Sunday, September 26, 2010

Double Coconut Cream Cake

We were invited to dinner and asked to bring a dessert this past weekend. I like to take something new to dinner parties and I had recently played with a coconut cake idea/recipe that I was ready to fully put together. This cake is it friends! If you are a coconut lover (and I am) you will just very much enjoy this cake. I always check to make sure everyone likes coconut before I cook with it because my best friend hates the stuff! She gags at the slightest whiff of coconut. It cracks me up to see someone hate something so naturally sweet and delicious. I found this fantastic card, years back, that read "I am glad we can still be best friends despite our difference of opinion about coconut." and immediately bought it for her! The friends we dined with last night loved this cake and I hope you will too.

Double Coconut Cream Cake

1 C coconut milk (plus 1/2 C for soaking cakes)
1/2 C milk
2 sticks plus 2T butter
3C flour
4t baking powder
1t sea salt
6 eggs
3C sugar
2t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350, grease and flour 2 9" cake rounds. Heat milks and butter, in a saucepan until butter melts, remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temp. In a large bowl sift together dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixer, cream eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow. With a spatula, stir dry ingredients in by hand and then add the cooled milk mixture. Combine completely and add vanilla. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans and completely on wire racks. Once cooled brush cakes with remaining coconut milk (I pierced tiny holes throughout the cakes and brushed them with the milk).

Frosting and Filling

2 1/2 sticks butter
4 C powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
2 T coconut milk
3/4 C sweetened coconut

Whip butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy then add vanilla and milk (if needed, add more sugar to keep consistency). Add coconut and frost one layer of cake (adding a bit extra to the center to fill it and make it stack nicely). Place the top layer on the bottom layer and frost completely.

*While frosting the cake, toast 1 cup of sweetened coconut at 325 for 8 minutes to toast it and then sprinkle it on the freshly frosted cake.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Long Ago and Far Away

"A Childhood Summer"

The challenge for this month was to create a macaron capturing a favorite childhood/summertime memory. That is difficult. I had a happy childhood and summers full of slip-n-slides, ice cream trucks, slumber parties, movies with content far older than my little mind, digging for worms in the yard with my father, school clothes shopping with my mother, babysitting my sister, "laying out" with my friends (on the driveway.. ha!), calling the radio d.j.'s 50 times a day to request my favorite song and then turning it up so loud on my "boom box" so we could be cool while we tanned, swinging so high on swings I truly thought I might fly (... and if I didn't fly, I knew I was some sort of unrecognized world champion of swing sets), roller skating (again... champion!) and birthday parties. My birthday falls in June and my parents threw me some shin-digs! How do you capture this many "favorite" memories in a little bite? Not easily and I have not done my childhood summers justice but I did combine two things that so make me happy: purple and chocolate. I thought to myself, "What can capture THAT much happiness?" The answer: purple. It is my favorite color, the color of 4 childhood bedrooms I had, the color of my wedding, the best color ever. How fortunate I feel tonight, as I type this, to have had such a peaceful AND thrilling childhood that I can not nail down a favorite memory.

Happy end of summer friend
These summer macarons are a simple shell, dyed purple with whipped chocolate ganache center.

* These macs didn't really rise tall but they did get lovely feet. They are flat with feet this time and I am not super pleased with them but we have to post the successes as well as the failures, right? Right? :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Layla Grill and Mezze

Last week I had the pleasure of dining at a new restaurant here in Salt Lake city with a group of local food loving friends. The restaurant is Layla (which used to be Confetti) and is a Mediterranean delight. We were treated to a round of small plates (mezze) from the owner; Tony Tadros. He is quite the kitchen expert in his field and served us up a table of small plates that made our mouths water including: Layla's Traditional Hummus, Muhammara Walnut Spread, Falafel, Halloum Cheese and Layla's Signature Fries. My personal favorite was the Muhammara Walnut Spread. This small plate consists of fire roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts and pomegranate molasses and is completely sweet and spicy with the delicious crunch of walnut and served with Zaatar Flatbread and Pita Chips. The menu warns it is "highly addictive." It does not lie. For a complete menu description, please visit Layla's menu here. From there, we each ordered the entree of our choice and I chose the Mediterranean Chicken which was a pan roasted chicken breast served with garlic, capers and lemon. Very fresh, very authentic. We had the opportunity to sample the ice creams made exclusively for Layla by Tropical Dreams. They were a palate cleansing joy to nicely round out our full flavored meals. We were able to taste the rose water, orange blossom, lychee and pistachio ice creams. The rose water is just as you would expect and even got the comment of "tasting like a bath" (lavender gets a similar rating whenever I cook with it), the orange blossom was so light and wonderful and the lychee tasted exactly like a lychee. The hit was the pistachio! It was perfectly creamy and flavorful. You can visit Tropical Dreams storefront to try their other signature flavors.

Layla gets a star rating from me for good, authentic Mediterranean food in a clean and appealing, well decorated atmosphere with such excellent prices but what makes it even better is the passion behind the food with an owner who puts his heart into the dishes he prepares for you. Give them a visit and see for yourself what a treat this little hidden up and coming restaurant is.
Layla Grill and Mezze on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Twist On The Green Goddess

With all of this fall talk I got to thinking I should bid summer a proper farewell and pay tribute to the lovely things it brings with this salad recipe. This is my sweet husbands favorite salad and he requested it this week so it's only right to share it with you. It's bursting with flavor and really can be made anytime but just screams summer. It was a nice way to say goodbye to my least favorite season of the year (don't get me wrong... I like summer... just "least" of the 4 options I have). As much as I enjoy vacations and swimming pools and outdoor festivals all over the awesome city I reside in, I loathe heat and sweat and heat and blazing bright sun that makes my sensitive eyes water and HEAT! That being said, please enjoy this summer farewell salad as I tap my fingers (impatiently) watching the thermometer drop.

Bye Bye Summer Salad

1 head romaine lettuce
3 tomatoes (seeded and chopped)
1/4 jalapeno (finely diced)
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 boneless chicken breasts

Wash and tear the lettuce and toss into a salad bowl. In another bowl combine the beans, tomatoes jalapeno and salt and set aside. Season chicken breasts to your liking (I drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt, pepper and oregano) then grill and shred. Set aside.

A Twist on The Green Goddess ~Dressing~

2 avocados
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 Cup sour cream
juice from 2 limes (about 4 Tablespoons)
salt and pepper

In a blender combine all above ingredients and mix well (the dressing will be a pale green color and thick... almost like a paste). Pour the dressing over the lettuce and toss well (*note* I reserve about 1/2 cup of the dressing and chill it over night to eat the next day on tortillas).

Once the lettuce is thoroughly coated and dripping with this tasty dressing, spoon the black bean "salsa" over the top of the salad and top with shredded chicken breast.

To finish the salad off, I purchased fresh tortillas from the grocery store, sliced them into strips, drizzled them with canola oil, sprinkled them with sea salt and baked them at 350 for 20 minutes. You could also make your own homemade tortillas or just use chips. The strips do make for a nice salty crunch!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pumpkin Buttermilk Cake and Peach Butter

I love fall. I welcome it with open, awaiting arms far earlier than I probably should and I try my best to stretch it as far as it will go. Sweaters, boots, blankets, coffee, shorter days, playing in leaves, long drives to see the colors changing in the canyon and pumpkin. Pumpkin everything. I have the standards: pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin candles, sure but I am always on the lookout for something newly pumpkin every fall. This year I have discovered a pumpkin cake more richly moist and lovely then any I have ever tasted before. I love you all so much and love sharing food SO much that I am passing it along so that we all might enjoy this fall together. The reason I include this precious peach butter in the same post is that we cracked it open to serve alongside the cake and magic happened! They compliment each other so beautifully that they are now married forever and shall never part. What could be more seasonally perfect than pumpkin AND peaches? Welcome, welcome fall. I love you.

Pumpkin Buttermilk Cake

1 Cup unsalted butter ~room temp.
2 1/4 Cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 Cup pumpkin puree
3/4 Cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 Cup sugar
3 eggs ~room temp.
Preheat oven to 350 and generously grease and flour a bundt pan.
In a stand mixer, whip butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a large bowl combine: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt. In a separate bowl combine: pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla. Once sugar and butter are whipped fluffy add eggs one at a time. Alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures and combine completely. Pour into prepared pan and bake 40-45 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes and then turn out onto a cake stand.

*I sprinkled a thick layer of cinnamon chips all over the bottom of the batter before I baked the cake this time and it wa
s delectable!
Peach Butter

4 pounds peaches ~pitted and chopped
3/4 Cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
light sprinkle of nutmeg (as much/little as you wish)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons dark agave nectar
1/8 Cup dark rum (or bourbon... you choose)

Heat the peaches in a large saucepan and allow them to release their juices for about 5 minutes and add sugar. Simmer another 5 minutes and add cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and agave. Reduce for about 20 minutes (the mixture will turn darker and will reduce by about 1/2 of the liquid). Turn heat off and add rum (or bourbon). Mix well and cool, stove top, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and pulse to a puree. Pour into sterilized jars, seal and turn upside down until cool.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mushroom Ravioli (from scratch)

Every year I make my daughters a "back-to-school" night dinner. This dinner can be anything they wish and is served the night before school begins. My oldest daughter entered 8Th grade this year and her tastes are maturing. She requested homemade mushroom ravioli. Last year it was sushi but, for the most part, all previous years have either been buttered pasta or pizza. I was excited to make this meal and wanted to make it extra special for her. I made the pasta and rolled it out on my own versus a machine, cut the ravioli by hand and filled it with a mushroom mixture that brought us all to our knees. It ended her summer perfectly and filled us all for a good nights rest to prepare for the next morning.

Ravioli Dough
2 Cups flour
2 eggs
1/4 Cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 Tablespoons water

On a large work surface place your flour in a mound. Make a w
ell in the center and crack your eggs into it, then add the olive oil, sea salt and water. Mix slowly with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated. Form into a ball, cover with a damp towel and leave on the counter for 45 minutes. Roll dough out to a thin disc (as thin as you can get it with a rolling pin and muscle) or use a pasta machine and thin the dough out that way. Cut the disc into 30 individual circles and discard remaining dough. Place a tablespoon of the mushroom filling in the center of one circle, wet the outer edge with water and your fingertip and place another circle on top of that. Pinch/crimp edges to seal completely and set aside. Repeat this process until you have 15 lovely little raviolis. Boil a large pot of salted water and cook ravioli (5 at a time... in 3 batches) for 4 minutes or until they float to the top of the water and add a minute to that.
Mushroom Filling

12 ounces mushrooms (I used button, oyster and shiitake)
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup fresh Italian Leaf parsley
4 Tablespoons heavy cream
salt and pepper

Wipe clean and slice all mushrooms. Heat a skillet and add oil till it's near smoking and add garlic then mushrooms (only a little at a time so as not to overcrowd... otherwise your mushrooms will not properly brown). Remove to a plate
and toss with parsley, cream, salt and pepper. Process this mixture in a food processor to a puree and fill your ravioli. Reserve 1/2 cup for cream sauce.
Cream Sauce

2 Cups heavy cream
1/2 Cup mushroom filling
1 Tablespoon butter
Fresh Parmesan to top
Heat cream in a saucepan and add mushroom filling. Whisk in butter and pour over fresh, warm ravioli then sprinkle with fresh cheese.