Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Simple Yogurt Cake

I wanted to tell you about this cake a couple weeks ago. Shame on me. It’s a good one. If for no other reason, this is a good cake because it is so ridiculously simple but still offers lots of great flavor and a moist but firm texture. It’s delicious all by itself (why does vanilla have a bland reputation anyway?), but it’s also a wonderful platform for fruit sauce and probably frostings and icings too.


Actually, I wanted be able to tell you about this cake years ago. Well, to be honest, I wanted to make this cake years ago. It’s an adaptation of “Audrey’s Yogurt Cake” from On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis. I read On Rue Tatin a long time ago. It’s a lovely memoir of the American author’s new experiences in a French town, the restoration of an old convent that became her family’s home, and the food that she cooked through it all. While I loved this book, I have to admit that it didn’t make me want to move to France. It did, however, make me want to restore an old house (which totally surprised me!) and it made me want to make Audrey’s Yogurt Cake.  In fact, the only recipe I was still thinking about, years later, was that yogurt cake.

I wanted to make a fruit sauce to go with the cake (I hope to tell you about that soon, too. It’s an easy recipe.) So I omitted the chocolate swirl in the original recipe and kept it all vanilla. I think plain, whole milk yogurt would be best for flavor and texture in this cake. That being said, I used what I had, which was a well-known brand of low-fat vanilla-flavored yogurt. I felt like I could taste some of that (probably artificial) vanilla flavor in the cake, but, really, I didn’t mind.

This cake is wonderful and is one of the easiest cakes I’ve ever made without being the least bit rustic. You don’t even have to pull out an electric mixer to make the batter or make alternating additions of liquids and dry ingredients. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with those slightly more complicated procedures and they make good cakes, but if you happen to have a little leftover yogurt wasting space in your refrigerator, this is a quick, easy and absolutely delicious cake to put together using very little of your precious time! I love it and hope to be making it, along with some simple variations and additions all summer long!



Simple Vanilla Yogurt Cake
Adapted from On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine salt
3 large eggs
1 cup white granulated sugar
½ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a small saucepan (or in a bowl in the microwave if preferred). Set aside to cool while preparing the cake pan and remaining ingredients.

2. Trace the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan on parchment paper. Cut out the traced paper circle. Prepare the pan by spraying it with cooking spray or greasing it with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with the parchment circle. Set aside

3. Preheat oven to 375 F.

4. In a medium-size bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together to combine well.

5. In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sugar. Beat vigorously with a whisk for a minute or so or until the mixture is thick and pale yellow and there are no longer obvious sugar granules.

6. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Stir in the yogurt and vanilla. Stir in the butter until well-combined.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake at 375 F for about 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with only moist crumbs attached (not wet batter).

8. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool in the pan about 15 minutes. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan. (I like the mounded top to be the top of my cake.) Cool completely. Serve plain or with an icing, sauce, ice cream, etc.

Makes about 8 servings. Store well wrapped for a few days at room temperature or freeze.


Other recipes like this one: Mulled Wine Chocolate Cake, Rhubarb Yogurt Cake

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chickpea Salad

This is one of those ideas that makes me slap myself in the forehead. How could I have been such an idiot in not thinking of it myself? Of course, I take the self-deprecation down a notch when I realize that if this is the first time I’ve come across it in all my recipe-gathering adventures, a whole lot of other people haven’t thought of it either.

This recipe comes from Vegetarian Cooking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America. I had checked the book out of our local library and decided I wanted to cook too much from it (especially from the “Salads and Sandwiches” chapter, which I’d like to eat right off the pages), to be limited to having it on hand for only a month at a time. I acquired a copy of my very own and hope to be cooking a lot more from it this summer.

The chickpea salad is really quite simple: chopped chickpeas and a few finely-chopped green things held together with mayonnaise and a little sour cream. (I used this homemade vegan mayo.) In the original recipe, the chickpeas were coarsely pulverized in the food processor, but I really didn’t want to add the extra step of cleaning the processor to my day, so I just chopped them with a knife instead. I also couldn’t resist throwing in a good handful of fresh chives from my garden.

This is really the same as a tuna salad (or egg salad, or chicken salad, or ground ham or roast beef salad, etc.), but with cooked chickpeas in place of the tuna. I made a sandwich with my salad on toast, and, later, wrapped it in a tortilla. I really think a pita pocket would have a quite fabulous vehicle for it as well.

Chickpea salad is at least as easy to put together as tuna salad, since the chickpeas come ready in a can just as tuna does. You could, of course, make this from your own cooked chickpeas as well, which makes me think many other beans could be used in place of the chickpeas. That, in turn, makes me think that other chickpea salads (like, say, this one) could be chopped finely or pulsed in the food processor to make sandwich fillings and cracker spreads.

 ….And then, I’m thinking that something like this turkeysalad could be turned vegetarian with the use of chickpeas. Or how about a vegan version of this egg salad (leave out the sour cream as well as the egg)? And, seriously, how could I not have thought of using chickpeas like this before?



Chickpea Salad (for Sandwiches and Such)
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America by The Culinary Institute of America and Katherine Polenz

You could use a food processor to chop the chickpeas, but I found it unnecessary.

Replace the sour cream with additional vegan mayonnaise to make this salad vegan.

1 (15-ounce) can or about 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium-size celery stalk, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used this homemade vegan mayonnaise)
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
a few grinds of black pepper

1. Coarsely chop the chickpeas and place them in a medium-size bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Keep refrigerated.

Makes at least 4 servings. Serve in sandwiches with bread, toast, pitas, tortillas, etc. or spread on crostini or crackers. Keeps for at least a few days in the refrigerator.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Vegan "Mayonnaise"

You don’t have to follow a vegan lifestyle to be curious about tofu-based vegan mayonnaise-style stuff. At least I don’t and I am.  That is I’m not a vegan, but I still wanted to try vegan mayo.

For one thing, I like to make as many foods from scratch as I can. I don’t always have the time anymore for homemade cheese or homemade toaster pastries, but the “vegannaise” recipes I’ve seen just require some blending (and then cleaning the blender, of course.) For another thing, I liked making a whole egg version of mayonnaise using an immersion blender, but I’m not always confident about the safety of raw eggs, no matter their source. Most of the time, the eggs I choose to buy have a good record of salmonella-less-ness, but I’d feel uncomfortable serving my raw-egg mayo to someone else. Finally, and most importantly, I was really, really curious about how much this soy-based stuff could taste like real, old fashioned mayo.

As it turns out, this recipe makes a sauce/spread that tastes surprisingly like the homemade egg-based mayonnaise I made before. Wow! Like, really a lot like it. I’m quite happy with this. My vegannaise was a bit runnier than store-bought mayo, but so is my egg-based mayo. I’m okay with that because its texture still allows it to serve just fine as both a base for salad dressings and a sandwich spread.

I’ll probably be happily making this pretty regularly. I’ve already used it to make a chickpea salad (kind of like chicken salad or tuna salad, but made with chickpeas) that I’ll have to tell you about soon, and an aioli for dipping roasted sausages and vegetables. (For the aioli I made a garlic-salt paste that I mixed into some of this mayo along with minced fresh chives and a few grinds of black pepper.) I’ll probably use the rest to make coleslaw out of a chunk of leftover cabbage.

No, I’m not going to go completely vegan on an every-day basis. Perhaps I’m better described as a bit ve-curious, and I’m okay with that. Especially when I can so easily and tastily replace something that makes me kind of nervous to eat. As for things like tofurkey and soy-rizo: sorry, I’m just not that into you.


Vegan Tofu “Mayonnaise”
Adapted from Howto Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

6 ounces firm (or extra-firm) silken tofu
¼ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Process at medium speed about 1 minute. Stop the machine and test for smoothness. If the mayo is smooth, you can taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. If it needs more processing, scrape the sides of the container and continue to process until very smooth and creamy, then adjust the seasonings.

Makes a scant cup. Use as you would egg-based mayonnaise.

Another recipe like this one: Garlic-Parsley Aioli 

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Few Things to Get Excited About

A friend once said of me to another friend, “She never gets excited about anything.” I was slightly offended, but then was embarrassed to find no examples to use in refutation of my friend’s claim. (To be fair, I think my friend meant “happily excited.” There were plenty of examples, I’m sure, of me being “excited” in less positive directions.) To prove that things have changed at least a little, I’ll tell you about some of the things making me pretty excited right about now.

** Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan, which I’m reading on…

** My Nook HD+ tablet, on which I’m also enjoying…

** Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, a botany lesson and exciting cookbook in one. (I own a hard copy, a rather large tome.)

** The Oxo Softworks® Salad Dressing Shaker (dishwasher safe; BPA free) This is easy use to shake up and store a homemade salad dressing. The rubbery band makes it easy to grip so I can shake it vigorously, and the spout has a tight-fitting seal that doesn’t leak. I do recommend removing the top (it screws off) to clean it if you’re going to store dressing after pouring some out, so dressing doesn’t clog up that spout or interfere with the seal.

** The first signs that spring eating might actually come our way, like beautiful, locally grown lettuce heads and the opening of our local farmer’s market

Speaking of this elusive spring, I had tentatively done a bit of cool-season planting in my garden, but by last Thursday afternoon (May 2nd!), everything around here was covered with a heavy layer of new snow. The snow is gone now, chased away by some really nice, warm sunny days, and the garden seems to have suffered no permanent damage. I may not be an express-myself-in-all-caps kind of girl, but, really, if that’s not exciting, I don’t know what is!!

(All of the excitable opinions above are mine alone. No paid product or vendor endorsements are involved.)
For more on how excited I get about Michael Pollan: The Omnivore's Solution: The Michael Pollan Lecture