Friday, April 18, 2014

Olive Oil Cake with Vanilla Gelato and Balsamic Reduction

I'm not going to lie... I have been skeptical for a while on this one. I don't question many italian dishes. In fact, I don't really question anything Italian! My favorite foods, favorite wines, and my favorite men are all italian, which are pretty much the most important things in a girl's life.  Butttt, olive oil? In a cake? Meh.

Then I remembered a stop that Richard and I made while we were traveling through Modena, Italy. We were lucky enough to take a private tour of Villa San Donnino, where we learned about the process of making "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale." At the end of our tour, we enjoyed a tasting of several different vinegars aged 6, 12, and 25 years. Needless to say, they were absolutely to die for. For our last tasting, we were served the 12 year balsamic drizzled on top of vanilla gelato. (Now you see where I am going with this....)

I have always loved balsamic vinegar, but having it on top of vanilla gelato it is a whole different ball game. This quickly became one of my favorite desserts, so while I was totally knocking this whole olive oil cake thing, I realized the following:

1. Gelato + Balsamic vinegar= delicious.
2. Olive oil + Balsamic vinegar= delicious.

Therefore..... yep. It's all happening.

This cake is not too sweet and perfectly tender. The olive oil contains natural emulsifiers, which improves the cakes moisture and texture. It is absolutely delicious on it's own, or amazing topped with fresh fruit, ice cream, or whipped cream. It can really be the perfect base for just about any topping! My only tip is to be patient, when I say to mix for 10 minutes, mix for the full 10 minutes. You will end up with a deliciously dense and extremely moist cake!

Torta all' Olio di Oliva

Ingredients:
8 tablespoon unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or you can use only all purpose flour)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

To serve: 
Vanilla gelato 
Balsamic reduction




Method:
Grease an 8 inch cake pan and preheat your oven to 300 degrees with a rack placed in the middle. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar and whisk until light and fluffy,  about 10 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until just combined. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the olive oil in a steady stream and then continue mixing for another 10 minutes. 

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add one third of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix to incorporate the ingredients. Then, add one third of the milk, followed by another third of the flour mixture. Mixing until just combined each time. Repeat this pattern until all ingredients are combined and then mix on medium speed for another 10 minutes. 

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until the top is browned and the edges of the cake are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooing rack and let cool. 

To serve, dust the cake with confectioner's sugar and cut into slices. I topped the cake with vanilla gelato and a balsamic reduction (or a balsamic glaze which can be purchased at most grocery stores if you do not want to make it your self.) This cake is also amazing with fresh fruit and whipped cream!


(Read more about our trip to Modena HERE.)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Funfetti Birthday Cake Ice Cream

I'm not really a birthday cake person. I know, I have lost my mind. Here's the thing... to me, the best part of birthday cake is the ice cream that goes on top. So, obviously the best and most logical thing to do is mush them both together (frosting, sprinkles, and all!) and make, well, for lack of a cooler thing to say.... a party... in your mouth! I am so serious. This is so good. 




Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 cups funfetti cake, baked according to boxes instructions and broken into small pieces (not crumbs)
3/4 cup vanilla frosting (I used pink because it is pretty!)
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

Method:
In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups cream, salt and vanilla. Set aside. 
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup milk. Stir constantly over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 2-3 hours until cooled. Once the mixture has chilled, follow the instructions of your ice cream maker to make the base ice cream. With 5 minutes left of churning, add in your sprinkles.

Meanwhile, put your icing into a pastry bag with any sized tip you like. Once your ice cream is done, gently stir in your chunks of cake. Spoon one layer of ice cream into your container. Then, add one layer of frosting from your pastry bag. You'll be doing 3 layers total so make sure you only use about a third of your frosting. Repeat with a layer of ice cream. And a layer of frosting. Add your last layer of ice cream and top with your last layer of icing.

Freeze for 2 hours (more for firmer ice cream) and enjoy!




Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Töltött Káposzta- Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage

In so many many ways, I am a carbon copy of my mother. I ended up with so many of her traits, mannerisms, and special quirks (umm... like my love for pretty things... furry four legged things... and men just like my father.) But, one thing that I got from my dad was my passion for cooking.

Just like his mother (my grandmother), my father is not just a cook, but a phenomenal chef. I mean, when my Dad had the day off work, we knew dinner would be something special that night. (Except that time he made spinach soup... which is something we will never let him live down). My Hungarian grandmother, Ama, as we like call her, is probably the best chef that I have ever met in my life. And, since she taught my dad everything she knew... my dad was able to teach it to me. Now, it probably would have been better if I had been eager to learn how to cook when I was a bratty teenager before moving to LA, but no. I chose to learn over many panicked phone calls after moving to Los Angeles and having no idea how to feed myself!

When I was fresh to LA and missing my family, I would always cook Paprikash (now one of Rich's favorites too... I will post the recipe one day, I promise). For me, hungarian food has always had a way of making me feel right at home. Now that I'm married and not so lonely, I almost always cook something Hungarian when Rich and I are craving comfort food, just like my dad... and my Ama. So... when Richard and I both woke up with nasty colds this morning (UGH!) and could use a little comforting, that is exactly what I decided to do....

Töltött Káposzta, or Hungarian stuffed cabbage, is actually not something that my dad made often, but the great thing about Hungarian food is that the flavors are always the same. It's what Anthony Bourdain refers to as peasant food, and as you can imagine, back in the day peasants only had access to very limited ingredients, usually of the root vegetable variety. The cabbage (a staple of Hungarian cuisine) is stuffed with beef, paprika, onions, caraway seeds (you'll see, keep reading)...  So, since I was itching to try something new, this seemed like just the dish... something new with a little taste of home to treat the adventure in my spirit and the sniffle in my nose.

Now, don't be intimidated... there are a lot of ingredients, and a lot of steps, but if you have the time, this dish is actually much easier than it seems... and HOLY DELICIOUS!


Töltött Káposzta


Ingredients:
For the cabbage leaves-
1 head of cabbage
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 cup apple cider vinegar

For the meat filling- 
1/2 onion, diced
1 pound ground beef (preferably grass fed)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg
1 tsp caraway seeds
3/4 cup rice
Salt and cracked pepper to taste

For the sauce- 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
10 ounces tomato paste
16 ounces sauerkraut, drained (available at most grocery stores, I found it at Whole Foods)
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 cups water
Salt and cracked pepper to taste

To garnish-
Sour cream or greek yogurt (I always use greek yogurt!)




Method:
For the cabbage leaves-
Cut the core out of the cabbage. Put the head of cabbage, bay leaves, spices, and vinegar in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Heat the ingredients on high and bring to a boil. Cook for 20- 30 minutes until the cabbage leaves have softened. Drain and let cool.

For the meat filling and stuffing the cabbage-
In a large bowl, combine meat, onion, egg, garlic, spices, and rice. Mix with your hands until just combined. Do not over mix.

Lay a single cabbage leave on your cutting board or work space. Remove any leftover hard stem that wasn't already removed when you cut out the core. Put a spoonful of meat filling the the center of the leaf. Fold the bottom (stem side) of the leaf up, each side in, and then roll the cabbage leaf up toward the unfolded part (have I lost you, yet?) You will then tuck the open end of the leaf into the roll. It should be pretty secured and look like a little envelope, or an innie belly button.

Continue to make the rolls until you are out of cabbage leaves, placing them in a baking dish as you go. Once finished, refrigerate the rolls while you prepare the sauce.

For the sauce:
Drain and rinse the sauerkraut. You do not want it to taste sour. Squeeze out the water and set aside.

In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and bell peppers until translucent. Add spices and garlic and cook until fragrant.

Add the tomato paste and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer. If it is too think, add a little more water. Once the sauce is simmering, add the sauerkraut and cook for 20-30 minutes, letting the flavors deepen.

To assemble-
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a large baking dish, pour half of the sauerkraut sauce. Layer the cabbage rolls with the seam facing down/ towards you. You want to place them in fairly tight rows so that they will not loosen up while they are baking.

Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls, cover tightly with foil, and bake at 425 for 1 1/2 hours until the meat is cooked through and the rice is tender.

Serve topped with sour cream or greek yogurt!



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ricotta Gnocci with Spring Vegetables

Remember last summer, when my old man of a husband hurt his back and I spent the better part of a month making fun of him for being a baby? Well, turns out that karma is a bitch... a serious one, because this ginger has been stranded on the couch with a hurt back for the past two weeks! I know, I know... what a crazy thing to happen to such a young and able girl. But, it did happen and the absolute worst part has been trying to stay off my feet!

Usually, when I am sick or stuck at home, I take advantage of my free time by trying out new recipes, baking, and doing other fun things that require me to be on my toes. So, you can imagine that being stuck on the couch with doctor's orders to stay off my feet and out of the kitchen, has been nothing less than miserable. And a big, huge pain in the ass. Sometimes literally. Thankfully, rules are meant to be broken (for 30 minutes or less... while medicated). So, with my hubby home for lunch today, I figured I would whip a little something up... God knows he deserves it for putting up with my whining and constant begging for back massages. 

With spring being one of my favorite times for produce, I figured I would throw together something using some fresh, seasonal veggies. I love citrus, asparagus, and green peas... all of which were absolutely perfect tossed with some fresh, homemade ricotta gnocchi! The lemon zest made for a bright, springy pasta perfect with a glass of white wine! Hey, I gotta keep myself in good spirits somehow, right? (Did I mentioned medicated?)


Ricotta Gnocci with Spring Vegetables


Ingredients:
4 cups ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 cup green peas (if frozen, thawed)
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp olive oil
Chopped fresh chives
Finely grated lemon zest
Grated parmesan 
Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Method:

FOR THE GNOCCHI-

  • Line a baking dish with 3 layers of paper towels; spoon ricotta onto paper towels and let sit 20 minutes (if the ricotta is too wet, the dough won’t hold together).
  • Combine ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, and salt in a food processor; season with pepper and process until smooth. Add flour and pulse just to combine (mixture should be smooth and fairly wet). Transfer gnocchi mixture to a pastry bag fitted with ½” round tip or a large resealable plastic bag.
  • Gnocchi mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover pastry tip and chill.

VEGETABLES AND ASSEMBLY

  • Cook asparagus in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright green and crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Using tongs or a mesh strainer, transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool; drain. Slice asparagus on the diagonal into bite-size pieces, leaving tips intact.
  • Reduce heat so water is simmering. If using a resealable plastic bag for gnocchi mixture, cut a ½” opening in bottom of bag. Working in 3 batches, pipe dough into pot, cutting off 1” lengths with a paring knife and letting dough drop into water. Cook until doubled in size, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Reserve ¼ cup cooking liquid.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, tossing occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes; set aside.
  • Add gnocchi, asparagus, peas, butter, and reserved cooking liquid to skillet. Cook, tossing gently, until vegetables are warm and sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with chives, Parmesan, and lemon zest.

    Recipe adapted from Bon Apetit.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Afternoon Tea for a Bride-to-be.

A sunny, southern California afternoon and more tea sandwiches than anyone could have possibly handled made for an absolutely beautiful tea party to celebrate the upcoming nuptials for one of the most stunning brides! Custom tea flavored cocktails were crafted from The Owl's Brew and drank out of vintage teacups, while there were sweet, girly details to be enjoyed at every turn. It was such a pleasure to cater such a lovely event and I wish the absolute best for the happy couple!


 



 

Congratulations Jackie & Jason!