Smitten Saturdays: Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake


I have always loved grapefruit, although I’ve never cooked with it. For me, grapefruit is relegated to breakfast, halved and sectioned and sprinkled with a scant half-teaspoon of sugar. This is a practice cultivated in me by my paternal grandmother, Margaret, who would serve me grapefruit in this way during my visits to her home in Florida. In many ways, most of my memories of Meme are mediated through food: grapefruit, her delicious Christmastime almond tarts, egg salad with real mayo (which I did not care for as a child, but have since seen the error of my ways). Running through these food memories also unlocks scenes of hours of swimming in the pool in her subdivision, marveling at the magnificent (and kind of terrifying) thunderstorms that would rattle her carport, and developing my own sardonic sense of humor at her knee.

grapefruit

Even though I mostly visited Meme (and ate grapefruit for breakfast) in the summer, as I’ve grown into adulthood and seasonal eating, I associate grapefruit with wintertime. A Ruby Red goes nicely halved and served with a warm bowl of oatmeal, or cut into supremes and tossed with spinach, balsamic vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds, and pecans for a nutritious salad. But when we realized we were going to be homebound for the holidays, our travel plans to Arizona kiboshed by flu, we formulated a Plan B: the BK and I would spend Christmas Eve down the road at my folks’ place, while the ill LK would stay at home with my husband. I decided to make this pound cake to take with me to Christmas Eve dinner at my dad’s house as a gesture to Meme and how important spending time together — parents, grandparents, and children — is during the holiday season.

This cake (p. 241) was incredibly easy to make and is, to my mind, the most gorgeous of any of the Smitten Kitchen recipes I’ve made, ever.

grapefruit olive oil cake

You’ll notice that I let some pulp sneak into the glaze; I thought it added a kind of visceral authenticity to the cake, but such a choice might not be for everyone. I liked how the juice from the Ruby Red grapefruit gave the glaze a pinkish tinge, and the syrup gave the crumb a nice sweet-tart kick (I suppose if you wanted to go crazy, you could add a little rum to the syrup and turn this into a grapefruit olive oil rum cake). The cake itself isn’t terribly sweet, but the glaze should help satisfy even the most aggressive sweet tooth.

Next time: Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout (p. 137) with a bonus that will surely have my children howling for my head on a platter, Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos with queso fresco (p. 143).

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Smitten Saturdays: Rosemary Gruyere Sea Salt crisps


You guys, these crackers are RIDIC. And by “ridic,” I mean, “STOP ME BEFORE I CRAM ANOTHER 50 OF THESE IN MY MOUTH ALREADY!”

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One of the things I really love about this cookbook are the little easter eggs of wit scattered throughout. In this recipe, a note in the sidebar says “Dough can be made a day in advance. It will keep longer in the freezer. Baked crisps keep for up to 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container, and up to a month in the freezer. They will not last 5 minutes at a party.” This is some serious truth. I popped two of these puppies in my mouth without thinking before they’d even had time to cool on the baking sheet. The crackers are light and airy and super-flavorful and waaaay too easy to eat like popcorn.

This is, hands down, my favorite recipe from the cookbook so far. I chose them for this week’s entry because I thought they’d be perfect to serve at a party  or take to a potluck, but it also occurred to me while making them that they would also make a nice foodie gift. This recipe is super-simple (unless you do what I do and use a tiny star-shaped cookie cutter instead of just slicing up the dough; tiny cookie cutters, in my experience, generally add an unnecessary layer of complication to any foodstuff), and in the right packaging, these crackers would serve as a very sophisticated alternative to traditional Christmas cheese straws. (I have grand plans to convert some frozen berries into gift jams, make gift loaves of cranberry tea bread, and already have several dozen cookies stashed in the freezer to pop into tins next week and give as teacher gifts, so why not add these to the list?)

One tiny note on the recipe: the instructions say to combine all the ingredients in a food processor and “pulse until the mixture resembles coarse, craggy crumbs.” Perelman does not specify which blade to use in the food processor; I used my dough blade because I’ve found that the big, supersharp standard one turns any sort of dough into sawdust. Also, I pulsed past the “coarse, craggy crumbs” stage because I thought it looked too dry and pushed on through to the Dippin’ Dots stage because it seemed like the mixture would hold together much better when it came time to roll it out.

I only baked off about a third of the dough this morning because we had a long to-do list, and I am very glad that I still have enough dough left for about another 60 crackers, which would make one generous holiday gift and one generous snack!

Smitten Saturdays: Leave your link for Rosemary Gruyere and Sea Salt Crisps


Tomorrow’s recipe is Rosemary Gruyere and Sea Salt Crisps (p. 294), perfect for serving at holiday parties. Leave your link in the comments if you’re cooking along!

Smitten Saturdays: Wild Mushroom Tart


This week’s Smitten Saturday recipe is the Wild Mushroom Tart, chosen because I’ve only ever made one tart before and why not try a savory one this time? I knew that, at the very least, my husband and I would eat it, even though it’s pretty much guaranteed that the children will cry if I attempt to feed it to them.

I worry about crust. So much so that I was well into my 30s before I attempted to make a pie crust from scratch. I don’t know why I’m so intimidated by it, even when by now I have made some very delicious crusts (my favorite is Martha Stewart’s pate brisee). So, naturally, I worried about this crust. I worried that it wasn’t coming together right in the food processor. I worried about whether it was going to roll out successfully (rolling is my bete noir of crustmaking).

Not bad.

Not bad.

And when I followed the instructions about transferring the crust (with a sheet of plastic wrap underneath; I highly recommend the use of a bench scraper to aid in this maneuver), I kind of stopped breathing because this is one fragile crust, y’all. It WANTS to fall apart on you. And once you wriggle the plastic wrap out from underneath the crust after you’ve centered it in the tart pan (I really couldn’t see a way to follow the placement instructions as written without sprouting a third arm), a technique mastered by shy girls everywhere who remove their bathing suits in the locker room while fully clothed, you are good to go. The rest is gravy. Unless, of course, you get so busy with PTA stuff while you are parbaking the crust that you forget about it and quite possibly overcook it in the process.

mushroomtart

My version of the tart isn’t as pretty as the one in the book, but it is quite tasty. I realized as I was eating a small wedge of it (beats the Honey Nut Cheerios I had for breakfast!) that I forgot to add the salt and pepper, but it absolutely is not missing the salt. Mushroom is the dominant flavor here (obv), rounded out nicely by the thyme and shallots. I would prefer a bit more garlic, and next time I won’t forget the pepper. I can’t wait to hear what my husband thinks of it! This would make for a really lovely vegetarian dinner with some roasted beets or some lovely balsamic braised green beans on the side. Or even a simple green salad.

Be sure to check out my writeup of Deb Perelman’s appearance at BookPeople last night! It was kind of an ideal night for me: I listened to Perelman answer questions (she is quite funny and dry), sit in a comfy chair reading a compelling book, then got to meet Perelman and talk to her about picky eaters (i.e., our small children).