Sunday, October 14, 2012

Apple Orchard Experiments: Take 2 – Apple Walnut Cake

Winding down the stash of apples now, this weekend I still had a handful left for baking and a handful left for eating. (There are a few apple recipes still to come from the past couple weekends.) The next apple baking adventure had me stumbling across a recipe for an “Apple Ginger Snack Cake.” It sounded awesome, so I went for it. I was not disappointed.

My version was a little bit less like cake and little less like Apple Ginger than it was Apple Walnut. This was because Christiane, who blogged about this recipe in her blog, “Taking on Magazines,” made a lovely sounding cream cheese frosting to spread on top of her cake and also scattered it with crystallized ginger. Although this sounded tasty, I actually preferred the cake all on its own, without the frosting or the ginger topping.

The flavor was terrific and with 1 ½ cups of sugar (you could even go less if you wanted) for the entire 9x13 pan, it seems reasonably healthy… a yummy cross between bread and cake, sweet from the apples, super-moist, with the little bits of walnut. And yes, I may have had a piece for breakfast with coffee.

Note: Christiane said that her cake took 45-50 minutes, but mine took less than that, so simply keep an eye on yours to see how long it takes in your oven.

Apple Walnut Cake
(Adapted from Taking on Magazines: “Apple-Ginger Snack Cake from All You Magazine’s Back to School Issue 2012”)

1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 large (or 6 small) Yellow Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and chopped fairly small

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scatter walnuts on a 9x13 baking pan and toast in the pre-heating oven until lightly toasted, keeping an eye on the nuts to ensure they don’t burn, 7-10 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and let the nuts cool.

While the walnuts are cooling, in one bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In another, large bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until blended. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until well incorporated. The batter will be extremely thick. Fold in the apples and the walnuts.

Take your 9x13 baking pan, spritz with cooking spray, and spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35-45 minutes.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Food & Wine Recipe Day: Zinfandel-Braised Lamb Chops

My office was closed today, which was the perfect opportunity to make another nice “weekend meal.” I had just read a recipe in Food & Wine from Grace Parisi, for cooking lamb chops in a “big, jammy red wine.” It sounded like a lovely meal to try on this grey, cloudy, chilly fall day.

Zinfandel-Braised Lamb Chops with Dried Fruit
(Adapted from Food & Wine’s October issue to serve 2)

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb lamb shoulder chops (I used organic lamb chops from Wegman’s)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ Tbsp ground coriander
4 garlic cloves, halved
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
½ cup California Zinfandel (I used 7 Deadly Zins, which was a great choice. Use the ½ cup to cook and accompany the meal with glasses of it to drink.)
¼ cup dried cherries
¼ cup dried apricots, quartered
1 cup beef broth

Rub the chops with salt, pepper, and coriander. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the lamb chops, garlic, and thyme and brown the meat, about 3 minutes on each side. Add the zinfandel and dried fruit. Bring to a boil and cook over moderate heat, around 5 minutes, until the sauce is reduced to about half. Pour in the beef broth and once the sauce begins to boil again, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for around 30-40 minutes. Stir every once in a while and turn the lamb chops once or twice during cooking. When the lamb is tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, serve.

I served over rice, although the recipe also suggests Israeli couscous (and regular couscous would be good as well).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Night Steaks

I often save steaks for the weekend, when a more leisurely dinner is an option and you can sip on a glass of wine throughout the evening. This recipe came from the October 2012 issue of Food & Wine. It was intriguing to me not only for the flavors, but also because it called intentionally for hanger steak, a cut of steak that is on the less expensive side.

I paired the dish with baked sweet potatoes and green beans, which I blanched until crisp-tender and then sautéed briefly in the pan that had cooked the leeks (see below). The vibrant green beans straight from the farmers’ market next to the rich orange flesh of the potato rounded out a beautiful range of colors on the plate, as well as a variety of tastes.

Grilled Hanger Steak with Parsley-Brandy Butter and Sauteed Leeks
(Adapted to serve 2 from Food & Wine’s October Issue)

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ Tbsp chopped curly parsley
1 garlic clove, finely minced
½ Tbsp brandy
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus a bit more for brushing the steaks
3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced ½” thick
1 lb hanger steak

Mix together butter, parsley, garlic, and brandy. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Prepare the steak for grilling by brushing it lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Heat the 3 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the leeks for about 10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and keep them covered in between occasional stirs.

Grill the steak over high heat until medium-rare, about 5-6minutes per side. Let the steak rest for about 5 minutes, and then slice against the grain. Serve atop a large spoonful of leeks and spread the butter across the slices to let it melt over them. Enjoy.