Saturday, March 29, 2008

Exciting Announcement: Mouth Wide Open to be Podcast

I am very pleased to announce that John Thorne has graciously agreed to let me podcast his new book, Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite. In my opinion, Thorne is a writer on the caliber of M.F.K. Fisher, though his writing is completely his own expression, of course. He writes not only about food, but about how we relate to it, history from many angles ... all relating to a particular recipe or ingredient usually ... and life in general. You are in for a real treat.

I will be interspersing these chapters with another book that will be our "regular" story. The first chapter probably will appear in a couple of weeks after I finish the current book, China Court.

Check out Forgotten Classics for bits of other food writing that has been featured: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, Why Pie, and Culinaira Russia.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Great American Meatout ... Where Have These People Been?

We've had that for ages ... literally! It's called Friday for Catholics, people.

If you want to find out how the secular world is catching up, you can read it here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cheryl's Red Velvet Cake

A loooong time ago, when I was on Fausta's podcast, Siggy brought up Red Velvet Cake. I have been holding onto the fruit of Cheryl's research into the subject for far too long. She has a recipe and two frosting recipes. Now, that's service! Thanks Cheryl!

Here is the scoop, straight from Cheryl...

I did find a recipe in my box and I started to type it out and noticed that the cake part had no chocolate in it--I must have had a brain freeze when I copied it. This recipe below is from foodtv and the cake recipe is the same as mine (only theirs has chocolate!!) They have a traditional cream cheese frosting recipe with it, but I still like the idea of the Whipped Cream Frosting I wrote about above. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cake

Vegetable oil for the pans
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows
Crushed pecans, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour 3 (9 by 1 1/2-inch round) cake pans.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.

Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.

Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the oven evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.

Frost the cake. Place 1 layer, rounded-side down, in the middle of a rotating cake stand. Using a palette knife or offset spatula spread some of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. (Spread enough frosting to make a 1/4 to 1/2-inch layer.) Carefully set another layer on top, rounded-side down, and repeat. Top with the remaining layer and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top with the pecans.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer in a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.)
Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla, raise the speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy (scrape down the bowl occasionally). Store in the refrigerator until somewhat stiff, before using. May be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Yield: enough to frost a 3 layer (9-inch) cake

Whipped Cream Frosting
In MA/NH we have whoopie pies, the frosting recipe I have for those is called Whipped Cream Frosting and is made like this:

Cook 4 tbsp flour and 1 cup of milk until thick, stirring constantly; let cool completely. Beat 1/2 c butter, 1/2 c shortening and 1 1/4 c sugar. Add to flour mixture; add 2 tsp vanilla, beat for 3 minutes.

This frosting is the closest to the stuff they put in a red velvet cake. I have never tried adding in the cream cheese, but I bet it would be delicious!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We talk about eating locally but ... I'm just not ready for this ...

Dandelion greens from my own yard. Actually I'm not sure I'm ever ready for dandelion greens. It's just a bit too ... wild ... if you know what I mean.

My pioneer forbears (not to mention, probably my own mother) are shaking their heads in shame but there you go, I can't help it.

For those less picky than me, check out Culinate's article with plenty of links to folks who are not as chary as I.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cooking for a Crowd of Kids

The high school musical, Footloose, finally opens. It seems as if Rose has been on costume crew duty forever. We're not that far from the school, at least in comparison to a lot of the other kids' families. Therefore, next Thursday and Friday a buncha them will be coming over after school to eat before going back to put on the show. I'm thinkin' Brunswick Stew, Spicy Caesar Salad, and Skillet Cornbread one night and ... maybe a double batch of Tuna Noodles, Garlic Bread and the ubiquitous Spicy Caesar Salad (hey, they love it!) the next. Or Tuna Casserole? Not made with mushroom soup but with a good white sauce flavored with some Parmesan and a touch of nutmeg? Still thinking on that one...

And dessert, of course! I'm leaning toward Spicy Ginger Cake, which is definitely the one I'm making to take to a party this weekend. That might get it out of my system and I'll go with my fallback position of the simple Chocolate Buttermilk Cake. Again, we'll see...

I have a fantastic casserole recipe that I used a couple of weeks ago to feed 12 hungry high schoolers ... will try to post that this weekend. I rarely have teenagers seeking me out to compliment the food, but several did and that's high praise indeed.