Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Time and the Living is Easy. . .

In the words of Sam Cooke, "Summer Tiiiime, and the living is easyyyy. . ." It took about two days for me to de-program my brain from teacher mode (I kept feeling like there was something I was supposed to be grading!), but summer time has finally set in.

One of the things I have been looking forward to this summer is more time to cook. So what's on my "to cook" list this summer? Well, to name a few things I want to BBQ a whole chiken (please don't ask me why, I'm not really sure), I'd like to make homemade tiramisu (my favorite dessert), and maybe experiment with some seafood like Lobster or Mussels (but that might have to wait until our trip to NH- I don't trust California sea creatures).

So my first dish of the summer is a super simple pasta dish with shrimp.
I kind of just created as I went, but I was very happy with how it came out. Paired with a salad this made a light and tasty summer meal.

1 package whole wheat linguine
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small to medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 tomatoes chopped into small pieces
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 pound shrimp

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a large skillet heat olive oil and add onion and garlic until they begin to soften.
3. Chop tomatoes- I like fairly large chunks of tomato on my pasta, but feel free to chop to any size you like. Add to onion and garlic along with any juice from the tomatoes. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, adding basil, salt and pepper. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp is nice and pink.
4. Serve over pasta and enjoy!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Cake Boss

My life for the next 8 weeks consists of a slew of bridal showers and weddings- it's going to be a busy summer! This week was a bridal shower for a new, but very dear friend. It was such a joy to celebrate her upcoming marriage with her, and of course I enjoyed the opportunity to try a new recipe.
First, I have to admit that when I saw these amazing root beer float cupcakes I almost couldn't help myself. . . Can anyone say 4th of July though??
After talking some sense into myself about the root beer float cupcakes, I finally decided on something a little more elegant- Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake. Strawberry season is here (is it ever not when you live in Southern California?) and I love the simple elegance of strawberry desserts for events such as bridal showers.

This particular recipe is from Joy of Cooking via none other than Smitten Kitchen. Like any new recipe I try (and yes, sometimes the old ones) it wasn't without a few minor catastrophes, but in the end it turned out pretty well I think.

Catastrophes? Well, en route to the bridal shower, the middle layer slid out and landed in my hand/ on the side of the cake plate (I wasn't driving). At that point I wasn't sure whether to cry or throw the cake out the window. Fortunately, my husband quickly - ok not too quickly because, face it I was holding a cake and a handful of strawberries- brought us home and we repaired the damage. While I was still slightly panicked, my husband turned to me and said, "I've seen Cake Boss" and calmly reconstructed and cleaned up the cake! So I guess watching all those food shows paid off!

Strawberry Chiffon Short Cake

I created my cake in 3 layers because I ran out of whipped cream and time, but the recipe makes 4 layers which makes for a good sized slab of cake.

Cake Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups of sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups super fine or regular sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
3/4 of a cup cold water
1/2 vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
8 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter

2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 quarts strawberries, bulled and sliced

1. Take eggs of refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Prepare two 9 inch round baking pans by lining with parchment paper and lightly spraying with cooking spray. While you can do this without the parchment paper (I did), the edges of your cake will come out much prettier and smoother if you use the parchment. Preheat over to 325 F.

2. Sift the flour and then measure out 2 1/4 cups. I'll admit it was early and I didn't have time to go get cake flour, so I used regular, but the cake flour would have made for a less dense cake, so I recommend it.
Sift the flour, 1 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt together- do this twice.

3. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks, water, oil, lemon zest and vanilla on high speed until the mixture is smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth.

4. In another bowl combine the egg whites and cream of tarter. Beat until soft peaks form and then add the other 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Using a rubber spatula add 1/4 of the egg whites to batter and gently fold in. Add the rest of the egg whites and continue to gently fold them with the spatula until egg whites are no longer visible, but being careful not to deflate the batter. Scrape into the two pans and spread evenly. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top springs back at your touch and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on racks for at least an hour.

5. Make the whipped cream by beating together the heavy cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla until it makes stiff peaks.

6. Once cakes are cool, run knife around the edge and flip onto a plate. Create the layers by cutting each cake layer in half using a bread knife. Begin with a cake layer and then top with whipped cream and a layer (or two) of strawberries, followed by the next cake layer. I only did 3 layers and then froze the extra layer for later use . . . or you could always eat it then and there. . . I won't tell!