Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lemon Yogurt Cake & Reminiscing

I got the recipe for the delightful cake from one of my favorite cooking Divas, Ina Garten. This recipe is in her book: The Barefoot Contessa At Home. The recipe is made lighter than a lemon pound cake by replacing butter with yogurt, but is still sweet and decadent enough to satisfy a craving. Excellent with a cup of fresh brewed coffee in the morning!

The only change I made to the recipe, was using 2% greek style yogurt rather than whole milk regular yogurt. The result was a real crowd pleaser this weekend when we visited a dear old friend and her family.

Our friend and neighbor from our days on Churchill Drive in Charleston, WV, Roberta Allison, was visiting her daughter in Newport Beach. We drove up and spent a fabulous afternoon with them. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to chat with Roberta again and listen to her stories from her years in Charleston and of growing up in Monroe County. The day was topped of with an unbelievable sunset and a cozy dinner with the family. What a perfect way to spend a Saturday!

Lemon Yogurt Cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2–3 lemons)

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease and flour a 8.5x4.25x2.5 inch loaf pan.

Sift together flour, caking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the oil into the batter, making sure it is all incorporated. Pour the batter io to the greased loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook 1/3 cup of lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer to a wire rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cooled cake.


Chatting with Roberta

Sunset from Balboa Pier in Newport Beach, CA

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Holiday Food Adventures

I can hardly believe another Christmas and 2009 have come and gone! It was a quiet, peaceful holiday here, filled with family and friends and good food and wine. Today's entry is a photo tour of some of the goodies I made over the holidays.

Homemade Italian Bread!
After talking to my cousin Nick about how his mother, my Great Aunt Katie, used to make her bread, I tweaked my usual recipe to make bread more like hers. It turned out great — crusty on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. Steve got me a great book about the art and science of baking artisan breads for Christmas. I can't wait to do some more bread baking!


Chocolate Chip, Orange Cookies, Thumbprints, Pizzelles and Gallettes. I also made Penuche (an old-time candy that my grandmother used to make for my mom and aunts years ago) and Peanut Butter Fudge. All of these are family favorites and the recipes have been handed down through the years.


Homemade Mushroom Ravioli
Using my grandfather's antique pasta machine!






... Shape!

Pita Piata — a family classic!
These large nut and raisin rolls are time consuming and require a lot of kneading an rolling. The dough is tender and flaky and has whiskey in it. I add a touch of whiskey to my filling as well, even though that isn;t in the original recipe. I made a hug batch this year and sent them as gifts. I was a little too generous with my filling (a mixture of regular and golden raisins, chopped walnuts and pecans, sugar and cinnamon) and I ran out, so I had to get creative with the last two. I made a mixture of dried figs, walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon and they turned out really great. I think I will make half traditional and half with the new filling next year.


Brined, Herb-Butter Rubbed Roasted Chicken
I decided to brine a chicken like I brined my Thanksgiving turkey. The result was a tender, juicy chicken that was full of flavor. I make a mean roast turkey the traditional way and have always considered it one of my go-to/signature meals. This just takes the flavor up a notch. I have roasted several chickens in this manner since. Drop me a line if you'd like to see the recipe.


Homemade Pasta drying in my living room, waiting to be packed and shipped to family back East. This is the night my friend Erin stopped by and called the operation "Santa's Workshop for Food" between the pasta making and the cookie and bread baking. Love it! What a compliment!


Frying Shrimp and Calamari on Christmas Eve
I usually fry the traditional Italian Smelts on Christmas Eve, but I couldn't find them this year and decided to go with shrimp and calamari. I cleaned and prepared both and then soaked them in milk for about an hour. I dredged them in a mixture of flour, cornmeal, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic and a dash of cayenne before frying them in canola oil in my electric skillet. They were perfectly crispy and seasoned on the outside, and tender and juicy on the inside.