Strawberry Cake and TasteFood News

strawberry cake tastefoodIt’s almost summer, and we deserve cake.

I am so excited to share with you 2 pieces of good news about TasteFood. It’s been a little quiet here on the blog lately, in large part due to 3 book projects I’ve been busy working on. I am happy to announce that the first book The Little Pink Book of Rosé, is now available for pre-order! It’s a light and sparkly little gift book, filled with quips, quotes and fun facts about rosé (my favorite summer wine), as well as 20 sweet, savory, and drinkable rosé recipes which I developed.

Now for the second piece of big news: As of June 8, TasteFood will be a syndicated weekly column coming to a newspaper near you! This means that you will be able to read TasteFood in many of your local papers throughout the U.S. each week. Once the dust settles, I’ll be developing a newsletter that will tie in news about my cookbooks, blog, and column. Finally and most importantly, I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment, ask questions, let me know about recipes, cuisines, or cooking topics you would like to read about, either here on the blog or the email address provided in my column – your feedback is highly valued!

So, now it’s time for cake…

Strawberry Cake

While nothing beats fresh sun-sweetened strawberries, au natural or swiped through a dollop of whipped cream, put aside a pint or two to make this simple cake. It’s light and simple, gently sweetened and generously studded with as many strawberries you can fit. I halved the jumbo-sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they’ll begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess. Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) pie or gratin dish.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Combine the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Add the flour and mix to thoroughly combine without over-mixing. 4. Pour  the batter into the prepared dish and spread evenly. Arrange the strawberries, cut-sides down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy – and reserve the rest for serving. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Bake the cake until the top is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Cool slightly and serve lukewarm or at room temperature with whipped cream and extra strawberries (if you haven’t already eaten them!)

Glogg: Hot Spiced Wine, Nordic-style

glogg wine TasteFood

Steamy, fragrant, and boosted with spirits, gløgg is an elixir that will warm the hardiest viking. Throughout the month of December, this libation is a Nordic staple, served in cafes, doled out from street carts, and ladled at social gatherings. It’s the season’s response to the cold and dark and as ubiquitous as herring and snaps. Most home cooks will make their own brew, either enabled by a mix or from scratch. This recipe is my version of gløgg from scratch, and I encourage you to try this method. It avoids the cloying sweetness often found with mixes and is remarkably easy to prepare. You don’t have to splurge on a nice bottle of wine for this recipe, but be sure it has heft.

Gløgg (also known as mulled wine and glüwein)
Serves 8 to 10

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/2 cup whole almonds (optional)

For the gløgg:
1 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
Zest of 2 untreated or organic oranges, shaved in strips with a vegetable peeler
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles full-bodied red wine

Fresh orange slices as garnish

Prepare the garnish:
Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (The raisins may be prepared up to one week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use). Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from the heat and coarsely chop into large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
Combine all of the gløgg ingredients, except the 2 bottles of red wine, in a heavy large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid reduces to about 2 cups, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the red wine, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Heat the gløgg without letting it come to a boil (lest the spirits will evaporate!)

To serve, add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds, if using, to a glass or mug.  Strain the gløgg into the glass. Garnish with fresh orange slices and serve with a spoon for scooping up the raisins and almonds.

Kale Gratins

Kale Gratins

~ Kale Gratins ~

It takes a village. I consider myself lucky to be connected to an abundant group of friends whom I’ve met over the past few years through my blog and various food communities. These talented cooks and writers have become colleagues and pals whom I also consider like-minded souls. In this era of the far reaching internet, some of these friendships remain virtual (yet they feel so real) while others have luckily manifested into get-togethers and family dinners.

Which brings me to this lovely little side dish. The inspiration came to me this week from a post by my friend Steve who writes the wonderful blog Oui Chef. I haven’t met Steve in person yet, but I feel like we go a long way back, sharing similar food and travel interests, and a passion to feed our families well while sharing in the pleasure of cooking. He posted this cozy recipe for Creamed Kale that had my attention the minute I read it. Blame it on the rain that day, or just the fact that I adore kale, but I wanted to eat it right then and there. Steve dedicated this recipe to another good friend of ours, Liz, who authors the blog Liz the Chef. A while back Liz posted a phenomenal recipe for Spinach Gratin on Food 52 (which is where these friendships began – thanks Food52!) Liz and I have had the good fortune to meet a number of times, sharing meals at our dining table and connecting at food blog events. Her spinach gratin has been on my mental to-do list since the moment I saw it. And when Steve’s recipe popped up, I had all of the inspiration I needed to make these little Kale Gratins – thanks to my village of food-loving friends.

Kale Gratin

I served these as an accompaniment to steaming bowls of Cioppino Stew this weekend. Makes 6 individual gratins or one large gratin.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese, divided
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 bunches kale (I used a combination of curly and Tuscan), ribs removed, coarsely chopped – about 10 cups

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat butter in a deep skillet or wide saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, until bubbling and golden, about 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and cream. Simmer, stirring, until thickened. Whisk in 1/4 cup cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove pan from heat and add kale. Stir to completely coat the kale leaves; they will begin to wilt. When the kale is thoroughly coated and slightly wilted, divide between gratin dishes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Transfer to oven and bake until the tops of the gratins are golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

If you like this you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Roasted Yellow Beet and Ricotta Tian
Potato Gratins
Root Vegetable Gratin

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin is cozy winter food. It’s meant to slow cook and, like many stews, tastes even better the day after it’s prepared. I’ve come across recipes for quick Coq au Vin. This option sounds ideal for a busy weekday night, but, if you ask me, I would rather save my Coq au Vin for the weekend when it can simmer away, filling the kitchen with warmth and the aromas of wine and herbs, while building anticipation for dinner to come.

Traditional Coq au Vin required slow cooking, since it called for using a tough rooster as its main ingredient, which benefited from a long cooking process to tenderize the bird. Nowadays, chicken is commonly used, and the length of cooking time is shortened. Nonetheless, the dish is best when left to simmer over low heat, and the sauce is allowed to reduce and thicken into a luxuriously rich stew.

In this version, I omit the bacon and use a generous amount of brandy to deglaze the pan. Tomato paste is added to the sauce, lending depth and a touch of sweetness. I like to slow-cook the stew in the oven at a lower temperature, freeing up the stove top for other needs. In the meantime, I am free to get on with other tasks, or relax with a book and a cup of tea or gløgg.  This is the epitome of winter weekend food, preferably when the weather is cold and dismal outside.

Coq au Vin – Chicken Braised in Red Wine

 

As an option to butchering a whole chicken, purchase 2 whole legs and 2-3 breasts with skin and bone intact. Serves 4-6.

1 tablespoon olive oil
One chicken, cut in 8 pieces
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup brandy
4 garlic cloves, smashed
3 large carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 large onion, chopped
8 ounces white mushrooms, halved (quartered if large)
1 – 750 ml. bottle red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Heat oil in an oven-proof pot with lid or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces, skin side down, in batches. Brown on all sides, turning once, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a platter.
Carefully add brandy to the pot (it will steam) and deglaze pot. Add garlic, carrots, onion and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add wine, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaves. Return chicken to the pot and nestle the pieces in the wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover pot and transfer to oven and bake, occasionally stirring, 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer pot to stove top. Remove chicken and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Boil sauce over medium heat until reduced by about half and thickened to a sauce consistency, skimming fat, about 20 minutes. Add sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Return chicken and vegetables to the pot, and gently simmer to thoroughly heat through. Serve in low bowls with mashed or roasted potatoes.

Gløgg: Scandinavian Spiced Mulled Wine

Gløgg: Scandinavian Spiced Mulled Wine

Glogg tf

It’s nearly December which means one thing:  It’s time for Gløgg. Gløgg is the Scandinavian version of spiced mulled wine. From a corner of the world where winters are defined by brief grey days and long dark nights, fire and warmth are woven into the Nordic lifestyle and winter celebrations.  Candles provide cosiness and light, adorning windows, tables and the holiday tree. Pelts and fur soften cold surfaces and soothe the skin. Socializing and rituals enliven the home and brighten the spirit. And hearty meals with fortified drinks warm the belly and feed the soul.

From now until Christmas, gløgg is prolific in Scandinavia. Hot, spiced and boosted with wine and spirits, this liquid pick-me-up is an elixir worthy of the vikings. Served in cafes and restaurants, from city street carts and at social gatherings, it’s the season’s antidote to the cold and dark. Most home cooks will make their own brew, whether enabled by a mix or from scratch. This recipe is my version of gløgg from scratch, and I encourage you to try this method. It avoids the cloying sweetness often found with mixes and is easy to prepare. As it simmers, the aromas of wine and spice will fill your home hinting at Christmas to come. Never mind any inclement weather outdoors. Inside it will be warm and cosy – a perfect complement to the winter day.

Gløgg

Makes 8-10 servings

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or rum
1/2 cup whole almonds

For the gløgg:
1 – 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
zest of 2 oranges, cut in strips
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles inexpensive dry red wine

Fresh orange slices

Prepare the garnish:
Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (Raisins can be prepared up to one week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use.)
Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from heat and coarsely chop in large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
Combine all of the ingredients except the 2 bottles of red wine in a heavy large pot with a lid.  Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until reduced to 2 cups, 12-15 minutes.
Add red wine and warm over low heat with the lid on the pot. Do not boil.
Add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds to a glass or mug.  Strain gløgg into glass.  Garnish with fresh orange slices.