28 February 2011

Quinoa Bowl with Fennel Sauté

I've been going a little nuts lately with the sweets.  If you just started reading this blog recently, you'd think my whole world revovled around cake.  Not true.  Well, not usually, anyway.

You deserve a healthy recipe.  Quinoa always works in a pinch for that.  This salad is pretty, and tasty, and so healthy that you could eat a wheelbarrow full of it and feel nothing but awesome.  If nothing else, it will definitely wipe the cake-induced fog from your brain.  You might even decide that you have so much energy you can run up a mountain, stopping only to take a pretty picture with your phone.

Ok, so the Scots call it a "hill", not a mountain, but I'm from Ohio... so I don't know much about mountains.  Corn, though... yeah, I know a lot about corn.

Anywho, I'm sure you're unaware of the fact that I've never used fennel before.  In anything.  My good friend (a fancypants chef, we will call him 'J') made me a bon-voyage dinner before I moved away from Nashville, many years ago, which included fennel.  It was my first (nay, only) experience with the stuff, and I'm so sorry, J, but it wasn't my favourite thing.  It was kinda the opposite of that.  I felt so strongly about it that I vividly remember one indgredient from a meal that happened 7 years ago.  I also remember that it was the first time I'd ever seen a microplane, that we listened to brassy jazz, and your wife and I decided to leave you and C to the afore-mentioned jazz and snuck off to the bedroom to listen to the Howie Day album (not proud) and drunk-dial my on-again/off-again (even more not proud).  So, maybe it's just my weirdo memory, but for all of that, I can't remember anything else we ate that night*, or even what we drank - but that fennel stuck firmly in my mind for the better part of a decade, even with all that science I've shoved in there over the last few years.

My tastes have changed recently, though, and I'm figuring out that I like everything from that crazy fennel-flavour family.  Licorice, anise, all of it.  Who am I?  Turns out, I'm a chick who likes fennel.  And who has much better taste in music.  Thank the sweet baby Jesus for that.

*Lies!  Your pear vinaigrette was probably the best salad dressing I've ever had.  Foreva-eva.

Quinoa Bowl with Fennel Sauté
original recipe by me

1 small fennel bulb
2 stalks celery
2 medium carrots
1 medium shallot
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
picked coriander leaves
some chopped red onion (just a little, for crunch and colour)

Peel off outer ribs of celery with vegetable peeler (this gets rid of the sometimes-bitter taste celery can have).  Thinly slice peeled celery, fennel and shallot.  Sauté over medium heat in olive oil and a little salt.  Peel carrots and use vegetable peeler to make long, thin strips out of the carrot; add to sauté pan.  Cook until fennel is soft.

Meanwhile, boil quinoa for 10-12 minutes in plenty of water.  Drain in a sieve and set aside.

Toss quinoa and sautéed veg in a bowl with lemon juice, chopped coriander, and a bit of red onion.  Add salt to taste.

Serves 2

22 February 2011

Little Lemon Loaf Cakes

I'm about to make you all incredibly icked-out.

I'm sorry.  It's just that I've been pretty happy these days.  My research is moving along.  My friends are kind of amazing.  Everything's coming up roses.  I walk around with a grin on my face at the grocery store like those cute girls who I used to find so revolting.  It's fabulous.  So, nevermind, I am not sorry.

I bet you can find something to be happy about today.  Maybe, for instance, these tiny cakes?

Did you know that if you walk down the street with a silly grin on your face, the people who pass you on the pavements just can't help but smile back?  They might be thinking, "OMG that girl is bat-shit crazy."  Or maybe the happiness is contagious.  Either way, these little lemon loaf cakes are just about as crazy/happy as I am these days.

If only I could put a sugary glaze on myself... oh, wait... that'd be sticky.  And weird.

I dare you to be miserable while eating one of these.  Just try.

Then, once you get happy, go ahead and put little braids in your hair.  Get overly excited about nail polish.  Put on your frilliest dress and flirt with a cute boy.  Maybe give him a little lemon cake, if you really fancy him.  Life is kinda too short to be doing anything else.

Little Lemon Loaf Cakes
adapted from Pam's Pantry, who found the recipe somewhere else, who found the recipe from Ina Garten. Isn't the internet grand?
I quartered the original recipe and it made 4 little loaves.  Only 3 are pictured... because I ate one.

55g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
115g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
zest of one lemon
90g (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon bicarb (baking soda)
1/4 teaspoon salt
juice of one lemon - reserving one teaspoon for glaze
50ml (1/4 cup) buttermilk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons single cream (or additional buttermilk... I was out)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice
60g (1/2 cup) icing sugar

1. Line 4 mini loaf tins with baking paper.  Preheat oven to 175C/350F. 
2. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mixing at medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, and lemon zest.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bowl. In yet another bowl, combine lemon juice, buttermilk, cream (if using) and vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly between loaf pans, smooth tops, and bake for ~20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
4. Allow cakes to cool completely.
5. For glaze, combine icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cakes, and allow glaze to drizzle down the sides.

07 February 2011

Lightly-Spiced Stem Ginger Cake

My favourite thing to do whilst baking cakes is to dance.  I just can't help myself.  I crank up the tunes, pretend the whisk is my microphone, and then hop up on the chair (to get things from high shelves, ostensibly) for a mean air guitar solo.  It's embarrassing, but I'm pretending to be a rock star, so I don't give a shit.  The cakes take a good bit longer to get made, but it's bloody great fun.  And I'd much rather bake cakes (or do anything, really) with rock music than without it, any day of the week.

So, this post is going to come with a playlist.  Maybe every cake recipe, ever, should come with a playlist?  This could get interesting.  See, I started out with a boring, bland, weird (if I do say so) recipe which the music kind of... well, inspired me to make better.

Don't you think the world would be a better place if we all took a few minutes to dance around like idiots in our kitchens?

This is a hearty cake, made so by the addition of porridge oats, and would be perfect for tea.  It's not too heavily-spiced or overtly sweet, and so should be paired with a sugary glaze.  My initial thought was to use a tart cream cheese icing, but it didn't balance well since the cake itself wasn't very sweet.  It's all about balance.  And, you know, rocking.

Lightly-Spiced Stem Ginger Cake

1 egg
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup good-quality greek yogurt (such as Fage, full fat)
1/3 cup dark muscovado sugar
1/3 cup demerara (or light brown sugar)
1 piece preserved stem ginger, minced
1 tsp stem ginger syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp black treacle (or molasses)
2 tblsp water

1 cup porridge oats (or 'quick-cooking oats')
1 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb (baking soda)

Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Line a small loaf pan with a bit of baking paper.

Mix together wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat for a few minutes, breaking up any possible lumps in the sugar.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then combine with wet ingredients.  Stir until just incorporated, pour into loaf pan and bake.  Pretty easy stuff.

Bake for 30-35 min, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely before glazing.

For glaze, mix up a little cream cheese with a little stem ginger syrup, and add lots of icing sugar, and decoratively spoon or pipe onto top of cake before slicing.

This cake was created with the the assistance of the following tunes:

1. OK Go - Needing/Getting
2. Florence and the Machine - Kiss With a Fist
3. The Hives - Hate To Say I Told You So
4. Band of Skulls - I Know What I Am
5. Queen - Somebody To Love
6. The White Stripes - Fell In Love With A Girl
7. Glasvegas - Geraldine
8. Oasis - Don't Look Back In Anger
9. Live - I Alone
10. The Vines - Ride