Plum Torte

Gabe and I just got back from our honeymoon at last: a whirlwind trip to London and Paris! We also celebrated our one-year anniversary and Gabe’s completion of the California Bar Exam, so we killed three birds with one stone.

Speaking of stones, I spent the weeks before our trip practically swimming in stone fruit. Peaches, plums, nectarines, you name it! I ate most of it raw, but sometimes it was just a wee bit too much to handle. So I turned it into dessert.

This plum torte recipe from the New York Times is quite famous but new to me. It’s a great way to use up a bounty of summer fruit. Shortly before we left for Europe, I gave it a whirl, baking an assortment of 10 plums into a delightful torte.

And then just a mere week later, I saw a very similar cake at one of Ottolenghi’s  London delis. So I ordered a ginormous slab of it and ate the entire thing while sitting on a patch of grass outside Buckingham Palace. I could barely move afterwards, but it was totally worth it. Gotta catch that summer stone fruit while you can!

Plum torte

Plum torte

Plum torte

Plum Torte

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12 small plums (or 8-10 larger ones), halved and pitted
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon mixed with 1 Tbs. sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Place granulated sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes or so. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix on medium speed (scraping the bowl occasionally) until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. The batter will be thick.

Transfer batter to a 9-inch springform pan and spread it out evenly. Gently press the plum halves into the batter. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the top. If your springform pan has a tendency to leak, place it on a large jellyroll pan. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the cake (not inserted into a plum) comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool on a rack. Serves 8-12.

Source: Very slightly adapted from Marian Burros and the New York Times via Smitten Kitchen.

Spicy Honey Caramel Corn

Despite the fact that I grew up in the 90’s, there are a number of things I didn’t really experience during that decade. I wasn’t a huge fan of Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I never owned a Walkman. And I was too busy devouring Anne of Green Gables to even consider cracking open one of the Baby-Sitters Club books. (Oh but Sweet Valley High? Now that’s a different story…)

I’m thinking about all this since a huge wave of 90’s nostalgia seems to be crashing over America right now, especially when it comes to movies and TV shows. All the reruns, remakes, and reunions tend to evoke a whole lot of excitement– unless you’ve never seen the originals. It was with that in mind that Gabe and I sat down to watch Jurassic Park on Friday night. The first one.

Yeah, I’d never seen the original Jurassic Park movie. (Don’t look at me that way, friendly but bewildered cashier at Whole Foods.) In my defense, it would have scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid. But I’m slightly less jumpy nowadays, so I decided it was time. (The verdict? Pretty good movie, but even better music.)

So if you’re jumping on the 90’s nostalgia bandwagon and looking for a delightful snack to munch on while binge-watching Seinfeld or anticipating the Full House remake, I highly suggest this spicy honey caramel corn. It has all the sweetness of classic caramel corn, but the addition of cayenne pepper puts this treat firmly in the grownup camp. Even if your entertainment choices are bringing you right back to childhood.

Spicy Honey Caramel Corn

Spicy Honey Caramel Corn

Spicy Honey Caramel Corn

  • 1 cup unpopped popcorn
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper*
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250° F with two racks placed near the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Pop the popcorn on the stove or in a popcorn maker. (I love my air popper.) Set it aside in the largest bowl or container you have, keeping in mind that you’ll need room to toss the popcorn with the caramel mixture. I often use a big stockpot, but you can also use two bowls.

In a small bowl, whisk together cayenne and baking soda. Set aside.

Over medium heat, melt butter in a two-quart saucepan. Stir in honey, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture begins boiling, let it continue to boil for five minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and carefully add the baking soda mixture and vanilla extract. The caramel will bubble up violently and might splatter, so be sure to stand back! When it has stopped splattering, stir the caramel carefully to make sure the vanilla and baking soda mixture are evenly mixed in.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir until the popcorn is well coated. Be very careful not to touch the caramel– it’s hot! Evenly scoop the popcorn onto the two baking sheets. Bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes or so. Test the popcorn for doneness by cooling a small piece and tasting it. The popcorn is done when it’s perfectly crispy, not mushy at all. If it’s still soft, keep baking!

Remove from oven and let cool completely on baking sheets. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

* Use 1/4 tsp. cayenne for popcorn that has just a hint of spice. Use more if you like things hotter!

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats and also inspired by Smitten Kitchen.

Patriotic Popsicles

Happy July, everyone! We’re getting ready to head up to Carmel Valley tomorrow for the wedding weekend extravaganza for some dear friends of ours. And since it’s the Fourth of July, we get to celebrate both wedded bliss and ‘Murica. Talk about fireworks.

If you’re feeling inspired to celebrate the good old USA by making frozen treats this weekend, here’s a fun and fairly simple project. I couldn’t resist. Because summer = popsicles, and the Fourth of July = red, white, and blue food.

This recipe is more of a technique than an actual recipe. Feel free to adjust it to fit your own taste preferences and the size of your popsicle molds. One thing I have to mention: for each pouring step, be very careful to fill the molds from the center so you don’t drip any puree on the insides– or you’ll get messy-looking popsicles. Of course, they’ll get messy when they melt (see exhibit A below), but hey, that’s part of the fun! Hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Patriotic popsicles

Side note: Those of you who know me well understand that two of my least favorite things are being cold and being sticky. Taking this photo was a true labor of love. ;)

Patriotic Popsicles

  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • milk
  • 12 oz. strawberries
  • honey, to taste

In a blender or food processor, puree blueberries until smooth. Taste and add honey if desired. (Remember, things taste more tart once they’re frozen!) Pour equal amounts of the blueberry puree into popsicle molds, filling the bottom third or so of the molds. Freeze until firm.

In a small bowl, stir together greek yogurt and a tablespoon or two of milk until it’s a good pouring consistency. Stir in honey to taste. When the blueberry layer of popsicles is frozen solid, cover it with a short layer of greek yogurt mixture, maybe half an inch or so depending on the size of your molds. Refrigerate remaining yogurt mixture and freeze popsicles until firm.

In a blender or food processor, puree strawberries until smooth. Stir in honey if desired. Pour a layer of strawberry puree into the popsicle molds over the frozen greek yogurt layer. (Keep them close to the same size to resemble the stripes on the flag.) Place tinfoil over the tops of the popsicle molds and insert popsicle sticks. (The foil helps them stay in place.) Freeze until firm.

Finish the popsicles by adding one more layer of greek yogurt and one final layer of strawberry puree, freezing between each step. Once the popsicles are frozen solid, they’re ready to serve. Release from popsicle molds by carefully running hot water over the molds until they loosen.

Makes six three-ounce popsicles.

Source: Oh the Things We’ll Make.

Smashed Avocado Tartines with Chile-Garlic Oil

The first week we lived in our new apartment was basically indoor camping. We had running water, of course, and an air mattress–but I’d have given anything for a hammock.

Having moved a million times before, I packed a little kitchen kit in the car so we’d be able to cook (and eat) before the moving truck arrived with the rest of our stuff. My kit contained plates, bowls, silverware, glasses, coffee mugs, a mixing bowl, a frying pan, a saucepan, a paring knife, a chef’s knife, a bread knife, a spatula, a wooden spoon, a whisk, a can opener, and measuring cups and spoons. We were relatively well-equipped, but cooking anything complicated was out of the question.

So we happy campers needed simple but nourishing meals. And since my natural instinct upon moving to California was to EAT ALL THE AVOCADOS, a lot of our meals consisted of avocado toast. Or, as I’m calling it here, smashed avocado tartines with chile-garlic oil. Ooh la la. It may seem simple, but avocados from the farmer’s market (still warm from the sun) mashed with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and then piled high on a slice of fresh bread from the bakery down the street was pretty much the best thing ever after a long journey across the country. Even if I had to eat it while sitting on the floor. Everything tastes better when you’re camping, right?

Smashed Avocado Tartines with Chile-Garlic Oil

Smashed Avocado Tartines with Chile-Garlic Oil

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, skins removed and smashed
  • 4-6 slices ciabatta or other crusty bread
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan combine oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Heat on medium-high for about 3-5 minutes, or until pepper and garlic starts sizzling. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about five minutes. Watch the garlic carefully during this step so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat, strain out garlic and pepper, and set oil aside to cool for at least five minutes.

Slice the avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh into a small bowl. Add the lime juice and 2 tsp. of the chile-garlic oil. Stir the mixture with a fork, gently smashing the avocado until it’s creamy but still has some chunks remaining. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Brush slices of bread with chile-garlic oil and grill until toasted– either on an actual grill, a grill pan on the stove, or simply a frying pan. Top the toasted bread with even amounts of the avocado mixture. Drizzle with additional chile-garlic oil and sprinkle with more red pepper flakes, if desired.

Serves 2-3.

Source: Smells Like Home

Note: The remaining oil can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

Arugula Pesto

Greetings from sunny southern California! Yep, we made the move. It’s been a hectic few weeks of packing, traveling, waiting, unpacking, organizing, and reorganizing, but I’m starting to feel much more settled in our new home.

Getting all my cooking gear off the moving truck was the first step in feeling at home. Of course I was most anxious about my stand mixer, but I was also excited to see our pizza stone made the 2000-mile journey intact. Gabe and I make pizza together quite frequently, because it’s easy, delicious, and endlessly versatile. Cranking the oven up to 500° and rolling out a fresh batch of dough was a surefire way for us to feel more at home.

Last week, I made a pizza topped with caramelized onions, ricotta, and arugula– and I was left with a boatload of arugula. Not wanting to let those lovely greens go to waste, I used my magical food processor to whirl up some pesto. Pesto is one of my favorite things to make. Greens, garlic, parmesan, nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice. So simple. So good. Arugula pesto has a delightfully peppery flavor that distinguishes it from standard basil pesto, but it can be used in similar ways. Toss it with pasta or fresh veggies. Or eat it as I do: on top of toast slathered with ricotta. Mmm, mmm good.

Arugula pesto

Arugula Pesto

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  •  1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a food processor, combine pine nuts, garlic, arugula, parmesan, and salt. Chop until coarsely chopped and blended. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and lemon juice, and blend until creamy.  (Add more olive oil if needed to make the mixture smooth.) Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if desired.

Makes about one cup.

Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, or in the freezer for up to six months. I like to freeze it in an ice cube tray and then save the cubes of pesto in a plastic freezer bag to use as needed.

Source: Adapted from Max Sussman and Eli Sussman via Epicurious.

Salted Carmelita Bars

This blog has seen a lot of kitchens. I started writing it while we lived in Madison, in an apartment with an L-shaped kitchen so small I had to store my KitchenAid mixer on a shelf in the bathroom. Then we moved to Boston, and I cooked out of a tiny kitchen that (astonishingly) had no drawers.

Our second apartment in Boston had an awesome kitchen with white cupboards and granite countertops that I still dream about, but we weren’t there for long. Our Minneapolis apartment has the biggest kitchen yet, but the countertop edges are so sharp I have actual scars from running into them.

So many kitchens. So many culinary trials, tears, and triumphs. And now, it’s time to move on to yet another kitchen. In a few short weeks, we’re bidding adieu to our beloved Minneapolis and moving to Los Angeles. Our belongings will follow on a truck a few weeks later, and I will be anxiously waiting their arrival. Because then I can start to organize yet another kitchen, and then it will start to feel like home.

Salted carmelita bars

Carmelita bars are a Minnesota classic, originating (as far as I can tell) in the Pillsbury Bake-off Contest in 1967. The original recipe is delightful, but then I discovered a version that calls for homemade salted caramel sauce and it knocked my socks off. So look out, California friends, because I’m bringing some good ol’ Midwestern cooking like this your way. But it’s gonna come with some long vowels and a lot of me yelling “Gladys, we need more bars!” Okay then? Ohh-kay.

Salted carmelita bars

Salted Carmelita Bars

Bars

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream at room temperature (I used lactose-free half ‘n’ half)
  • 3 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350° F and lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter. Set aside.

Make bars: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda. Chop the butter into pieces about 1/2-inch square. With the paddle attachment fitted to the mixer, add butter to the oat mixture and stir at low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is broken into small chunks. Press about 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the 9×13 pan.

Bake crust for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Set aside.

Make caramel sauce: In a medium saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water. Place over medium heat and let the mixture come to a boil, without stirring. Place a lid on the saucepan and continue boiling for three minutes, so any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan get steamed off.

Remove the lid and continue boiling the sugar mixture– still without stirring– until it’s a deep amber color. Remove from heat. Add the cream carefully; the mixture will violently bubble up. Whisk in butter and salt until smooth and well combined. If there are chunks of hard caramel in the sauce, stir constantly over low heat until they’re melted. Whisk in the flour.

Pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate chips and oatmeal crust. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the caramel sauce. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned. Let bars cool completely before slicing and serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 24 bars.

Source: Adapted from Erlyce Larson via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. 

Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza

I’m not so sure what to say about this recipe, except that biting into a slice of dessert pizza sends waves of nostalgia crashing over me. Memories of hanging out in a certain pizza chain with my family, and grabbing a slice of pepperoni at the buffet just so I could say I ate some lunch before rushing back for dessert.

Or memories of my twelfth birthday party, where I sat at the head of a long table of aunts, uncles, and cousins, eating dessert pizza while I unwrapped coveted N’SYNC and Britney Spears CDs.

Or of that time a blizzard was roaring into town and the wind whipped around my family furiously as we ran into the restaurant to order takeout. And making it home just in time to hunker down and share pizza.

There’s a lot I could say about a pizza that’s not really a pizza, but rather a soft dough loaded with sweet, crumbly streusel topping and drizzled with icing. But I think I’ll just leave you with some photos instead.

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza

Streusel Topping

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tbs. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

CRUST

  • 1 batch pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • cornmeal or semolina flour, for sprinkling
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • ground cinnamon

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450° F, with a pizza stone set on a rack in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

Make streusel topping: In a small bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with a fork until well-combined. Add in 1/4 cup melted butter and stir until the mixture is moistened and large clumps form. Set aside.

Roll out pizza dough on a floured surface until about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to a pizza peel sprinkled liberally with cornmeal. Brush surface of dough with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with ground cinnamon. Sprinkle streusel mixture evenly on top of the dough. Using the pizza peel, transfer pizza to heated oven.

Bake at 450° for 8-10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Meanwhile, make glaze: In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt until smooth.

Remove pizza from oven and top with glaze in a swirl pattern. Slice and serve immediately.

Source: Slightly adapted from Rumbly in My Tumbly.