Friday, August 31, 2012

Blackberry Skillet Cake

The beautiful berries of the Willamette Valley in Oregon are bountiful this time of year.  I am always on the lookout for a new recipe to use these plump little jewels.  Today the Triple Crown blackberries called out to me at the local Farmers Market here in Salem.  A few weeks ago I had clipped a recipe from The Oregonian newspaper and these berries fit the bill. 
This blackberry skillet cake was a nice recipe to make.  It involves using a 10 inch cast iron skillet and this happens to be the favorite pan in my kitchen.  I use it so often that I don't even put it away after each use.  Every time I wash it, I dry it well with a towel then set it on a hot burner for about 2 minutes to ensure it's thoroughly dry.  This inhibits any rust forming.  I then put a dab of canola oil in the pan and use a paper towel to wipe it around the entire pan including up the sides.  My garage sale $5.00 cast iron skillet is as good as any non-stick pan one can pay big money for in kitchen stores. 

As this cake was cooking, the house was filled with such a wonderful aroma of the cake and the blackberries.  It is delicious served slightly warm with a scoop of ice cream. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Blackberry Skillet Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
10 Tbsp butter at room temperature (divided)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup whole milk at room temperature
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 cups blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat 6 Tbsp butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.  Beat in eggs, vanilla and lemon zest until combined.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 2 additions, alternating with milk, and beat until combined.

In an oven-proof 10 inch skillet, melt remaining 4 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Remove from heat and arrange blackberries evenly in the skillet.
Pour batter over berries and smooth top.  Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Let cake cook in skillet on a wire rack 5 minutes.  Run a knife around edge and carefully invert cake onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Makes 8 servings.

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Italian Cocktail Classic

How has it taken me forever to discover the delicious cocktail called the Negroni?  This is a drink made with an Italian apperitif called Campari. It is apparently really catching on here in the States.  Not to long ago a Facebook friend mentioned sipping one on a Saturday afternoon and her photo looked very appealing.  It wasn't until yesterday though, while thumbing through the latest addition of Bon Appetit magazine I saw a two page ad for Campari and I knew it was time to get to the liquor store.

It actually took me going to two liquor stores before I was able to get my hands on a bottle of Campari, the key ingredient in this drink.  Let's just say apparently my town isn't a Negroni kind of place.  With gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in hand I mixed up one of the most lovely cocktails I have had in a very long time.  It is one equal part of each of the  three components and it can be stirred with ice and strained into a glass or served over ice, garnished with a twist of orange peel. 
I don't know if this fantastic drink is going to totally replace my Perfect Friday Night Martini, but it certainly will be a very close runner up!  For anyone who is interested in the history of the Negroni, here is the Wikepedia link that will tell you everything you want to know.


1 ounce gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice and stir then strain into a martini glass or pour into a glass over ice. Garnish with an orange peel.

Friday, August 17, 2012

When Life Hands You Zucchini....

Make chocolate zucchini muffins!  When a nice friend from work gave me two good sized zucchini I pondered what to do with them.  Sweet or savory, I pondered?  Since The Husband won't touch anything made with a squash product except pumpkin pie, I knew he wasn't a factor in my decision.  I found this delicious sounding recipe and it looked like it was worth a try.  And boy was it! 

These went together in a matter of minutes.  I actually only beat the eggs and sugar together with my mixer and stirred the rest together by hand.  These are the most tender, moist, yummy muffins I have had in a very long time.  There is no way an unsuspecting husband would know there was zucchini in these if a wife hadn't mentioned it.  Live and learn. You gardeners out there with zucchini on your hands should give these a try. You won't be sorry!
Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

2 cups of shredded zucchini
3 eggs
4 oz of dark chocolate, semi-sweet, melted
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups of flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a muffin pan.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Mix and set aside.
3. Beat eggs and sugar together on a medium speed for about a minute.
4. Slowly add oil while the mixer is on.
5. Add shredded zucchini and vanilla extract, keep mixing.
6. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the dry mixture.
7. Add the melted chocolate and mix until all the ingredients are combined.
8. Divide the batter between the muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes.

These are amazingly good and it makes approximately 20 muffins.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Crumb Topped Peach Pie

Within the past year my town finally got a Trader's Joe.  This is a great thing!  No more drives 40 miles up the freeway to pick up their fantastic Mediterranean hummus and pita chips, delicious crumpets, decent inexpensive wines, and beautiful produce.  On my most recent visit, this cute little box of 12 peaches were too tempting to resist. 
These peaches were picture perfect and as tasty and juicy as can be.  A few were used to slice and put over non-fat Greek yogurt for breakfast.  A few more were sliced to be served over vanilla ice cream.  And the ones left were put to good use in this very easy to make crumb topped peach pie.  I had some pie crust dough in the freezer, leftover from making tarts.  The beauty of this pie is not having to fuss with a top crust.  This crumb topping is a perfect compliment to the peaches.  I served mine without anything on the side, such as ice cream or whipped cream.  This is my kind of pie; easy to make and delicious to eat!

Crumb Topped Peach Pie

1 unbaked pie crust

Peach Filling:
6 to 8 c. cut up peaches
1/2 c. sugar
4 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon

Crumble Topping:
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Toss in bowl peach filling ingredients. Put in prepared pie crust, dot with butter. For crumble topping, combine 1/2 c. flour, brown sugar and cut into mix with butter. Stir in 1/2 cup nuts. Put on top of peaches.

Bake in a preheated 450°F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce to 375°F for 20 minutes.

At this point check to see if more time may be needed.

Excellent served while still warm, topped with vanilla ice cream, or cold with whipped cream.

Friday, August 3, 2012


We're are a big fan of meringues in my house.  They are easy to make and keep well in an air tight container and they are relatively fat free, though not low caloric due to the sugar.  Meringue cookies are the usual form they take when I'm whipping up egg whites.  This time I decided to make them a tad bit bigger and go for the National Dessert of New Zealand and Australia, the Pavlova. 

Named after the famed ballerina, Anna Pavlova, these puffy, light, and crunchy meringue shells filled with whipped cream and topped with fruit are ethereal. They are a perfect summer dessert when berries are available in abundance and a heavy dessert after dinner just isn't warranted.  There is such a sensory experience going on when these are consumed.  The crunch and marshmallow texture of the meringue combined the sweet and soft whipped cream topped with the tangy cool fruit.  Quite remarkable!  I chose to make small ones so the leftovers could be stored sans whipped cream and fruit.  But wouldn't it be fun to have a big one at a dinner party with friends where everyone had their own fork and just dug in to a communal Pavlova?  I need to have a summer dinner party soon.


Makes one 9" pavlova or 8 mini-pavlovas
For the meringue base:

4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar

For the topping:

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups diced fresh fruit
Preheat the oven to 275°F with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Trace a 9" circle on the parchment using a cake pan or dinner plate as a guide. (If making mini-pavlovas, use drinking glasses as guides.) Flip the parchment over. Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Mix the vanilla and white vinegar together in a separate bowl.

Whip the Meringue. Make sure your mixing bowl and beaters are very clean with no residual fat or grease. Pour the egg whites in to the bowl and begin beating at low speed. Gradually increase the speed to medium.

When the egg whites have reached soft peak consistency and the beaters leave trails in the whipped whites, begin adding the sugar a few tablespoons at a time, waiting a few seconds between each addition. While doing this, gradually increase the speed so that you are at maximum speed once all the sugar has been added.
Continue whipping until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Stop the mixer and sprinkle the vanilla and vinegar over the meringue. Beat for another 20 seconds to fully mix.

Use a spatula to scrape all the meringue onto the parchment in the center of the circle. Working from the inside out, spread the meringue to fill the circle. Smooth the sides if desired or leave it in billowy lumps.

Put the meringue in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 250°F. Make for 60-70 minutes for one large pavlova or 50-60 minutes for mini-pavlovas. The pavlovas are done when the outsides are dry to the touch, are very slightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped. It's fine if cracks form in the crust.

Turn the oven off, but leave the pavlova inside with the oven door ajar. Let sit until the pavlova is completely cooled, or overnight. At this point, the pavlova can be wrapped in plastic or sealed in an airtight container and kept for several days unless your house gets very humid (in which case, eat your pavlova right away!).
Just before you're ready to serve, make the whipped cream. Combine the cream, vanilla, and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until stiff peaks are formed. Spread the whipped cream over the pavlova, leaving a little bit of an edge. Top with fruit and serve within an hour or two. (Do not refrigerate; the meringue will quickly soften.)