Pineapple Upside-down Cake

pineapple upside cake 2

Pineapple Upside-down Cake

All those upside-down cakes of yore topped with canned pineapple rings with maraschino cherries adorning the centers will seem like a bad memory after you’ve tasted this fresh pineapple version.  Select a pineapple that is fragrant and has a little give when pressed. The subtle tang of the buttermilk and tender crumb are irresistible.    The glistening caramel gives the cake a glorious finish. A dash of dark rum on the finished cake is a delightful touch.

Needed: a 9-inch silicone cake pan, rimmed baking sheet, wide-bottomed light-colored saucepan (such as stainless steel).

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 large ripe pineapple

For the Cake:

1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

½ t pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cups unsifted all-purpose flour

1 t baking powder

¼ t salt

½ cup nonfat buttermilk

Procedure— Caramel:

1. To a heavy, wide-bottomed saucepan, add 1 cup sugar.  Don’t use a dark-colored pan as you won’t be able to see the color of the caramel change.

2. Over medium heat let the sugar melt swirling pan but not stirring it.

3. When the caramel reaches a light amber color, remove it from the heat and pour immediately into the silicone pan. Carefully swirl the pan to coat the bottom.  Set aside on a rimmed baking sheet. (This can be done well ahead.)

The Pineapple:

1. Cut the top off the pineapple and a slice from the bottom so the pineapple will sit upright. Quarter the pineapple.

2. Core, peel and slice into ¼” slices.

3. Arrange the slices on top of the hardened caramel, overlapping them with the flat edges pointing upward.  Remember that this will be the top of the cake.

The Cake Batter: Heat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Cream the butter in an electric mixer.  Add the sugar gradually and beat until the mixture is light.

2. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each addition for 15 seconds.

3.  Add the vanilla extract.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

5. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry mixture to the butter mixture. Mix just until the flour disappears.

6. Add the buttermilk and mix again.

7. Add the remainder of the flour mixture and again, mix just until the flour disappears.

8. Scoop large dollops of the batter over the pineapple taking care not to disturb the arrangement of the slices.  Smooth out the batter.

9. Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is golden brown (about 50 minutes).

10. Run a knife between the cake and edge of the pan.  Set a serving platter on top of the pan and invert.  Carefully lift off the cake pan.

Photo by Michael Kirigin

Adapted from a recipe by Margery K. Friedman

White House Chef Prepares Toad-in-the-Hole

toad 3Is there anyone who is not familiar with this dish?  On the Martha Stewart Show, Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass prepared “eggs in the hole.”  True it was with a bunch of kids, but, nevertheless, toads have made it to the White House!

How can you go wrong with an egg, good bread and butter?  Here, then, is the simplest cooked breakfast of them all–the well known (as it turns out) toad-in-the-hole.  My family prepared toad-in-the-hole countless times for a quick morning meal.  In researching the recipe, I discovered its considerable popularity, but I think mine is the most basic of all.  My take on the recipe is to make as little effort as possible while turning out a delicious breakfast.

toad 1

Break egg into hole.

It goes by many names: bullseye, pirate’s eggs, one-eyed jacks, hole-in-one, egg boat, eggs –in-a-frame, eggs in a basket, frogs on a log, one-eyed pirate, bunny in a basket and powder puff eggs.  Then there is the scene in the movie “Moon Over Miami” (1941) with Betty Grable, Don Ameche and Robert Cummings featuring Betty standing over a stove making “gas house eggs”.  More recently, Martin Crane  made “eggs in a nest”  for Frasier, title character of the popular sitcom.

Ingredients:

1 T butter, divided

One slice bread

One egg

Salt and pepper

Procedure:

Place 2 t butter in a non-stick skillet.  Gently tear a hole in the center of a piece of bread with your fingers.  (No need to dirty a knife or cookie cutter as some recipes call for.)  Place bread on melted butter.  When it begins to toast slightly, turn it over, place one teaspoon butter in hole and break egg into it.  Salt and pepper egg.

toads 2

Flip toad over.

As white of egg firms up, carefully turn bread to other side and fry another minute.  Remove to plate while yolk is still runny.  Don’t forget to fry the “hole”, too.  You’ll probably want to make two per person.

Elder Statesman II

Elder Statesman II

This combination of three of my favorite cocktail ingredients miraculously blends together to perfection. Hendrick’s Gin, in addition to the traditional juniper infusion, uses Bulgarian rose and cucumber to add flavor.  Its distinctive character is lighter, sweeter and more floral than more traditional gins.Elder Statesman iI ingredients

St. Germain is a sweet liqueur crafted in the artisanal French style from elderberry flowers. Elements of peach, orange, grapefruit, and pear can be detected.  A heady lychee aroma pervades with grapefruit and other citrus undertones.

Aperol, an aperitif/liqueur from Italy, combines the aromas of tangerine and rhubarb with just enough herbal bitterness for balance.

Recipe

1 ½ oz. Hendrick’s Gin

1 ½ oz. St. Germain  (elderflower liqueur)

1 oz. Aperol

One dash Angostura bitters

Tonic water

Fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Stir in first four ingredients. Top with tonic water.  Savor. Take comfort in the fact that you are warding off malaria.

You must use Hendrick’s Gin.

Cocktail photo by Bill Brady

Ingredients photo by Michael Kirigin

Classic Bagels and Lox

bagels and loxWhen asked on a flight, what she would most love to eat at that moment, the late Beverly Sills replied, “Cream cheese and lox on a poppy seed bagel.”  Bagels and lox qualifies perfectly as one of the proverbial “marriages made in heaven.”  I don’t know who first came up with the combination of smoked salmon, cream cheese and sliced onion on a bagel, but that person should be sainted.  Kind of a mixed metaphor since the word “lox” is derived from the Yiddish word for salmon.  At any rate, the sweet, salty, briny flavor of smoked salmon, whether it be Scottish, Nordic or Nova Lox couldn’t be better served.

I like thinly sliced red onion. A few capers are optional. The quality of the bagel is important. Personally, I have suffered withdrawal symptoms since the famous H&H Bagels of NYC closed.  You just have to seek out the best you can find.  They should not taste like bread.  They should be plump and chewy and have a slightly moist sponginess.  My favorite is the onion bagel with poppy seed running a close second.  I think the bagel should be toasted but this is controversial.

When my husband and I drive into Manhattan, we make a Zabar’s run and pick up all these fixin’s and that, not surprisingly, becomes the evening’s dinner.

Photographer Bill Brady

Grapefruit Salad

grapefruit saladWhat?  Another grapefruit recipe?  Yep!  While I’m in the grapefruit mode, I just have to add a tangy grapefruit salad.  A lovely departure from a mixed salad, this combination of tart grapefruit, sweet gooseberries, fragrant walnuts and zesty pea shoots lightly bathed in a creamy vinaigrette will hit the spot.

Ingredients (serves 2)

4 cups rinsed and dried pea shoots

1 half pint cape gooseberries*

¼ cup lightly toasted walnuts

1 grapefruit cut into segments

Citrusy vinaigrette dressing

Directions

Gently toss ingredients together with vinaigrette just before serving.

cape-gooseberry* Cape gooseberries look like tiny tomatillos, swaddled in tissue leaves. They are deep yellow, slightly sweet and tart.  Look for them in farm and produce markets.

Citrusy  Vinaigrette Dressing

Ingredients

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1 t Dijon mustard

1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 T good extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons peanut oil*

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Place chopped shallot in a bowl.  Stir in mustard and lemon juice.  Slowly whisk in the two oils until a creamy emulsion is attained.  Whisk in salt and pepper to taste.

The dressing can be enlivened with herbs to suit your taste, fresh or dried.  Remember 1 teaspoon of a dried herb equals 1 tablespoon of the fresh.  Tarragon, with its faint licorice flavor, is one of my favorites.  You might consider basil,, savory, chervil or marjoram.

*Peanut oil or canola oil mellows the rich olive oil and allows the other flavors to come through.

Candied Grapefruit Peels

IMAG0740

Glistening candied grapefruit peels

Making your own candied grapefruit peel will produce a candy more stunning then you can imagine. I find them irresistible to snack on, although they have other uses as well.  They can be chopped and added to scones, muffins and dessert recipes. Dipping them in chocolate creates a fine delicacy.  Once candied, they will last for months.  If you are a grapefruit fan you will find the sweet bitter flavor punch they pack addictive. More

Rosy Grapefruit Sorbet

IMAG0751Sugar tames the tartness of the grapefruit in this refreshing palate-cleansing sorbet.  With only two essential ingredients, it is a breeze to make. (You’ll need an ice cream maker.)  Should you come across a sorbet recipe with water added to the juice, drop it immediately from your browsing.  A sorbet must be intense with fruit flavor and there should be no watering down.

Ingredients (Makes about a quart)

4 large Ruby Red grapefruits

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 T grapefruit vodka*

2 T Campari bitters*

Directions

1. Squeeze juice from grapefruits.  Strain.  You should have about 3 cups of juice (If you have more, add more sugar accordingly.)

2. In a small saucepan mix sugar with ½ cup of juice. Heat and stir just until sugar is dissolved.

3. Cool and add to remainder of juice.  Stir in vodka and bitters.

4. Chill in refrigerator overnight or until cold.

5. Prepare in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s directions.  This should take about 20 minutes.

6. Scoop into a container with a tight-fitting lid and place in freezer.

* The vodka will prevent the sorbet from freezing hard.  It’s not essential if you’re going to eat it the same day, but otherwise highly recommended.  The Campari marries well with the grapefruit flavor, slows down the hardening and gives the sorbet a lovely rosy color.

You can, of course, use unflavored vodka, but I always look for ways to intensify flavor.

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Photos by Michael Kirigin

Grapefruit A-Go-Go

Grapefruit Dazzler
Grapefruit Dazzler

I have developed an uncommon love of grapefruit of late, not that I haven’t always relished its tart sweetness.  But in the midst of a heat wave, its brisk, palate-quenching juiciness seems particularly inviting.

Tangy with an underlying sweetness, grapefruit rivals the ever popular orange that shines with many of the same health promoting benefits. The wonderful flavor of the grapefruit is like paradise as expressed by its Latin name, citrus paradisi.

As a matter of fact, I have been delving into all the delights the grapefruit can lend itself to and coming up a grapefruit dazzler, a luscious sorbet, candied grapefruit peels, and a bright grapefruit salad.  Let’s begin with my

Grapefruit Dazzler

Imagine your guests’ surprise when, instead of offering them a cocktail, you offer them quite possibly the most refreshing pick-me-up they’ve ever had.  If you haven’t tried grapefruit vodka, prepare yourself for a stunner.

So here’s what you do: cut Ruby Red or pink grapefruits in half. Figure one large grapefruit will serve two people. With a small serrated knife, carefully cut the flesh from the grapefruits. Cut into 1-inch chunks.  Place half the chunks in each grapefruit half.  Saturate each half with 1 ½ ounces of grapefruit vodka.

Chill well before serving. Add a spring of mint. Cheers!

(Photo by Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm)

Cranberry Walnut Muffins

muffin

Photo by Bill Brady

Here is a breakfast muffin worth waking up for.  Actually I think of them as anytime muffins.  Inhale them as they come out of the oven and you’ll want to bite into the soft cakelike crumb right away.

Need :  2 muffin tins (not mini)  Fill any unfilled cups halfway with water to prevent over browning of the muffins or warping of the pan. Makes 16 muffins. 

Ingredients

½ cup butter plus more for preparing muffin tins

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 t baking powder

¼ t salt

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2/3 cup sour cream

Zest from one orange

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup dried cranberries, steeped in hot water until plumped and then drained

Procedure

1. Butter muffin tins.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside.

3. In an electric stand mixer cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Add one egg at a time.

4. Take mixer bowl off stand.  Fold in 1/3 of the flour at a time alternating with the sour cream.

5. Fold in orange zest, walnuts and lastly, cranberries.

6. Fill muffin tins two thirds full.

7. Place in middle of 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Check after 15 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.

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Hand-Dipped Chocolate Strawberries

Hand-Dipped Strawberries

Photographer Bill Brady

Of course you can buy a box of candy, but where’s the love in that?  These hand-dipped chocolate strawberries proclaim love with their voluptuous coating and perfect strawberries and they can be created in an hour. The procedure may look long because I’ve provided detailed, can’t-fail directions but notice there are only two ingredients. Of course, you can use white chocolate or milk chocolate and you can roll them in nuts, but this is the way I like them best, simple and luscious.

Ingredients

1 lb. fresh strawberries (preferably with stems)

16 oz. high quality dark chocolate* in wafer form or chopped into small pieces

Procedure

1. Gently rinse strawberries.  If you have a hair dryer with a no heat setting, use it the dry the strawberries. Lay them out on a towel and move them around as you dry them.  This technique works perfectly.  Otherwise, just pat them dry gently with an absorbent cloth.  They must be perfectly dry.

2. Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler.  I improvise a double boiler by placing a pan that fits inside a larger pan but does not touch the bottom.  Fill the bottom pan with just enough water so that it doesn’t touch the upper pan.  Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat.  Place chocolate in the upper pan.

3. The chocolate will melt.  Give it time and stir from time to time. Let it reach a temperature of 88 degrees.**

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon sheet.  Set aside.

5. Take the pan of melted chocolate out of the larger pan and, holding each strawberry by the stem, dip it into the chocolate. Roll it around so that the strawberry is nicely covered. Hold it over the pan until it stops dripping.  You can use a spoon to smooth the bottom.  Set it on the parchment paper.  If the chocolate is still dripping, you will wind up with a “foot” on the strawberry.  Not good.***

6. The chocolate will set if placed in a cool area.  You can place the baking sheet in the refrigerator but only long enough for the chocolate to set.  Left in the refrigerator the chocolate will take on an opaque finish instead of the glossy color you want.

* I order chocolate online from World Wide Chocolate http://www.worldwidechocolate.com/?gclid=CObR0d-_sLgCFcyj4Aod-DkAdA  They offer gourmet chocolate at discount prices.

** If you wish to temper the chocolate for the most professional look, directions can be found at

http://candy.about.com/od/candybasics/ht/temperchoc.htm

***Should you have leftover chocolate, toss in some coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans and spoon out clusters.  They, too, will set up on parchment paper.

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