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta and continue to stir. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir every two minutes to prevent the bottom from burning. Turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, another 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese, egg and lots of fresh ground pepper. It should be thick. Allow it to settle another 10 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a 9'' pie plate. Transfer the polenta to the pie plate and using wet fingers, press to form a crust in an even layer on the bottom and up the sides. If you would like a thinner crust, set some of the polenta aside. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the tart.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and poblanos and saute for 10 minutes until both are softened and the moisture has been absorbed. Turn off the heat.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cumin and black pepper together until well combined. Stir in the scallions and the vegetables. Add the egg mixture into the cornmeal crust, sprinkle the feta cheese on top and bake another 20 minutes until the center is just set.
Let it rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with crumbled feta, chopped cilantro and hot sauce on the side.undefined

Thursday
Apr212011

STRAWBERRY+LEEK QUESADILLAS.

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One of my very best girlfriends from college has a personal blog where she includes little ramblings of her life, a picture every now and then or a sweet thought. Kristine is my kindred spirit as far as communication goes. Both of us mildly moody, vulnerable talkers, easy tears - she's the best kind of friend to have when you need to process life with someone. She posted a rhetorical question asking "what will be the tone of your life?". A melody, as she calls it, made up of words, conversations and attitudes. I tried to think of mine, and came up with a list of a few things I wanted it to be, but couldn't settle on one word that would qualify as my aspired tone. You don't often think of yourself in the form of complimentary adjectives, but this question isn't about patting yourself on the back, as it is setting a thesis for the rest of your story.

Are you ready for my utterly general response? Loveliness. To be enjoyable, delightful, gracious, to inspire and be full of love. I'm excited by sending notes, nurturing, doing favors, feeding people, listening, and want to do more of it. Love. Maybe it's too big or too vague of a word to throw out as one's tone, but it makes sense to me right now.

As we stayed up late last night talking about this, I asked Hugh what he thought my tone would be, and he named it... and when I explained how I thought his tone was 'intention', complimenting the purpose with which he does things, he said I was close, "I want my tone to be, BE AWESOME. It's the same as intention, but in Hugh language." Can't say I'm surprised. Always dependable to lighten the mood.

May that encourage you to give this some thought. It doesn't have to be a heavy question, you can just want to be awesome, but it's important to boil the big things down every now and then. It may be an endless endeavor, but a little perspective is always welcome.

This is hardly a recipe, but I wanted to give some ballpark measurements and hints for those who want them. Pick up the most fragrant basket of strawberries, deep red right up to the stem. Then add sauteed leeks with their subtle onion flavor, all held together by the creamy tartness from the goat cheese. It's a ten minute snack of pure LOVELINESS.undefined

STRAWBERRY + LEEK QUESADILLAS
Makes 1

1 Leek
2 tsp. Coconut Oil/Olive Oil
2 Brown Rice Tortillas
1/3 Cup Soft Goats Cheese
1/3 Cup Grated Mozzarella
Thinly Sliced Strawberries
Fresh Ground Pepper
Cilantroundefined

1. Remove the tough, dark green top of the leek, to use only the white and light green parts. Slice the leek in half length wise and clean out any dirt. Slice thin.
2. Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a large pan and saute the leeks with a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes until softened and just browning in parts. Transfer to a bowl.
3. Over medium high heat, warm the remaining tsp. of oil and lay down one of the tortillas. Use your discretion as far as filling amounts. All across the tortilla, sprinkle half of both cheeses, desired amount of the sauteed leeks, strawberries, a sprinkle of pepper and the rest of the cheese. Cover with the other tortilla and cook about 2 minutes until the bottom is browned, flip the quesadilla and cook 2-3 minutes on the other side. Slice and sprinkle some cilantro if you'd like.


P.S. One of our advertisers, Maggie of Eat Boutique, is offering $10 off to Sprouted Kitchen readers for Mothers Day gift boxes! Click to her page on the sidebar and use the code word SPROUT !

Wednesday
Apr062011

ORZO + BROCCOLI PESTO SALAD

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I have been a long time admirer of Heidi, creator of the eversopopular 101cookbooks. I started off my food blog interest, knowing of only two sites, Heidi's being one of them. Her taste in food is similar to mine, so I read (and still read) every post with full attention. I like to cook with whole grains and lots of produce; keeping food fresh and natural, while not compromising flavor. She has been a pioneer of that style in the food blog world, reminding readers that food that is good for you, does not end at steamed vegetables and a dry protein. Heidi is creative, kind, and relatable in the way she presents her recipes. She emphasizes on her site and in her new book Super Natural Every Day, that recipes are there to offer ideas and get you started, but always open for change. The book is full of helpful tips, great recipes, and room for you to make them your own. It is not short of beautiful images and her humble personality is woven through every page.

This recipe caught my eye as I was thinking of something to bring on a picnic with my sister in law and sweet little niece. It travels well and is packed with flavor. I only made a few changes, to avoid yet another trip to the store. I swapped in walnuts for the suggested pine nuts, added chopped cilantro, and tossed in some adzuki beans for a little extra protein. I am going to write Heidi's recipe as given in the book, and you can make your adjustments as you desire.

ORZO + BROCCOLI PESTO SALAD // Serves 6
Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

1 Cup Whole Grain Orzo
5 Cups Raw Broccoli, cut into small florets
2 Cloves of Garlic
2/3 Cup Pinenuts, toasted
1/3 Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Juice of one Lemon
1/4 Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Creme Fraiche
Grated Zest of one Lemon
1 Large Avocado, slicedundefined

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously. Add the orzo and cook according to package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
2. In the meantime, cook the broccoli. Bring about a cup of water to a boil in a large pot with a pinch of salt. Stir in the broccoli, put the lid on and cook for one to two minutes, just long enough to take the edge off. Quickly drain the broccoli, and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
3. To make the pesto, combine 2 cups of the cooked broccoli, the garlic, most of the nuts, parmesan, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp. of the lemon juice and pulse in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil and creme fraiche and pulse until smooth.
4. Toss the orzo, remaining cooked broccoli florets, about 2/3 of the pesto and the lemon zest. Taste it and add what you like - more lemon, salt, the rest of the pesto. Fold in the avocado and top with the remaining nuts and a bit of extra parmesan if you prefer.

Monday
Mar282011

SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM

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Hugh and I fell into doing this thing where we keep a count when are swept in a moment of gratitude/happiness/love. You know, those moments where time slows and you think to yourself, wow, this life is pretty fantastic. It could be about anything really, as those moments aren't ever anticipated. Like when our washing machine exploded with water yesterday and we were frantically trying to get the gallons of water into the two small buckets we own, us laughing and hustling together with our pants soaking wet.

That was number 72.

It seemed a charming newlywed moment, and we were lucky to have each other in that instance. It doesn't have to be about romantic love, that's just how we started it, as sort of a verbal affirmation to each other. Everyone gets overwhelmed with emotion at some point and it feels good to recognize it with someone.

Given all the hurt, hate and misfortune going on in the world, I think now is as good a time as ever to make a note of good things you have. My heart breaks each time I see a picture of the destruction in Japan. I feel a sense of guilt - why them and not me? A frustration that my aunt's cancer is back or a loss for words in how to console my mother in-law, who lost her mother on friday. There is a lot of crappy stuff that gets thrown at us, and making a note of sweet moments is what keeps my heart from getting too heavy.

And then there was this ice cream. A rich, decadent, ultimately satisfying dessert. We've kind of been on an ice cream bend lately, most specifically these pretty little containers of Talenti Gelato. Hugh fell in love with their Sea Salt Caramel flavor, and I was convinced with a little elbow grease we could make our own. Below is something that I would say is pretty dang close. I apologize for the surplus of treats lately. Such a disgrace to my own blog name. I am hoarding every original idea I have for the book, and it seems the reprieve I get from trying to get creative with seasonal produce, is to whip up a tasty treat. No harm in a bit of ice cream.


SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM // Makes 1.5 pints
I read about achieving success with caramel in Rhulman's book Ratio. A simply written, but informative read. The ice cream is based on memory from my time working at Villa Lucia in Motevettolini, Italy.

I only push using organic products every so often, as I know it is not always accessible or affordable, but this would be the time to splurge if you can. You will taste a difference.

4 Large Egg Yolks
3/4 Cup Natural Cane Sugar
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Cup Heavy Cream
3/4 Cup Milk
2 tsp. Real Vanilla Extractundefined

1. Bring everything you are using out of the fridge, to get it close to room temperature.
2. Put the yolks in a large glass bowl, over a pot of just barely simmering water, being careful to not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl (double boiler method). Whisk the yolks until they start to become a pale golden color, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. In a heavy bottomed pot (enameled cast iron if you have one), heat the sugar with a few drops of water over medium heat. Once it starts to melt, stir it around with a heat proof utensil to ensure even cooking. Watch it closely. When just a few bits of sugar are left and it's a lovely golden brown color (this took me about 7 minutes), sprinkle in the salt. Add the butter and stir. It will bubble a bit, which is normal. Slowly pour in the cream while you continue to stir. The caramel will seize up, just keep it over medium heat to melt it back down, then take it off the heat. Add the milk and vanilla and stir again. Let it cool about 5 minutes.
4. Starting with just a few spoonfuls, add some of the caramel mix to the egg yolks and stir to combine. You are trying to bring everything to the same temperature so it doesn't scorch the yolks. Add the rest of the caramel mix to the yolks and stir. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer in to another bowl, and refrigerate the mix for about an hour or two to cool.
5. Pour the chilled mix into an ice cream machine and let it do it's thing. For some scientific reason I don't know, this ice cream never really gets super firm. Keep it frozen in an airtight container for up to a week. It is great with a little sprinkle of cocoa nibs or roasted almonds for contrast.undefined