Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lemon-Rosemary Cake with Olive Oil (Pareve)

It was duly noted that this is the fifth food-related post in a row. Don't worry, next post will be religiously themed on Obama's "you didn't build that comment."

I made this cake for some care packages I sent out, and it was surprisingly good!

Lemon-Rosemary Cake with Olive Oil (Pareve)
based on my own recipe for lemon shortbread and my obsession with rosemary as a seasoning

As any good Jewish cook does, I eyeball everything. Measurements are approximate.

Serves 16-24

juice of 3 lemons
~1-1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
4-5oz. olive oil (about 1/2-2/3 cup), plus more for greasing
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp rosemary
~1 1/2-2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a pan that is decently deep with olive oil. I used two 9x9 pans.

2. In a large mixing bowl, blend the lemon juice and the sugar until combined.

3. Add and combine the eggs, and then the oil and vanilla.

4. Blend the rosemary in until fully combined. You should notice the mixture change color a little bit.

5. Add in the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly to form a medium-thick batter. Take a taste - if the lemon is too domineering, add flour, sugar, and oil in a 2:1:1 ratio, and if you add a good amount, consider adding some egg white to that.

6. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs. Remove from oven, cool, cut and serve.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dark Strawberry Pudding

Summer is the season for strawberries.

Stacks of cartons of juicy, red fruit in the supermarket; farmer's markets with pounds upon pounds of strawberries of various sizes, and one of the tastiest seasonal treats there is - in my opinion - is freshly chopped strawberries on yogurt gently stained red by the fruit juices oozing out.

Thus I set out to make a treat for my colleagues - a tasty pudding or cake that would take advantage of the last strawberries of the season - before we hit the times of the shipped strawberry.

Before baking, I macerated the berries in a vinegar-sugar mixture to bring out the most flavor and aroma for the final result. It worked - the pudding caused the whole apartment to smell like strawberries! I also left the vinegar in the batter, so the pudding also turned quite dark - particularly on the outside - and caused the inside to turn a delightful purple.

Dark Strawberry Pudding

1 pound fresh strawberries
½-1 cup balsamic vinegar*
3 tbsp brown sugar

1 egg
2/3 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp butter, melted + extra for greasing pan
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder

1.      Dice the strawberries thinly. You can do cubes or thin slices; I prefer cubes so that they become mushier during baking. Place into a bowl such that they have a bit of air.
2.      Mix in the balsamic vinegar and 3 tbsp sugar and shift around so that the strawberries are covered and all but the strawberries on top are submerged in the vinegar-sugar mixture. Leave to marinate for 2 hours - in the fridge is fine.
3.      Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a 9”x9” baking pan.
4.      In a large mixing bowl, blend the butter, egg, and sugar until consistent.
5.      Add the vanilla extract and milk, and stir in.
6.      Stir in the flour and baking powder until you have a consistent, thick batter.
7.      Add the berry mixture – strawberries, vinegar and sugar – and blend to combine. Be sure to keep the vinegar, it adds flavor and gives the pudding the dark color.
8.      Once the mixture is blended and the berries evenly distributed, pour the mix into the pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out only with a bit of strawberry on it. Remove from oven, cool, and serve.

*I am aware that balsamic vinegar can cause issues for more than one dietary restriction (halal always, almost always very strict kashrut, vegetarian vinegar can be hard to find) and thus may be impossible to use. Several substitutions are possible, particularly involving fruit-based vinegars.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reflections on Dubious Life Goal #3: Make a Thousand-Calorie Cake Slice

Given my penchant for ridiculous desserts (such as these fat-laden ambassadors of nom), and my penchant for theoretical feasts (reference the treif-fest), it was only going to be a short while before I combined my passion into another glorious thing: theoretical cakes.

See, I have a list of ~15 dubious life goals. Some of them are totally not blog appropriate. Some are not enough for a blog post yet (e.g. dress as Scarlett O'Hara for Halloween). I figure:

G-d's created some awesome and fascinating things on this earth. Some of them people don't like. Whatever.

Anyway, high on this list of goals is to create a cake that will actually cause you to have issues. Namely, a cake that is 1,000 calories per slice.

Now, it should be noted that the Cheesecake Factory already has some of this available for you. There is a reason I get the simple cheesecakes there.

But it's just so much fun to imagine all the ridiculous things that one could put in a thousand-calorie/slice cake.

So I've got a few ideas down. I won't make them anytime soon, but they were quite fun to dream up.

All cakes are normal, 9", 8-slice cakes except for number 4.

Not very scientific, but still.

1. Nutella-Peanut Butter-Chocolate cake, two layers, with cheesecake frosting and a topping of chopped bananas.

2. Soft Chocolate-Almond Cake with Honey-Almond Frosting Coated in Almonds.

3. Mediterranean Cake, flavored with Dates, Figs, Pomegranate and Almond, served in two layers with a yogurt and honey binding

4. 24 slices. Very tall. Very decadent.

Layer 1: Chocolate Beet Cake

Layer 2: Yellow Cake

Layer 3: Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Layer 4: Yellow Cake

Layer 5: Chocolate Beet Cake

Binding: Cream cheese frosting.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Getting used to being around carnivores

I'm not used to seeing a ton of meat.

I usually try to limit my land meat intake to once a week - it's healthier, better for the environment, better for certain health issues, much easier for keeping kosher, and, I feel, more morally ethical (I'm inspired a bit here by the teachings of R' Kook). I actually haven't had anything fleishig (land meat) for about a month now. I'm toying with the idea of forgoing meat altogether.

I never grew up with that much meat - my sister's pescatarian and my parents never really understood the meat-every-day thing. Also, a significant number of my friends have some sort of restriction on meat - from keeping kosher or halal to vegetarianism to vegan to picky eating. I'm also friends with a lot of people in groups with traditionally high vegetarianism rates - liberals, Jews, queers, etc.

So most of the year, restaurant visits, catering, and cooking are organized around things like:

"Um, wow, we can't eat anything on this menu, everything has beef."
"Tofu cookoff!" (Can we do this?)
"We're out of lentils. We need to get more."
"This is a vegan remake of ________ "
"I think everyone has some sort of restriction, just cater the whole thing vegetarian."
"Did someone buy vegan/kosher marshmallows?" (Most marshmallows have pork gelatin.)
"They put ham in the mac and cheese again." (No, seriously, UChicago Dining does this all the time.)
"Er, can I get a vegetarian ___________, hold the ______?"
"Seitan! Seitan everywhere!"

In short, I'm not particularly accustomed to being around carnivores.

So D.C.'s most interesting culture shock has been the amount of meat.

Yes, I am aware that most Americans eat a ton of meat. Meat is subsidized and heavily promoted in this country, and high consumption cuts across social classes. Significant constructs of American masculinity, authenticity, and normativity revolve around meat consumption.

It's just that I'm still not quite used to the amounts of meat this physically involves.

My colleagues (who, by the way, are lovely) for example, eat meat-packed sandwiches, chicken-laden lunches, and flesh-crammed salads for lunch. Some every day. I've seen more meat at the lunch table some days than has entered my digestive system in two and a half months.

Or when I'm in the supermarket. Perhaps this is a product of living near university types during the year and having grown up in a heavily Jewish area, but I'm not used to seeing so much meat in shopping baskets. At the supermarket I'm going to, it's easier to buy a pricy cut of chicken than a decent broccoli. (Whole Foods at Foggy Bottom, take note.)

Or what people I know here eat. I've seen lots of packages of minced meat.

Or folks in restaurants. The meat parts of portions look bigger on plates, and I definitely see a lot more meat orders through windows or when I've gone out to eat. The three or four times I've gone out, however, have mostly been with people with dietary restrictions of their own that meant that we were the "vegetarian table" or such.

I guess this is me - a good New York Jewish kid of immigrants who lives in a university neighborhood in Chicago and spends a lot of time around Jews, liberals, queers, and fish-Friday or old-school Catholics - getting used to the American norm. Or maybe it's a white American thing. I don't know.

(And now, I will proceed to stuff my face with onions and bread before Tzom Tammuz)