8/19/14

Purple Plum Torte

You guuuuyyyyyyys, of all of the cakes I've made on this site, this one wins the award, hands down, for most surprisingly miraculous. It's just so simple to make, and then it ends up tasting like something you might get at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

But perhaps you know about this miracle cake already? Because according to Deb at Smitten Kitchen, the recipe was "first published in the New York Times by Marian Burros in 1983... and was published every year during plum season between then and 1995." I love this fact for so many reasons, but mostly because I feel like we don't see that kind of repetition in today's popular culture. Like, what if I posted this recipe every year at the end of August or September? You guys would probably be like: Wow, Amelia really let motherhood get the best of her and her brain.
Oh, and one more thing, this cake is even better the second day. In fact, Deb recommends not even slicing into it until day two! Matt and I couldn't do this, as we shared a slice a few hours after pulling it from the oven, but something does happen to it by day two. All those plum juices absorb into the cake, and well, what more can I say? It's a really special cake; there's a reason the NYT ran the recipe for 12 years straight! 
In other news, my mom gets in tomorrow! YAYYYYYY!!!!! 

(The Famous) Purple Plum Torte
From Elegant but Easy and The Essential New York Times Cookbook and Smitten Kitchen

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
Large pinch of salt
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 to 2 tablespoon
1/2 cup (115 grams or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
12 smallish purple Italian purple plums, halved and pitted (obviously, I used 6 larger ones)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat over to 350°F. Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the bowl, then the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan (but if you’re worried, you can always lightly coat it first with butter or a nonstick spray) and smooth the top. Arrange the plums, skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then cinnamon, then remaining sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center part of the cake comes out free of batter (but of course not plum juice), about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack.

And remember, once cool, if you can stand it, leave it covered at room temperature overnight as this cake really is even better on the second day. (But don't beat yourself up if you can't wait. We tried a slice on the first day and it was amazing then too.)
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8/11/14

Video Attempt: Pasta with Chickpeas, Parmesan, and Parsley

A couple of non sequiturs:
1. After reading this great post from Luisa on A Cup of Jo, Matt and I had a semi-serious conversation about moving to Germany.

2. I want to say thank you for all the lovely comments I get here on the site, especially back when my grandma and dad died. I'm saying this now because I recently went back to those posts and reread some of the messages and realized that I hadn't written back to most of them individually. Point being, thank you. I always love reading what you guys have to say!

OK, that's it for now. I hope you all laughed at Teddy's ambitious army-crawling across the kitchen floor in the above video as much as I did.

Pasta with Chickpeas, Parmesan, and Parsley 
serves 4

For the chickpeas:
NOTE: This makes about 3 cups of cooked beans, which is more than enough for the pasta, so you have extra to either purée for baby food or hummus or to simply reserve to add to a salad.

1 1/3 cup dry chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
2 tablespons kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and halved
8-10 garlic cloves
1/2 yellow onion, halved
NOTE number two: 1 dried arbol chile and/or a halved celery stalk would be great to add to the cheesecloth bundle too

Drain the chickpeas and put them in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover them by 1 1/2 inches. Add the salt and the olive oil. Place the carrot, garlic, and onion in a double piece of cheesecloth and tie it into a closed bundle with kitchen twine. Add the bundle to the pot with the chickpeas and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the chickpeas until they are very tender and creamy, about 2 hours, adding more water to the pot as needed but never covering them by more than an inch to an inch and a half. (Cooking them in just enough water yields richer-tasting, creamier beans than if you were to just boil them in tons of water.) (Note: the time will vary greatly depending on how long you soaked the beans and how old the beans are; the time could be anywhere from 1 hour to as long as 4.)

Turn off the heat and allow the chickpeas to cool in the cooking liquid. Remove and discard the cheesecloth bundle. The chickpeas can be prepared to this point up to a week in advance. If you are using the chickpeas now, drain them, reserving the cooking liquid to use in the pasta. To use both later, transfer the chickpeas and the cooking liquid to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to use. Bring the chickpeas to room temperature and drain them before using.

For the chickpea pasta:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
the reserved chickpea broth from the above recipe (I ended up with about 1 1/4 cups)
6-7 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth (Between the chickpea broth and chicken broth, you want to end up using about 8 cups total, so if you're using canned chickpeas, just use 8 cups of chicken broth)
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
kosher salt
1 pound angel hair pasta (or thin spaghetti)
approx. 2 cups cooked chickpeas from above recipe (or of course, you can substitute with canned chickpeas)
1 heaping cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
plenty of grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the broths, the crushed red pepper, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook, stirring, until the broth is nearly absorbed and the pasta is al dente. Turn off the heat. Stir in the chickpeas and parsley.

Divide among individual bowls and top with a few tablespoons of Parmesan.
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8/3/14

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

I think the main takeaway here is: purple basil does not necessarily make for purple pesto.

Soooo, it's not like we're trying to reinvent the wheel here. But I do like Nigel's liberal use of the broiler in this recipe. In my normal, not-recorded-for-the-purposes-of-this-blog life, I tend to forget about the broiler, but it really can make fast work of things, as this bruschetta kindly reminded me.
Speaking of making fast work of things, as I don't have the time to write a proper post, here are a few links to things I've been reading and watching:

1. I often find myself worrying that we are all going to end up like the people in WALL-E, riding around in hovering cars/golf-carts, staring at our screens all day long. Sooo, I kind of loved this article

2. This was a beautiful movie, though it made me really sad. 

3. I've found a new favorite writer in Rebecca Solnit. Right now I'm reading this but can't wait to read more of her work.

4. On Cinema at the Cinema is back for season 5! 

5. Rumor has it there's a big tweet brewing! #huge

That's all for now, friends. Will write more soon! And we have a new video that should be ready for next week!
Tomato and Basil Bruschetta just barely adapted from Nigel Slater's Notes from the Larder
makes 4 toasts
(Note: we doubled this recipe because 4 toasts doesn't quite cut it around here for lunch.)

6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup basil
a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan
4 sprigs of cherry tomatoes on the vine (or about half a pint's worth)
4 slices of crusty white bread
4 marinated artichoke hearts

Preheat the broiler. Pour the oil into a blender. Add the Parmesan. Tear up the basil and add it to the oil and Parm, then blend to a smooth green (err, black?) puree. Place the sprigs of tomatoes, still on the vine if you wish (If only we'd had tomatoes on the vine!), on a baking sheet and broil till the skins just start to blacken and burst here and there. Place the slices of bread on the baking sheet and pour over the basil oil. Season with salt and black pepper, then place under the broiler for a couple of minutes, till the edges are crisp.

Place a sprig of cooked tomatoes on each and tuck in the artichokes, halved or sliced. Serve immediately, while the toast is still hot and crisp.
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7/23/14

Zuccotto Pudding

I was in our backyard cleaning up after Mavis—one of my favorite chores—when I noticed that our lemon tree already had sizable green lemons on it. It was surprising because they seemed so far along on their journey to ripeness even though I know they won't be ready until late November (at the earliest), which is the last time I harvested and preserved them. And while I was thinking about all of this, a strange little question came to mind: "What was Teddy doing while I leisurely preserved all those lemons last year?" As in, that experience was such a casual, uninterrupted one; how could I have pulled it off while also monitoring Teddy, who would have undoubtedly been repeatedly army-crawling towards dangling electrical wires? Of course, my (silly) internal question was immediately followed up by the answer: Duh, it was last November; Teddy wasn’t born yet. (Maybe this is what people are talking about when they say they can't remember a time that their son or daughter wasn't a part of their lives.)
I bring this up because our original plan was to shoot a video of the making of this zuccotto pudding, which was completely inspired by this video, which stars my newest culinary hero, Gennaro Contaldo, who had me shouting, "Hoo dont like chocolate chip?!" for the better part of my Saturday. But alas, by the time we were ready to start shooting, it was 5pm; Teddy was becoming less and less able to entertain himself; and the light in our kitchen had gotten all weird. So, we shifted gears.

The good news is that we still made this Italian dessert; Matt still photographed it; and we got to eat it. The bad news is that it’s an example of a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. See, I love the videos Matt and I make. We have a lot of fun shooting them and, bonus, as Bon Appétempt is essentially an ad-free space, the videos are the one component of the site where we get paid a little bit. But, as we probably should have expected, with Teddy growing up more and more each day, it’s getting harder and harder to make them. Not because Teddy is super demanding while we’re shooting. It’s much more because our weekends—the time when Matt is home from work and can work on his other job as the in-house Bon Appétempt photographer—have become even more precious. And even though this site is basically 99% fun for us, it’s of course, still work, and well, oftentimes I’d rather spend the time lounging around in my house clothes and eating lunches and dinners made by Matt.

I also like the videos because they’re less work for me! (They’re more for Matt though. Hi, Matt!) With posts like these, I have to write something, which I normally quite enjoy as well. But as you probably already know, my first book is coming out February 3rd, 2015, which is just over six months from now. As far as I see it, I have six months to work on a follow-up. Not that it needs to be finished in six months. Not at all. But I would like to be invested in something by then. Currently, I have four different word documents with four different potential next projects, none of which have taken on much shape. And as you can see with this very post I’m writing now, it’s difficult for me to share a recipe here without telling you a little bit about what’s going on inside my cluttered headspace, and thus, I end up using my window of writing time on blog posts and very little on the next project.
OK, so I’ve done some quick brainstorming and have come up with a few possible solutions to my problem(s):

A. Offer to make potato salad so that Matt can quit his day job to focus on Bon Appétempt, Heirloom Lab, and glorious child-rearing shifts during the week.

B. Post a little less here so that I can have more time to focus on my next long-form project.

C. Stretch our finances as far as they can go so that we can up our childcare from one day a week to three.

D. Move back East so that Teddy’s grandparents can help out on a regular basis.

What do you guys think?

For now, the winner is option C, but I hope you won’t be too alarmed if occasionally option B wins out anyway. Ultimately though, and it feels strange to say, I like the sound of option D—provided we can find the right jobs, of course.

Now that my problems are solved (ha!), let’s talk zuccotto. I loved it. It’s neither too sweet nor too heavy. Like an unfamiliar light cheesecake that’s just right for summer. And it was pretty cool to unmold too. The trick, I think, is finding an appropriate vessel to build it in. I didn’t have the patience to watch the video with pencil and paper and write down all of the ingredient measurements Gennaro (God bless him!) used before my own attempt. (Plus, they were in milliliters and grams!) So, I kind of winged it, and the bowl we ended up using was a little too large for the pound of ricotta we were working with. I’ve adjusted the recipe below accordingly and hope things will work out a bit more ricotta-y for you!

OK, my nanny needs to go home. Bye! 
Zuccotto Pudding inspired by Gennaro Contaldo

2/3 cup Amaretto
One 7-8 oz. package of Ladyfingers (You may want to buy two packages just to be safe.)
4 tablespoons sugar
16 oz. ricotta
approx. 1/3 cup chocolate chips
approx. 1/3 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder

special equipment: cling wrap, bowl that holds about 1 qt.

Line your bowl in a couple of layers of cling wrap, leaving plenty of overhang. Place the ladyfingers in a large bowl and pour over the amaretto, tossing them to evenly distribute so that each biscuit gets slightly wet.

Press a few ladyfingers into the bottom of the bowl and then add them along the sides until the bowl is completely lined in Amaretto-y ladyfingers. (Watch Gennaro if you’re feeling unsure. He seems to have this part down.)

Mix the sugar into the ricotta and then add the chocolate chips and chopped, toasted almonds. (Gennaro adds dried fruit. I decided to skip it.) Mix it all together and then add half of this mixture to the ladyfinger-lined bowl. Cover with a layer of ladyfingers. Follow Gennaro’s lead and press it down with your knuckles.

Add 1½ tablespoons of the cocoa powder to the rest of the ricotta mixture and stir until combined. Scoop this out on top of the ladyfingers, and press it down with a spatula. Cover with another row of ladyfingers. Next, pull up the overhanging cling film, gathering any ladyfingers that were sticking out past the top of the bowl along the way. The cling wrap should completely cover the surface. Once more, press down on the mixture a few times. Then, cover it with a plate; put something weighty on top of the plate and place the whole thing in the refrigerator.

After 24 hours, remove it from the fridge, pull back the cling wrap, and unmold it. Finish it off with a dusting of cocoa powder. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.
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7/14/14

Video Attempt: Green Minestrone

I think the beauty of this soup is that you don't have to be too precise with amounts and you can use whichever vegetables you have on hand. I think mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, or fresh corn would be great in here as well (or as substitutions).

Green Minestrone adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 6

8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
8 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 handful (or more) of green grape tomatoes, sliced into halves (optional)
4 small carrots, peeled, thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline
1 cup (or more) fresh shelled peas or fava beans (from about 1 lb. pods)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups dried pasta (use whichever shape you prefer)
3 cups (lightly packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 shallot, finely chopped
Shaved Parmesan (for serving)

Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Cook leek, fennel, yellow onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, 10–15 minutes.

Add tomatoes (if using), carrots, and peas and simmer until carrots are just tender, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and add pasta to soup.

While pasta is cooking, process parsley and remaining 4 Tbsp. oil in a food processor to a coarse paste, transfer to a small bowl, and mix in shallot. Season pesto with salt and pepper. Serve soup topped with pesto and Parmesan.
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