Sunday, May 24, 2009

Upside Down Blueberry Cake for Taste and Create

For this month's Taste and Create, my partner is Bellini of More Than Burnt Toast. Nicole of For the Love of Food created this blog event and it is a wonderful way to connect bloggers and a fun event for my family and friends, since they are my official tasters. Bellini is from Canada and has a wonderful blog. I loved her weekly feature highlighting Canadian chefs. Even though Bellini lives in a condo in Canada, I feel a real connection with her when it comes to food. I will be a regular visitor to her blog to find out what she is cooking and give it a try in my southern kitchen.

It was extremely hard to decide on the recipe I would recreate. As is often the case, it all came down to what I had on hand and what was happening on the home front. Tonight we are going to Peg's for a BBQ and I am taking dessert. Bellini's Upside-Down Blueberry Cake was the perfect match. Our freezer is home to many packs of blueberries from last year's harvest, the main ingredient of this delicious cake. Another thing I loved about the recipe was the ease of making it. But next time, I will be sure and bake it on a cookie sheet, to catch the overflow of blueberry juice.
Thanks, Bellini, for another create Taste and Create!

Upside-Down Blueberry Cake

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 -1/2 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened,
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2- 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice or orange juice
1/3 cup low-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine 2 tablespoons of the butter and the brown sugar in a small bowl, then spread the mixture evenly in the bottom of a lightly greased 9 inch round cake pan. Spread the berries over the mixture and set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Reserve. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup butter, the sugar, and the eggs, and beat until creamy smooth. Add the reserved dry ingredients, lemon or orange juice, milk, vanilla, and lemon or orange zest, and beat until well blended. Pour the batter over the berries and bake until the top is golden and a skewer tests clean when inserted in the center, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, run a knife around the insideof the pan and invert the cake onto the plate, fruit side up. Cool slightly before serving warm.Makes 1 (9-inch cake). Serves 8 to 12.

Note: I would place the cake pan on a baking sheet, just in case the blueberries bubble over.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quail Hollow Critters

The pond has come to life with 3 new families - 2 families of Canada geese and one of mallards. All are thriving and growing, thanks in part to Kenny's daily feeding. Our afternoons are often spent on the back porch, watching the action at the pond. Life is grand at Quail Hollow, for humans and animals!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Whole Leaf Caesar Salad

For our recent "Cooking with Michael" night, I used a couple of the recipes from the It's All Here episode and prepared Spaghetti all'Amartriciana and Whole Leaf Caesar Salad. Now the theme of the show was using pantry items and I had everything needed for the salad. Our garden provided the romaine lettuce. I had leftover Ciabatta, the Kneadlessly Simple way, and the rest of the ingredients in the pantry or frig.
Now I have tried a number of Caesar dressing recipes and this rates with the best. One of the unique things about this version of the salad is using whole leaves of lettuce and finger-size croutons. The idea is to eat the salad with your fingers, and I must admit, it works that way. Kenny loved the idea and the salad. One good thing about the recipe is it makes enough dressing to use later.

Whole Leaf Caesar Salad
adapted from Michael Chiarello

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 or 4 anchovy filets, minced
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Worchestershire sauce
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Romaine lettuce leaves
Parmesan croutons
Freshly grated Parmesan

In a large wooden salad bowl, add the egg yolk, anchovies, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice and a dash of Worchestershire. Stir with a fork, crushing the garlic and anchovies. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to create a thick emulsion. To serve, toss the lettuce and croutons in just enough dressing to coat. Store the remaining dressing in the frig for use later. Yield: 4 servings.

Parmesan Croutons

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped
8 slices ciabatta bread
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute Add the bread and stir to coat. Toss the bread occasionally until both sides are golden brown.

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

It was another "Cooking with Michael" day at Quail Hollow. Michael Chiarello is one of my favorite Food Network stars. He creates a menu on each show and uses ingredients easily found in a regular grocery store. In It's All Here, Michael creates a wonderful meal with pantry items. I decide to check out the recipes and prepare his Spaghetti all'Amatriciana and Whole Leaf Caesar Salad for our dinner. Now I'm sure my pantry is quite different from Michael's, but surprisingly, I had most of the ingredients. The tomato puree was in the freezer from last year's harvest and the parsley and basil were from our garden. I did buy the pancetta and put it in the freezer to harden so it could be easily sliced. There was even a box of bucatini from a trip to the Dekalb Farmer's Market.

This menu was a success. Kenny's comment was "Wow!" which translates to "you can make this again." I will definitely do this again, but next time I am going to use fresh pasta so it will soak up the goodness of the sauce.

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
adapted from Michael Chiarello

1/3 pound pancetta, partially frozen
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup tomato puree
3/4 pound bucatini
Freshly grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.

Cut the pancetta into thin slices across the grain. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for about minutes, but not crisp. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper, parsley, basil and vinegar and cook until the vinegar evaporates. Add the tomato puree and a ladle of pasta water. Simmer briefly to blend.

Add the pasta to the boiling water while preparing the sauce and cook about 8 minutes or until al dente. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to coat. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan. Yield; 4 servings.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Skirt Steak Tacos with Guacamole and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

It has been a while since I have written on my blog, but that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking. Spring is a very busy time at Quail Hollow. The frequent rains have created a challenge when it comes to gardening. This is the time we are tilling the garden and getting it ready to plant, but the persistent rains have not made this an easy task. I know I should welcome the rain after a couple of years of drought, and I do, just not when I need to be in the garden!

There is very little in the garden for harvest at this time, so I have turned to the grocery store for my inspiration. As Kenny and I wandered through Publix we noticed skirt steak on sale, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. A search on the Internet resulted in a number of recipes that sounded good, and for our meal I used several and this was the result.

Skirt Steak Tacos with Guacamole and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 onion, cut into wedges
1 pound tomatillos, halved
2 serrano peppers
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound skirt steak
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon achiote molido (ground annatto)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 flour tortillas
Fresh salsa, your favorite brand from the grocery store

Place the onion, tomatillos, serrano peppers and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and broil in the oven for 5-8 minutes until slightly charred, stirring once. Moisten the skirt steak with 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let stand for 10 minutes. Combine the dry spices. Pat the steak dry and rub the dry spices on the steak.

Place half of the cooked onions in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.

Remove the charred skin from the serrano peppers, cut in half and remove seeds. Place tomatillos, serrano peppers, remaining onions, 3 cloves of garlic (reserved 1 clove for the guacamole), 1 teaspoon lime juice and cilantro in a food processor and chop finely. Chill the salsa.

Grill steak on an oiled rack until medium rare. Remove the steak and let it sit for 5 minutes. Cut diagonally into thin slices.

While the steak sits, grill the tortillas until puffed and lightly browned, about 1 minute on each side.

Serve steak, onions, tomatillo salsa and guacamole wrapped in the tortillas. Yield: 2 servings.


1 avocado
1 garlic clove, roasted and minced
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed and chop. Combine the remaining ingredients.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Recipe for Healthy Tomato Plants

It seems like everywhere we go these days, our friends are asking Kenny to share his "recipe" for growing tomatoes. The recipe came from Henry, a well-known tomato grower in Newnan, written on a scrap of paper that Kenny stores in a sack of lime. As you can see, it looks like it is wrtiten in a secret code. To help you break the code, here are a few hints. SHF is "small handful" and TLS os "tablespoon." Since my small handful is not the same as Kenny's I needed a better measurement. So here iit is:

Recipe for Healthy Tomato Plants

1/2 cup bonemeal
1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
1/2 cup cottonseed meal
1 cup pelletized lime
1/3 cup 10-10-10 fertilizer

Mic all ingefients together. Dig a large whole for the plant and put a handful in the bottom of the hole. Cover with 1 inch of soil. Position the tomato plant in the hole and cover with soil, making a slight berm around the plant.

Our tomato plants thrive and provide us with an abundance of fruit, or should I say vegetable? Below is a picture of the first tomato of the season, planted 10 days ago.