Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tomatoes, Under the Wire

Two (um, Three!) years ago, I shared my end of summer adventures with tomato jam, tomato focaccia, a little tomato salad. This year, the sequence was repeated--albeit a bit later and with more urgency given that the season was quickly drawing to a close.  No one needs another recipe for a tomato salad, but if you haven't yet tried Mark Bittman's simple, spicy tomato jam, you're missing out.

To prepare for the coming cold and wet months, I also oven-dried a few pints of cherry tomatoes--the easiest way to preserve these fruits. Slice the tomatoes in half, turn the oven to warm, and let them sit inside on a cookie sheet over night. In the morning, let them cool, then bag them and store in the freezer. I use them throughout the winter on pizza and in sauces--a burst of summer sweetness in January makes slogging through months of winter squash and kale a bit easier. If you're feeling more ambitious, I recommend tackling Chez Pim's amazing tomato confit--similar idea, even more delicious end product.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Banana Caramel Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

 Birthday cake, morning after (a.k.a. breakfast).

She spent time in jail, was savaged by Cybil Shepard in the made-for-TV movie, and looks pretty freakin' ridiculous on the October cover of her eponymous magazine. Yet...the woman knows how to bake something fierce, and for that, Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook remains my go-to resource for birthdays and other celebrations.

This time it was her Banana Caramel Cake that caught my eye. The cake layers are a richer version of banana bread and dead simple to make. The filling inbetween is also quite easy and lots of fun--you make a quick caramel on the stove, just sugar and butter, and then saute some banana slices until brown. Cutting your slices on the thicker side helps, though no worries if they break, you can piece them together when you put them on the cake.

I deviated from Queen Martha on the frosting--as I did on Meyer Lemon Cake I made for J's birthday a few years ago. Instead of mascarpone, I substituted a simple cream cheese frosting: 16 ounces of cream cheese, approximately 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla, all mixed together. Also, instead of futzing with a separate batch of caramel to decorate, I just drizzled some of the leftover sauce from the caramelized bananas across the top.

In addition to the lemon cake, I've made her pear bundt cake (that's it, up above, in my blog's header), cheesecake thumbprints, savory caraway cheese crisps, chocolate shortbread fingers, apple spice layer cake, apple crumb pie, cherry slab pie, honey whole wheat bread, cranberry pecan rye bread, parkerhouse rolls...and...whew...I think that's it...and every one was delicious. She may be crazy, but woman knows her baked goods.  

Monday, September 05, 2011

Perfect Summer Dishes at Palena & Estadio

Peach Salad with Mint, Goat Cheese and Almonds @ Estadio

Peach salad with mint, almonds and goat cheese at Estadio, 14th Street, Washington, DC. Making this at home would be a breeze--if you need a recipe, here's something similar.

The pool closes today, the sky was dark when I woke up at 6 am, and the tips of the leaves on the oak in the yard are hinting at the flame colors to come. All signs that summer is ending, but c'mon--this ain't the Midwest--the thermometer will register above 75 many times this September. Here's hoping that Palena Cafe and Estadio will continue to feature these dishes on their menus for at least a few more weeks--or, if you'd like, I've linked to similar recipes so you can try them at home while the corn and peaches still overflow.

Radishes with Tarragon Butter @ Estadio

Radishes with tarragon butter at salt at Estadio. We needed about double the radishes for that amount of butter, but man, was it delicious. Ideas for other herb compound butters here.

corn panna cotta with peach ice cream @ Palena Cafe

Sweet corn panna cotta with roasted corn kernels and peach ice cream at Palena Cafe, Connecticut Ave
, Cleveland Park, DC. If I'm going to order a dessert at a restaurant, I prefer that it's something I'd never make at home, but if you're ambitious enough to try this one, a similar recipe is here.