Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Surprise Party Birthday Cakes!

Store bought cake generally doesn't interest me - the frosting is always too sweet and the cake is always too dense. At a party it's the thing I skip so I can eat more potato chips. But homemade cake? That, I'll take a slice of. Even when the mix is out of a box and the frosting is out of a can it's somehow so much better.

But if you're going homemade you might as well make it from scratch and you might as well make it interesting. As you can tell by previous posts, I prefer things like pink lady cake, carrot cake, and root beer cake. Why go plain old vanilla and chocolate when you can add things like root beer and cream cheese frosting?

Our friend Mark just turned 30 and his girlfriend, Jackie, was throwing him a surprise birthday bash. I was asked make cake! I ended up making two - first was the root beer cake then in a last minute holy-crap-this-isn't-enough-cake panic I made a peach cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting (I know, yum!). I doubled the root beer cake recipe to make a two layer 9x13 cake and turned the peach cupcake recipe into a 9 inch 2 layer cake. I had white peaches, regular peaches and nectarines on hand from the CSA so I used a combo of all of them in the batter.

Here's the before:

Here's the after:

Mark was VERY surprised, everyone liked the cakes and I only had one mini-meltdown so I consider this a successful baking venture!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eggplant "Caviar" and Tuna Tonnata

When Ron and I were in Paris we ate at an amazing restaurant called Les Cocottes de Christian Constant. DSC_2016
It was one our favorite meals in Paris, the food and service were both completely unpretentious - something we didn't always find while dining in Paris! See Dave Lebovitz write up about it here. Ron started with an aubergine "caviar" dish - probably because he thought it was going to have actual caviar in it. When the dish arrived, there was no caviar but neither of us were disappointed! It was served in a cute glass jar and had layers of eggplant and great olive oil packed tuna - served with french baguette, this starter was simple and perfect. I've been meaning to try to replicate it forever!

We got our first eggplant at the CSA this week and I immediately thought of this dish. I ended up combining an Eggplant Caviar recipe from Food and Wine magazine with a Tuna Tonnato with Eggplant salad from Gourmet magazine.

Split and roast the eggplant until it's deflating in the oven. Mix the scooped out eggplant with sauteed, finely diced, red pepper, onion and garlic, chopped parsley and lemon juice.


I pureed one can of water packed tuna with some mayo, olive oil, capers, anchovies and more lemon juice - then I mixed the pureed tuna with a can of drained olive oil packed tuna. I really liked the puree and it would be even better if I was more generous with the olive oil!

Tuna + eggplant + cherry tomatoes:


With a good sprinkle of kosher salt equals something very delicious!


Here I spread it on a wasa cracker but a good whole grain baguette would have put this over the top.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vegan Enchiladas

My friend Mike is dating a vegan and asked me to prepare a dish that she could actually eat for a get together last week. Like I've mentioned many times before on this blog, I don't eat a ton of meat and I think I could pretty easily go vegetarian. But vegan? That's a lot more difficult and I imagine that at a party there's often not a whole lot a vegan (in a circle of non-vegan friends) can actually eat. I really wanted to make something tasty and I eat enough vegetables, fruits and grains to know that it's possible.

My first thought was a grain salad with chunks of marinated roasted tofu and lots of veggies but I imagine that vegetarians and vegans get sick of salads! My next thought was Mexican food - probably because it's been so hot that I've been stuffing leftovers into corn tortillas and calling it dinner for days now. I make a good enchilada and I've got no problems leaving off the cheese. Inspired by this recipe I decided on a combo of sweet potatoes, red potatoes and kale for the stuffing.

I boiled the potatoes and added the kale for the last few minutes. I diced the potatoes and chopped the kale and added everything to a pot where I had started sauteing some thinly sliced onion. Next addition? Lots of flavor. I think potatoes need a lot of salt so I added a good bit of that along with chile powder, cumin, dried oregano, adobo from a can of chipotles, red wine vinegar and enough veggie stock to bring it all together.

For the sauce I stuck to my go to enchilada sauce from Last Night's Dinner.


I microwave my tortillas before I dip them in the enchilada sauce to keep them pliable - a lot of recipes call for frying the first but this method always works for me and I save myself a few calories! Ladle some sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 pan, dip, stuff, roll, repeat, layering the enchiladas tightly next to each other.


Top with a bit more sauce. Bake at 375 covered for about 35 minutes then uncovered for another 10, until the edges start to get brown.

I didn't take a photo of the finished product - oops. These were good, not great - and adding sour cream and queso fresco really made them better, although not vegan! But I'm sure guacamole and vegan sour cream would be great. Luckily, everyone made a vegan dish (including a polenta pizza with vegan sausage crumbles - something like this, that was really tasty) so no one went hungry. The leftover filling made great veggie tacos.