Thursday, September 19, 2019

Chocolate and Zucchini

This is the time of year in our area where the zucchini plants are producing so many squash that we desperately search for recipes to help us use up this prolific vegetable. I have a great recipe for chocolate zucchini bread, but I wanted brownies this time. I found a great sounding recipe at Spend with Pennies blog and it also had a dynamite recipe for easy chocolate frosting. Turned out the the brownie was more like a cake, but it's a moist, delicious cake and the frosting takes it up a notch!

As usual I substituted soy creamer and non-dairy margarine for the milk and butter in the frosting. The cake called for veggie oil, so I used a very light olive oil. It worked well.

The zucchini was grated on a fairly fine grater, so it melted right into the cake. It's really important that you use the zucchini just as it is after grating...don't squeeze out any of the juices. They are needed to make the cake batter moist. The cake comes out with a deep, dark chocolate flavor and you can't tell that there is zucchini in it at all.

I love the frosting recipe, but found that adding all the chips at once meant that it took a ton of stirring to get smooth. I eventually used my stick blender to finish the job. I think that adding half the chips and melting them some before adding the rest might work better. The mixture will still be pretty warm when you put it on the cake. It hardens a bit as it cools and is really, really good.

Brought this dessert to a potluck and it went over quite well. Still finding that I need more rest and naps than usual, but otherwise doing well. Slept three hours after getting home from the lunch potluck! Doesn't this frosting look great?

Easy Zucchini Cake/Brownies with 1 Minute Fudge Frosting
from blog
Makes about 28

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used a very light olive oil)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (don't peel or squeeze our juice..just wash and grate after removing ends) 1-2 zucchini depending on size

Combine the oil, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.
In another bowl combine the flour, salt, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Add to the sugar mixture and stir well to combine. Mixture will look sort of dry. Stir in the wet zucchini and stir very well to combine. Mixture now looks like a batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in the preheated 350 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes. When done the cake/brownie will be springy to the touch and will have pulled slightly away from the sides. Cool completely on a wire rack in the pan, then frost.

1 Minute Fudge Frosting
1/3 cup milk (I used soy creamer)
1/3 cup butter (I used non-dairy margarine)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

In a small saucepan combine the milk, butter and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring well. Once boiling, boil for 30 seconds, stirring all the time to prevent scorching, then remove from heat and immediately stir in half of the chips, stirring until melted, then add the rest of the chips and keep stirring until smooth. Immediately frost the cake/brownies, using an offset spatula to smooth it over the top. Add swirls if you like before it cools. Once frosting is cool you can cut the dessert and remove from the pan, or serve in the pan.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Is It A Cookie Or A Tart?

Recently our local newspaper, the Press Democrat, has a delicious sounding recipe in the Food Section. It was for a Crostata with jam. A crostata is sort of a cross between a cookie and a tart. It's baked in a tart pan, but uses a dough for the base which is cookie-like and fluffier than a usual tart dough. The filling is usually jam. I used a combination of good quality apricot jam and fresh, cooked peaches, lightly mashed and scented and flavored with almond extract. It made for a delightful dessert which I served for afternoon tea yesterday. With a topping of pieces of some of the tart dough and a sprinkle of sliced almonds, it looks very pretty and tastes divine.

My health improves day by day, which is very encouraging. It's nice to finally have enough energy to try a new recipe. Sweetie is happy because I'm also cooking again. Mostly simple things like steamed corn on the cob and salads, but now and again a little more complicated like last night when I marinated some portabella mushrooms for sandwiches. Sweetie did the grilling. I'll try and post the recipe soon.

Back to the crostata. When you are putting the dough into the bottom of the pan, keep flouring your hands as they get sticky for the most even crust. Don't forget to set aside the 1/2 cup of dough for the top. You can chill it while you work on the tart. Do plan on enough time to also chill the dough-filled tart pan for at least 20 minutes.

If you are using some or all pre-made jam (as I did), be sure to taste it and add some lemon juice, as needed, to make it a bit tart. If you are making your own jam, you can taste it and add sugar if needed as you make it. You can also make the jam ahead of time, up to 1 week before making the crostata.

You'll only need small pieces of this crostata. Try it with a nice cup of hot tea and take a few moments to relax. If you used fresh, seasonal fruit, you can think of the wonders of harvest time, too.

Jam Crostata
based on a recipe originally in the New York Times, by Melissa Clark
Makes 8 servings

For the jam - use at least 12 oz. good quality pre-made jam, or make your own as follows:
3 cups blackberries
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons minced fresh lemon verbena (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

In a medium saucepan, stir together the blackberries, blueberries, sugar and lemon verbena (if using). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as the mixture starts to bubble and reduce. When the mixture has reduced and looks syrupy (about 30 minutes), stir in lemon juice and zest. Taste and add sugar if necessary. This depends on how sweet your berries were to begin with.
Cook for 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently to prevent burning. When the jam is thickened and shiny but still slightly runnier than you expect jam to be, take it off the heat; it will continue to thicken as it cools.
Scrape jam into a bowl or heatproof container, stir in vanilla and let cool to room temperature.
Taste and stir in a little more lemon juice if jam is very sweet. At this point, the cooled jam can be chilled for up to 1 week.
Note: I used 10 oz. pre-made apricot jam and then used the instructions (but not the quantities) above to make a peach jam to combine with the apricot jam to make my crostata filling. I used a tiny bit of almond extract instead of vanilla and no extra sugar since my peach was quite ripe and sweet.

For the crust - allow time to chill
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
12 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours; set aside. In a second bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, and almond extract until combined, then beat in flour, only beating until flour is incorporated.
Scoop 1/2 cup of the dough into a covered container and chill. Transfer remaining dough into a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and use floured finders to press the dough into an even layer in the bottom of the tart pan and up the sides. Chill for at least 20 minutes
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread cooled jam evenly into the crust the, using your fingers, crumble reserved chilled 1/2 cup dough over the jam. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and Demerara sugar (if using).
Bake until golden, 35 to 48 minutes. Let cool completely to room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Pleasures of Peaches and Raptures of Raspberries

The scent is what I first notice about a ripe peach...then how soft it is when the blossom end is lightly pressed. The colors are lovely, too. This morning I peeled some ripe white peaches and enjoyed both the fragrance and the softness while peeling. Once the pit was removed the delight was in the ivory flesh with a ruby tint where the pit had been.

For raspberries I admit the color and shape are what I first notice, followed by the delightful raspberry scent. There were just enough raspberries this morning to join with the peaches in a delicious and fragrant compote to top waffles from the not Eggos, but waffles that I had baked a few weeks ago, then frozen the leftovers for just such a morning. The toasted waffle quarters were crispy outside and moist inside and went so well with the fruit mixture. Rapturous and pleasing!

Raspberry Peach Compote
serves 1 but can be expanded

1 perfectly ripe peach, any variety, peeled, pitted, and sliced into wedges
1/2 cup raspberries, rinsed and dried with a paper towel (or leave wet...that's OK too)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
2 tablespoons water
(because fruit is ripe, no sugar needed)

In a small saucepan, combine the compote ingredients. Place over low heat and cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until raspberries have broken down. Uncover and raise heat. Cook until desired thickness is reached, stirring often. I like the sauce pretty thin, but if you cook the mixture longer, it will become thicker as the moisture boils off. Let cool at least 5 minutes so you don't burn your tongue. Serve over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, pudding, pound get the idea. Can also be eaten by itself, but it's kinda sweet for that.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Welcome September

It's Gravenstein apple time here in Sebastopol. The trees seem to be loaded this year, which is surprising since we had rain when the blossoms were heaviest in the spring. No complaints about the quantity, although I doubt that I will be able to use them all this year.

Just had some homemade Gravenstein apple sauce that I made yesterday. It only takes a short while to peel four apples, cut out the core and stem, and cut into wedges. Into a heavy bottomed pot they go along with cinnamon, a bit of vanilla sugar, some allspice and some nutmeg. Since they are ripe, they didn't need any added sugar. I only used the vanilla sugar for the flavor. You could sub vanilla extract...but just use a few drops. I added some water and lime juice for liquids and cooked them over slow heat, covered.

Gravenstein apples break down really easily, so you barely have to mash the finished product, especially if you like lumpy applesauce as I do. I'll make some applesauce with more readily available apples like Granny Smith later. This recipe works best with the slow food darling, the real Gravenstein.

It's fall, y'all!

Gravenstein Apple Sauce
two servings

4 medium to large ripe Gravenstein apples, peeled, cored & stem removed, sliced into wedges
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon vanilla sugar
dash allspice
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lime juice

Place the apple slices and the rest of the ingredients into a heavy bottom saucepan with a lid. Stir to coat the slices with the spices and liquids, then cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Check every 15 minutes to make sure there is still some liquid and stir to keep apples from sticking.

When cooked and soft, mash with a potato masher or a fork until desired consistency. Cool to eating temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.