Monday, May 2, 2011

Norwegian Easter Orange Cake

I know it has been forever, and most likely you have all given up on me completely. But I am back, and I am hoping to make it a regular thing again. A lot has happened that has made it hard for me to sit down and write anything here. The main thing being the outrageous pressure that develops the longer I let it go, like if I come back to writing, not only does the thing I've made need to be of the most impressive level, made with layers of homemade ingredients that required fermentation, canning, smoking, straining, cultures and foraging all rolled into one, but also, the pressure for the description to be filled with clever bon mots and important musings and observations on the food movement... Well you are not going to get any of that here, just a lame pick up where we left off...

I am still making a lot of food from scratch, and or just not buying much that is processed in any way. I can't say I am living with the strictness that I was in the early days of this blog, however the return to normal has been slow. These days we do buy yogurt, bread, mayo & mustard. I even have to admit that this week I broke down and bought a couple of emergency cans of turkey chili and split pea soup. From time to time we buy cheese, but we don't consume it anywhere near as much as we once did. I do regularly buy the string cheese and little things of apple sauce for (no longer baby) J to take in his lunch to preschool. There are other sins I am omitting here, but today is not about full confessions, it's about moving forward. I have made a good number of fun and interesting things in the last year that I have wanted to share and haven't so let's just get to it.

In the Los Angeles Times food section the week before Easter they did a whole spread about Scandinavian Easter traditions. My strongest connection to that culture is being very susceptible to sunburn and a big fan of Tales from Lake Wobegon. But for some reason I have been very drawn to the food from that region recently. The most interesting thing in that article said that in Norway, a country of about 5 million people, 20 million oranges and a few million tangerines and clementines are consumed Easter Weekend every year. That is more than 5 citrus fruits per person. And that is three times as many as are consumed the entire rest of the year. Of course oranges do not crow in Norway at all, so it is not a show of national pride in the bounty the native land provides. I googled around a bit, and found several other references to the popular consumption of oranges in the Easter Season, but not any definitive reasons for it. The most logical hypothesis is that Easter seems to have it's pre-religious origins in the celebration of the end of winter and welcoming of spring. Oranges, with their striking visual similarity to the sun, and juicy deliciousness symbolize warm days on the horizon and coming out of the long, dark days of Scandinavian Winter. It is funny to me living in Southern California, where oranges are extremely abundant, citrus is the symbol of winter to me now and spring is marked by strawberries and blueberries and the moving away from a steady diet of oranges and clementines. I forget how spoiled we are. This recipe is more of a fond farewell to winter than a welcome to spring, but I like it either way.

Norwegian orange cake

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes plus cooling time
Servings: 10 to 16

3/4 cup (1½ sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons orange juice, divided
1 1/3 cups (5.7 ounces) flour (I made this twice, the first time with all-purpose flour and I thought it was dry, so I tried it again with cake flour and thought it was much better)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 ounces dark chocolate (preferably 70%), finely chopped
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Candied orange peel for garnish (I didn't have this because I didn't have time to shop for it, but I'm sure it makes it look more impressive)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the beater attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Beat in the orange zest and one-third cup juice.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. With the mixer running, slowly add the flour mixture until combined to form the cake batter. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

3. Place the batter into a greased and floured 9-inch bundt pan, smoothing the top of the batter. (The batter will come slightly less than halfway up the sides of the pan.)

4. Bake the cake until puffed and lightly browned on top and a toothpick or cake tester inserted comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. (The first time I made this I cooked it for 45 min and it seemed a little overdone, the second time for 37 min and even then maybe it could have come out sooner. This is odd because as you may have noticed, I usually have to cook things way longer than is recommended.) Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a cooling rack, then remove from the mold. The finished cake will be about 3 inches tall in the center.

5. While the cake is cooling, make the icing: In a medium bowl, sift the powdered sugar. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons orange juice and whisk to form the icing.

6. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake, then garnish with the candied orange.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

An Omelette

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day and I would like to say that I will be writing all about how I corned my own beef, but I didn't. I went to a party and ate the corned beef there. It was delicious and lovely and I had a great time. But I was so distracted drinking Guinness and gabbing away like a good Irish lass that I didn't eat as much as food as one might like to eat at a St. Patrick's Day party. So when we got home DR made me a good old French omelette in the style of Julia Childs. This is the most unbelievably simple thing in the world, and I bet you've been doing it wrong all this time. Learning this has been like a religious conversion and I think it's best if Julia tells you herself how it's done.

If you don't have time to watch this, you are missing one of life's delights, but I will sum up.

Chop up some parsley first. Then crack two eggs in a bowl and beat them together, perhaps add a bit of water and salt and pepper. Heat an omelette pan on the stove til it is good and hot. Melt a tablespoon of butter, until the foam dies down, but don't let it turn brown. Pour your egg mixture into the pan, let it settle a couple of seconds then begin jerking the pan towards yourself until the omelette comes off the pan and folds onto itself, then flip it onto a plate and garnish with a little chopped parsley. This should take about 30 seconds total. Brilliant.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Parsnip and Apple Has with Pork Chops or Monday Night

One of the joys of this project is that sometimes on a Monday night, after working all day, you just end up with a home cooked meal that looks like this. It might be at 9pm, but this is the kind of meal you can expect if you are a nice uncle who takes his nephew on adventures so his mom can work in peace.
I found this recipe for Parsnip-Apple Hash that I cut out of the newspaper way before I could identify a parsnip in a root vegetable line-up. I was digging through my box of recipes looking for a carrot bread recipe to make use of the glut of carrots we keep accumulating when I stumbled on this one. I also happened to have some parsnips from our Farm Box, so this seemed like a great idea.

1/2 cup diced bacon (I know! I've been meaning to make more bacon, but I want to get the pork belly from this new butcher shop in Los Feliz, and I haven't been over there, and it takes a week, and all that. Not to mention that it is mainly salted meat, and we decided a long time ago that salt doesn't count if it is the only ingredient. Anyway, I bought 4 slices of bacon at my local butcher. Sue me.) 
3 Tbs unsalted butter
1 small onion, cut into 1/4 dice (about 1 cup)
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 dice (This is supposed to equal 2 2/3 cups. Apparently these are parsnips from the land of Gigantor. I had six, petite parsnips and it added up to about 1.5 cups. I was worried, but it all worked out fine.)
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch dice (about 1 cup)
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (I didn't have this. Oh well)
Coarse Salt
Freshly ground pepper

Brown the bacon until crisp in large skillet over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon and set aside leaving the bacon fat in the pan.
Add the butter to the bacon fat. (That's right, I said add the fat to the fat) and onions and cook, stirring until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the parsnips, cover and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

 Add the apple, bell pepper and thyme (if you have it) and continue to cook, stirring until they carmelize a bit, about five minutes. 

Stir in the reserved bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with medium rare pork chops that were cooked by your handsome husband with butter, Pasta Seasoning (Ingredients: Onion, Garlic, Basil, Lemon Peel, Paprika, Fennel, Oregano, Black Pepper, Ginger, Thyme & Lemon Oil) and Season All (Ingredients: Salt, Spices (Including Chili Pepper, Black Pepper, Celery Seed, Nutmeg and Coriander) Onion, Paprika, Maltodextrin, Garlic, Silicon Dioxide (added to make free flowing) and Annatto for color) on the broiler for about 90 seconds per side, and a salad left over from Saturday night's dinner.

If you are really lucky, your handsome husband will also make his Grandmother's Hot Chocolate Pudding for dessert. And maybe someday he will write a post about it for you.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I thought it was important to let you know that occasionally some food item made with more than one ingredient finds it's way into my life. I have said before, but I think it bears repeating, that if you invite me over to your house, I will happily eat whatever you are serving. Whether it is Wishbone Salad Dressing, coffee cake from the supermarket bakery, fried Twinkies, or something made in a laboratory from sodium stearoyl lactylate and Yellow Number 5. I will not judge you, I will just be happy to be eating a meal I didn't have to make. Also, if I have reason to eat in a restaurant, I will order whatever I like. I don't go out of my way to eat in restaurants, but I don't go out of my way to avoid them either. I almost never pick up take out in lieu of cooking, or in any other way use it as an excuse, but in the normal course of being a person living in the city, opportunities to eat in restaurants arise, and I don't make any limitations on my orders. If it's not made in my home, it seems a little ridiculous to parse hairs on what "homemade" means. All this being said, I do make a pretty strong effort to keep these types of items out of my house. But every so often there are leaks in the seal. Sometimes it's me coming up with a harebrained justification in the grocery store for buying guacomole, and having to live with the guilt when I get home. Sometimes DR buys yogurt or salsa when he's at Trader Joe's unsupervised.... But I didn't feel I could let this one go unmentioned.
This is the ingredient list. I think it is the longest one I have ever seen. Definitely the longest one since I began this project. In my defense, I did not buy these cupcakes. My mother-in-law brought them over on Friday when she came to watch Baby J while I was working. Now, in keeping with my hospitality rule, I think it is very bad manners to refuse gifts from people who are caring for your children for free, and I really don't like to let food go to waste, even when it's claims on being food are dicey at best.  I thought you might enjoy a good old trip down memory lane as I list the component parts that are now part of my body:

Cupcakes Chocolate & White, Ingredients: sugar, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soy and cottonseed) mono and diglycerides, corn starch, natural and artificial flavors, salt, gums, polysorbate 60, Artificial color, water, cream, vegetable shortening (partially hydrogenated soybean &/or cottonseed oils, propylene glycol monoesters, mono diglycerides, lecithin, sodium stearoyl lactylate) cocoa with alkali, glucono delta lactone, Potassium sorbate, butter, enriched wheat, (thiamine mononitriate, riboflavin, folic acid), eggs, leavening (baking soda phosphate, aluminium sulfate), food starch modified, rice bran extract, fruitrim(TR) (fruit juices, natural grain dextrins), non-fat milk, soy lecithin, propylene glycol, monostearate, dextrose, caramel color, propylene glycol, citric acid, enriched wheat flour bleached (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid) decoration (sugar, hydrogenated soybean oil, corn starch, lecithin, confectioners glaze, dextrin, cocoa processed with alkali, artificial colors (red 3, red 40 lake, yellow 5, yellow 6 lake, blue 1 lake) artificial vanilla flavor.) Artificial color (blue 1 & 2, Red 3 & 40)

There are 12 words in this list that the computer doesn't recognize.

This is what that looks like:
I have eaten two of them. Good gracious.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dijon Mustard

There was a time when a jar of dijon mustard would last in my fridge for up to a year. In fact, when I began this project in October, I was finishing up a jar and there were two full jars in the pantry, a surplus that meant we were prepared for the Big One, or the Apocolypse or a large Bratwurst party. I thought the day would never come that I would need to make my own with such bounty. Well as the variety of available condiments fell by the wayside, dijon mustard took on more and more importance. In fact, thanks to the genius of Thomas Keller, we practically can't even eat a roast chicken without it anymore. And since roast chicken makes a weekly appearance in our house, we ran out of dijon a few weeks ago. Yellow, Spicy Brown, Honey Mustard, we still have all of these and they each have their place. (However that place is mostly on foods I do not yet have the wherewithal to make...) So we have been feeling the loss of the dijon. So tonight we set it to right. I found this recipe on, it said it came from Colorado Cache Cookbook (1978). I am always comforted by recipes published in the 1970's, it's post the 1950's Cool Whip revolution of industrial food and before the onset of mass production of high-fructose corn syrup and the low-fat overthrow of the 1980's. The 70s, in my mind was a brief revival of real food eating. And Dijon mustard has a very 1970's feeling of sophistication. Like something you would serve on the side at a Fondue/Key Party.

2 c Dry white wine
1 c Chopped Onion (I used a shallot. I think it was fine.)
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
4 oz Dry Mustard (I only had 2 oz of dry mustard, and...Get ready to be shocked...didn't check this until I already started boiling the wine... but it was ok, I halved the rest of the recipe and used the leftover wine in a salad dressing)
2 Tb  Honey
1 Tb Vegetable Oil
2 tsp Salt
4 drops Tabasco sauce (or whatever hot sauce you've got.)

Combine wine, onion, and garlic. Heat to boiling. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Set aside and cool.
Put dry mustard into a small sauce pan and strain cooled wine mixture into it. Beat until very smooth. Add remaining ingredients and heat slowly, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.

Cool. Pour into a non-metal container (like an old, cleaned, mustard jar) and cover. Chill at least 2 day to blend flavors.

Well I served it immediately. It was extremely strong. Clear your sinuses, bring tears to your eyes, "i just ate a spoonful of horseradish" strong. So I think the instructions probably mean, chill at least 2 days to let the mustard mellow out a bit... I hope so anyway. I'll let you know. This did not stop me from slathering it all of my chicken though. It just meant I had to blow my nose a few times and made some very amusing faces.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kumquat Extravaganza

Let's just not talk about why we've been out of touch for so long, it will only make it more awkward. Let's just be happy to be reunited.

About a month ago a friend gave DR a giant bag of kumquats from a back yard tree. If you didn't already know this, I am THRILLED beyond measure to help you eat your overwhelming backyard bounty. I can't think of very many things I would rather do than take a bag of homegrown produce off your hands. Bring on the late summer crook neck squash overflow, I promise to be just as willing to take that as I am to take your figs and avocados and your tangerine jam.

Though I am pretty sure there was no danger of them going bad since I was eating about five a day, I decided to take about a quarter of the kumquats and do an experiment I had been dying to try, preserving them. Actually, I had been dying to try preserving Meyer Lemons. Doesn't that just sound like all the good parts of being in a harem in Turkey around 900 AD? Preserved Meyer Lemons, so middle eastern, salty and sweet and sour. I'm afraid I missed the season on them this year, but I did have the kumquats and that almost seems more exotic.

It is also widely simple.

Rinse about 3 cups of kumquats. Cut a slit lengthwise down one side to the center (halfway). Put the fruit in a 3-4 cup jar with 2-3 tablespoons drained capers and a 1/4 cup kosher salt.
Cover airtight and freeze for at least 8 hours, then place jar upside down in the refrigerator and let stand for 24 hours. Then you can use anytime within the next month or so, just turn the jar over few days to keep the salt distributed. The juice will leak out of the slits and mix with the salt.
I think they kind of look like little orange jewels in soup. Lovely. I ate one on it's own. It was very salty. But then I realized you should probably rinse them before eating.

Now, besides just eating them what do you do with Preserved Kumquats? Why you make  Kumquat-Red Pepper Relish!
 4 preserved kumquats and 4 capers
1 7 oz jar peeled roasted red peppers. (I admit it, I bought a jar of roasted peppers. I could have roasted them myself, yes, of course I could have. But I didn't. Alright? I bought them.)
1 garlic clove
3/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp pepper

Rinse the kumquats and capers. (Important to not dehydrate yourself from all the salt) Coarsely chop kumquats, discarding seeds. (They have seeds!? I ate about 50 of these whole! Are kumquat trees growing in my stomach?!) Drain and chop red peppers. Mince garlic. In a bowl mix everything together. Serve or cover and chill up to two days. (I think about 8 hours is good to let it all marry together.)

I think this would be lovely poured over a cream cheese and spread on crackers. If I ever get around to making cream cheese (and crackers for that matter) I will do just that. But I served it for a lovely dinner with DR, my friend lex and her friend Josh. I hope Josh liked it because I found when the chicken was almost done that he was a vegetarian, so this was the bulk of his meal. He charmingly ate the potatoes that were roasted under the chicken...Anyway, I served the relish mixed with baby spinach, 1/4 cup cilantro, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil for a lovely spinach salad. 

I'm unapologetically going to get another jar of peppers and make this again. (Peppers aren't in season, or I would roast them... in fact, I will this summer, promise, I just got a hibachi.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Last week's shortbread.....a little late....

It was thunderstorming in LA and I wanted to have a proper tea with my good pal CCA and by extension, the Baby J. After forcing her to make me and the tiny dude some lunch, I thought I might make a pain of myself and cook up some shortbread. Just writing about it makes me want to make more....maybe in a sec. I might be shot if I don't make this entry.

So I stole some ideas from the interwebs and decided Smitten Kitchen as stolen from Alice Medrich was the best idea. Of course, I didn't read very well and missed the whole part about resting the dough for two hours. And I might have been able to guess it was more labor intensive than its 5 ingredients would lead one to believe if I had looked at the title, "Twice Baked Shortbread".....we were starving by the time all this was finished but it was worth it!

Twice-Baked Shortbread
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I misread this, too and added a full tablespoon....but it was still delicious, if a little brown)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
Turbinado, Demerara or granulated sugar for sprinkling

Equipment: A baking pan with a removable bottom, such as a 9 1/2-inch round or a 4 by 14-inch rectangular fluted tart pan, or a one-piece 8-inch square pan

(We did this and it came out fine.)
If using a pan with a removable bottom, grease the pan; if using the one-piece 8-inch pan, line it with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla of your choice, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Pat and spread the dough evenly in the pan. Let rest for at least 2 hours, or overnight (no need to refrigerate).

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Bake the shortbread for 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, leaving the oven on. Lightly sprinkle the surface of the shortbread with sugar. Let the shortbread cool for 10 minutes.

Remove the shortbread from the pan, being careful to avoid breaking it. Use a thin sharp knife to cut it into oblong “fingers”, wedges, or squares. Place the pieces slightly apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the oven for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.