Key Lime & Coconut

My adventures in the world of food & wine

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Daring Bakers Do Dorie

As I recently wrote, I'm a new Dorie Greenspan cult follower, so I was pretty psyched to see that this month's Daring Bakers recipe was to be Dorie's own Perfect Party Cake. If Dorie Greenspan herself is calling something "perfect," you know it's going to be good. When Joe was here visiting a couple weeks ago, we set off on this baking adventure with great relish.

The Perfect Party Cake is a layer cake lightly scented with lemon, and between each set of layers it's got both raspberry preserves as well as buttercream frosting. More buttercream frosting finishes the outside of the cake, along with some shredded coconut for good measure.

Everything went perfectly this time around, and the flavor combination of lemon, raspberry, and coconut was truly sublime. However, I've come to realize that I simply don't care for buttercream frosting. It's just...too much. Too rich, too much butter. Nonetheless, Joe and I had a great time baking the cake, and an even better time eating it. I would definitely make this again with another, lighter kind of frosting.

To see hundreds of other takes on Dorie's Perfect Party Cake, head on over to the Daring Bakers Blog Roll. While the host doesn't appear to have the recipe on her site, many of the other Daring Bakers have posted it.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Easy Eggplant Caponata

I don't know about y'all, but I am really ready for spring and some warm weather. Luckily for myself, I'm headed home to Florida this afternoon for a weekend of fun in the sun. This post is going to be short since I still have tons of packing to do...

This recipe for Eggplant Caponata comes from the newest issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. So far I've really enjoyed most of the recipes that I try from it, and they're usually fresh, fast, and easy. I was really intrigued by the ingredient list in this one, and I think it would have been a 5-star winner if not for the overly vinegary taste. (Maybe that's how caponata's supposed to taste? But I found it to be way too much.) My word of advice to you: cut down the vinegar to a half cup at the most.

As you can see, I had my caponata over rigatoni with a little fresh-grated parmesan. Some of Martha's other serving suggestions: use as a topping for crostini; layer on toasted country bread, top with mozzarella, and broil until melted; or spoon over broiled flounder or other white fish.

Eggplant Caponata
makes 5 cups
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/4 c. golden raisins
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 c. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 to 4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 large eggplants (2-1/4 lbs. total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2/3 c. white wine vinegar (I recommend 1/2 c. or less--BH)
  • coarse salt
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium high. Add onions, raisins, pine nuts, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomato paste, cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Cook, stirring, until tomato paste is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggplant, vinegar, and 2/3 cup water. Cover, and cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is tender and mixture is thick, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and more sugar, as desired. Serve caponata warm or at room temperature.

To freeze: Cool completely, then transfer to resealable freezer bags, filling only halfway. Freeze bags flat, and store in the freezer, up to 2 months.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ramen Made Classy

Can you remember the good old days as a student when you ate ramen noodles for nearly every meal, enjoying their deliciousness while also delighting in the fact that you could buy a package for as little as 10 cents? If you're young (or my boyfriend), those days may still be upon you.

When Joe came to visit me this past weekend, we were trying to come up with something quick and easy to make for dinner, since we'd spent all afternoon working on this month's Daring Bakers project (coming to a blog near you on March 30). Then I remembered this ramen dish that my mom always used to make when I lived at home. (And I know Joe loves ramen because, like I said, he eats it almost every single day.) This recipe takes no longer than 5-10 minutes to make, and it's a good way to get protein and veggies even while indulging in what many consider to be a very lowbrow junk food. It's also fantastic because you can throw in whatever you want, as long as you give it a generous squeeze of lime juice at the end. The recipe I'm including below is just a starting point -- feel free to make this dish your own.

Big Eth's Special Ramen
Multiply these ingredients by the number of people you intend to serve (e.g., serving 4 people -- start with 4 packs of ramen noodles).
  • 1 package of ramen noodles, any flavor
  • 1 thin-cut pork chop, cooked
  • 1/2 pound of shrimp, cooked
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 carrot, sliced into bite size pieces
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • optional: mushrooms (yuck), other kinds of meat...
Break the dry ramen noodles into smaller, bite size pieces and place them in a large bowl. Sprinkle the ramen seasoning on top. Boil some water while you're prepping the veggies and meat. When the water boils, sprinkle it slowly over the dry noodles until they are moistened but still crunchy. Add more water if you want them softer. Toss the semi-cooked noodles with the meat and veggies. Lastly, squeeze the limes over the mixture and toss again. Serve with extra lime wedges.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Just Make Yourself a Dang Quesa-Dilluh!

Because I am a giant nerd, every time I make myself a quesadilla I think of that gloriously nerdy movie, Napoleon Dynamite. Despite the fact that Napoleon and his grandma seem to think quesadillas are a boring fallback meal (not to mention a difficult to pronounce word), I tend to disagree. You can put all kinds of yummy things into a tortilla. Just look at this Potato, Greens, and Goat Cheese Quesadilla from the March issue of Bon Appetit. It's vegetarian and healthy but also has lots of delicious cheese, including goat cheese, which gives it a nice earthy flavor. Easy and fast, but still a hell of a lot better tasting than whatever it is Napoleon feeds that llama his grandma keeps in the backyard.

Potato, Greens, and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
makes 4
  • 1-1/3 c. half-inch cubes peeled Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1-1/3 c. packed coarsely grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1-1/3 c. jarred salsa verde
  • 4-2/3 c. coarsely chopped stemmed mustard greens, divided
  • 4 eight-inch flour tortillas
  • 3 oz. chilled fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
  • olive oil
Steam potatoes until tender, about 8 minutes. place in large bowl; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Toss to coat. Cool potatoes 15 minutes. Mix in Jack cheese. Meanwhile, blend salsa and 2/3 cup greens in mini processor until greens are finely chopped. Arrange tortillas on a work surface. Divide remaining greens between each. Top greens with potato mixture, then goat cheese and 2 tablespoons salsa mixture for each. Fold tortillas in half over filling, pressing to compact. Brush both sides with oil. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place 2 quesadillas in skillet. Cook until quesadillas are brown, about 3 minutes per side. Cut each quesadilla into 3 or 4 wedges and serve with remaining salsa.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sign Me Up for the Dorie Greenspan Cult

Tonight I got the baking bug at midnight (a not infrequent occurrence) and decided to make my first recipe from Dorie Greenspan's oh-so-praised tome Baking: From My Home to Yours. I chose the Cardamom Crumb Cake because for some reason I crave breakfast goods at night, and also because I had all the ingredients on hand.

Let me just say -- all you bloggers who rave about Dorie constantly, you were right, she is a freaking genius. To be fair, this crumb cake was bound to be an instant hit with me because cardamom is far and away my favorite spice. But adding orange zest? And espresso? What seemed like a strange combination of flavors melded together into a miraculous epiphany in my mouth.

Not only is the cake to-die-for delicious, but the recipe was extremely clear and easy to follow -- no guesswork required. I am eagerly looking forward to trying more of Dorie's recipes in the very near future. For now, I've officially joined the cult following.

Cardamom Crumb Cake

For the Crumbs:
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
For the Cake:
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1+1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. finely grated orange zest
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c. strong coffee, cooled
  • 1+1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan (I used a 9-inch round--BH), dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

To make the crumbs: Put all the ingredients except the butter in a bowl and toss them together with a spatula just to blend. Add the butter and, using your fingers or the spatula, mix everything together until you've got crumbs of different sizes. It's nice to have a few big pieces, so don't overdo it. Set the crumbs aside. (The crumbs can be made up to 3 days ahead, covered and refrigerated.)

To make the cake: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and espresso powder in a large bowl. Turn the dry ingredients out onto a sheet of wax paper, and put the sugar and zest in the bowl. Rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong, then return the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk to blend. Put the remaining ingredients in another bowl and whisk them to blend. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir--don't beat--to mix. Stir only until you've got an evenly moistened batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and top with a thick, even layer of the crumbs. Pat the crumbs ever so gently into the batter. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake has risen (it will crown), the crumbs are golden, and a thin knife in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool in the pan before serving warm or at room temperature.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Food Shouldn't Be This Dangerous

Last night, making dinner almost killed me. Well, not quite, but it was moderately disastrous. So I decided to make this Chicken Goulash with Biscuit Dumplings from this month's Food & Wine. I had all the ingredients and everything, but I completely messed up the timing of the recipe. This led to me trying to chop onions in a hurry. Life lesson: DO NOT chop onions in a hurry. I somehow managed to chop through the side of my thumb so deeply that it went halfway through my fingernail, leading to me having to sit down on the floor to avoid passing out from the sight of all the blood. This was a very Becky thing to do; I'm known for my capacity to hurt myself at any time. Nevertheless, it was still upsetting, and my thumb hurts like a mother.

After I recovered from that trauma and got the dish into the oven, I realized that I had forgotten to place it on a baking sheet. How did I realize this? When I heard the sizzle of bubbling-over sauce hit the bottom of my oven and started to smell my kitchen filling up with smoke. Oops. In addition to a sliced-open thumb I now felt like I was about to burn the house down. What a mess.

Fortunately, the dish was pretty good. This would have been much easier to make if I had had an oven-safe skillet, avoiding the need to transfer the chicken to a casserole dish before putting it into the oven. I wasn't crazy about the recipe calling for chicken thighs; they were a little fatty. What I liked best about this meal were the biscuit dumplings. Mine were slightly under-cooked, though, so make sure you don't take this out of the oven prematurely. Also, put it on a cookie sheet in case it bubbles over. And don't slice your onions in a hurry.

Chicken Goulash with Biscuit Dumplings
serves 4
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 5 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2-1/2 c. chicken stock or broth, divided
  • 1 c. sour cream, divided
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. hot paprika
  • 3/4 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 425. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust lightly with flour. In a large, deep skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter in the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Pulse in the remaining 4 Tbsp. of butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 1/2 cup of the stock with 1/2 cup of the sour cream and drizzle over the dry ingredients. Pulse until a dough forms.

Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet. Stir in the paprika and caraway and cook for 30 seconds. Add the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of sour cream and stir until smooth. Add the thyme leaves and bring to a boil.

Scoop twelve 3-Tbsp-size mounds of biscuit dough over the chicken. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the biscuits are cooked. Turn on the broiler and broil for 2 minutes, until the biscuits are golden. Serve the goulash in bowls, spooning the biscuits on top.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008


It has been a full month since I've posted. That is very bad of me. I don't know what my deal is -- it's not like I haven't been cooking, I've just been too lazy to blog about it. Like, two nights ago I made the Orzo Risotto with Sausage and Artichokes from this month's Food & Wine, and I was so hungry I couldn't even wait to take a picture of the food before I started devouring it. And I hate blogging without photos, so...

Okay, here's one meal that I successfully photographed. Actually, that's a lie. I made this meal, but the only reason it got photographed was because I was in Philly with Joe and he took a picture of it before we ate. It's a recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food mag, and I was going to link to the recipe on the magazine's website, but it's not on there (weird). So I'll try to reconstruct it from my memory.

Balsamic Skirt Steak with Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes
serves 4
  • 1-1/2 lb skirt steak
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes
  • 6 scallions, sliced into 1-inch pieces, white and green parts separated
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt, black pepper
  • 1 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 c. balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss the tomatoes and white parts of the scallions with about a tablespoon of olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the skins of the tomatoes start to pop open. When they are done, toss them with the scallion greens. While tomatoes are cooking, season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper and pan-sear over medium-high heat with a little olive oil for about 4-5 minutes on each side (for medium rare). Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan, then gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Continue whisking every couple of minutes until the polenta is thickened, about 10-12 minutes. When it's done, whisk in butter and parmesan and keep warm over very low heat (whisking in more water if it starts to get too thick). When the steak is done cooking, remove it from the pan to rest on a plate. In the pan the steak was in, add the balsamic vinegar and boil until reduced by half. Add any juices that accumulated from the resting steak. Slice the steak and, on the plate, drizzle with the balsamic sauce. Serve with polenta and tomatoes.

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