Monthly Archives: July 2009

Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Easy Cherry & Pecan Ice Cream

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I have had a hankering for Pineapple Upside Down Cake for a very long time. It even got me into  a cook off with my friend Jenny (an amazingly talented baker who has her own blog: Almond and Ginger). We never really had the cook off, but it gave us both an excuse to make our desired upside down treat (Jenny made an Apricot and Cranberry version that sounds delicious.) 

I knew even before I started looking for recipes I wanted to make a traditional cake. I imagined myself to be a discerning 50’s housewife, hoping to impress dinner party guests and defend her status as homemaker with her famous Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I must have looked at over 20 different recipes before I arrived at Thomas Keller’s. I stopped at his because it semmed like to most low-maintenance (full explanation just ahead) and, well, he is Thomas Keller! This man is the legendary chef behind The French Laundry and per se. If he thinks something is tasty enough to put in a cookbook, it probably is. 

Mr. Keller’s recipe is definitely unique in terms of ease of preparation. Opting out of the traditional caramel base in a cast iron skillet, he uses a “shmear” on the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan. Even though the techniques may be new, the resulting cake looked like something out of the Sears Roebuck Catalogue. Since the recipe calls for neither pecans nor cherries, ingredients sometimes found in a PUDC, I decided to make a simple Cherry and Pecan ice cream to serve with mine. 

Thomas Keller’s Cake Recipe: (found in his cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home)

For pan schmear:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon dark rum

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract

Kosher salt

1 Gold (extra -sweet) pineapple

For cake:

1 1/3 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients for the shmear together until well-combined. Spread 1/3 cup of the mixture on the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan. Layer thin slices of pineapple (I used half rings) until the bottom is fully covered.

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Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add each egg one by one. Then, add milk and vanilla extract. Slowly add in the flour and baking powder, that have been sifted together. Batter will look light and fluffy. Pour over pineapple layer and cook at 350 F for 30 to 40 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes on a rack, and then carefully flip over onto cake platter.

Here is the finished product.

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Easy (cough* semi-homemade* cough) Cherry and Pecan Ice Cream: 

1 Pint of Vanilla Ice Cream (if you want to make your own, be my guest) 

1 handful of toasted and chopped pecans

1 handful of dried cherries

3 tablespoons Pineapple juice

Let cherries and pineapple juice come to a boil in a small sauce pan and then let simmer until cherries get plump and juice gets syrupy. Mix in pecans and fold the mixture into the vanilla ice cream (this works better if the ice cream has been transferred to a larger container AND if it has been allowed to soften a bit.) Put ice cream in the freezer for at least 3 hours to firm up.

Enjoy!

Gwyneth Cooks?!

I like her so much more after watching her hack up a chicken. Is that weird?

You can find more Gwyneth stuff at www.goop.com 

Nostalgia

The New York Times says my generation is feeling nostalgic early. (read the article here ). The author seems to think all of us are pining away for Harry Potter and The Backstreet Boys like a choir singing in unison . Well, we probably are… but it doesn’t mean that each of us doesn’t have our own unique brand of nostalgia. As I was thinking about the things I am nostalgic for, that might not be on other people’s lists, one TV show came to mind. 

Two Fat Ladies

I grew up on 90’s Food Network and Two Fat Ladies was my absolute favorite program on the young cable station. I used to watch the culinary antics of rotund Clarissa and portly Jennifer with my grandmother, when she came to babysit. The two friends whipped up traditional English fare with enough butter and bacon grease to fuel a fleet of mid-sized SUVs.  They also weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, often fishing and hunting for the meals they would later prepare. The show exposed me to a totally unfamiliar world where each town ended with -shire,  each cricket team had it’s own lodge/dining hall for group meals, and each kitchen had a full supply of kippers on hand. I was probably one of the few 10 year-olds devastated thoroughly enough to watch the entire tribute marathon, after Jennifer’s passing in 1999.

I miss those two large and lovely ladies, whose passion for food and zest for country life was evident each and every episode. Rachel Ray could learn a thing or two from them.

French Movie Roundup

In preparation for my studies abroad in France, I have been saturating myself in all things French. This consists primarily of renting French movies from the library, but may also come to include borrowing the French version of Muzzy from the children’s section for some nostalgic fun. (Je suis la jeune fille!)

I am basically choosing movies by director/reputation, so these recommendations may seem totally uninspired. OH WELL. Also, I have been avoiding the New Wave because I took a class on it and don’t really want to revisit the movement just yet. (I did just rent Godard’s Le Mépris, but Jack Palance is in it!) 

1. La belle et la bête (1946)- Jean Cocteau’s surreal rendition of the classic fairy tale reveals a much darker (more problematic?) story than its Disney hybrid. Unlike Disney, Cocteau acknowledges that the narrative requires a certain naivete, but uses it as backdrop for his fantastical style. Watch it simply to see the  gorgeous costumes and decor, and an unforgettable interpretation of the Beast’s castle. 

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2. Les Témoins(2008)- André Téchiné first impressed me with Les Roseaux Sauvages, a film that proved the “coming out” genre didn’t have to be boring and contrived. In Les Temoins, he tackles the equally challenging task of presenting a story about AIDS that doesn’t lose itself in melodrama. The film is totally self-reflexive (even the title), dealing with the issue of spectatorship/viewing. Also interesting is how the film mimics classical opera (the music is operatic/ the structure is operatic/Julie’s character is an opera singer/ the costumes never really change.) 

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3. Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie (1972)- Luis Buñuel sheds a comedic light on the drudgery and excess of the bourgeois lifestyle, as six wealthy friends continuously fail to eat a meal together. Despite delving deeper and deeper into the surreal, the film is totally manageable and, well, charming. Expect great clothes, relentless mocking of social conventions, and a Jarry-esque critique of how Europe views Latin America with the made-up Republic of Miranda.

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Brittled Banana Cream Pie

Earlier this summer, I toyed with the idea of incorporating brittle into other dishes. Banana cream pie continued to emerge as top contender. The brittle would provide some serious contrast in texture to the smooth cream pie and both dishes embody a sort of retro feel I find totally appealing.

The resulting combination turned out to be delicious. For my pie, I followed Gale Gand’s recipe, but substituted her pie crust for a graham cracker crust. Gale used to host a dessert show on Food Network and has won the James Beard Award for best Pastry Chef.My brittle recipe comes from a woman named Ginny from Bradenton, Florida. Wikipedia notes that Bradenton “is the largest Principal City of the Bradenton- Sarasota-Venice, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area” and houses the multiple-award-winning theatre group, The Manatee Players. Ginny’s recipe is featured on the Nut Factory’s website.  Thanks Gale and Ginny! 

*Please note that I replaced the granulated sugar in both recipes with raw cane sugar and my brittle was made with raw cashews, instead of peanuts. I used raw cane sugar because I realized last minute my pantry’s supply of white sugar was low and I used cashews because raw peanuts are apparently unavailable for the residents of Boca Raton. (I’m looking at you, Publix, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market…)

Ginny’s Peanut Brittle (in her own words):

This is a very simple recipe from my husband’s family. what makes it so delicious is how light and airy it is and not at all sticky. You achieve this by adding the soda after you take it off the heat. 

1 cup light corn syrup 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 tablespoon butter 
1/4 teaspoon salt
raw peanuts 
(however many you like)  
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda 

put all the ingredients, except the peanuts and soda, in a deep sauce pan. Put on medium heat. stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Now add the peanuts. Stirring at all times, take mixture to 290 on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in one heaping teaspoon baking soda (make sure baking soda is fresh). Now pour out on a greased cookie sheet. do not tip cookie sheet to thin, this peanut brittle is best when thick which makes it more airy. 

The resulting brittle will look something like this…

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Once the brittle has cooled completely, crack it into large pieces with the back of a wood spoon and bag for friends and family to enjoy.  To prepare the brittle for this dish, continue to whack at the brittle until you have enough small chunks to cover the surface of a 9×9 inch pie (about 1 1/2 cups.) 

Graham Cracker Crust:

1 1/2 cups of graham Cracker Crumbs

1/3 cup of sugar

6 tablespoons of Melted Butter

Mix all ingredients until well combined. Pack mixture into a 9 x 9 pie dish and bake at 375 F for about 8 minutes (until golden).

Banana Cream Filling: (Gale’s recipe makes 2 pies, so this is her recipe divided by two. I still am not totally sure why a recipe would make two pies, but whatever)

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise (ff&f note: I used a beautiful Ugandan vanilla bean, which was very large. If your bean seems small or a little dried out, feel free to use the whole bean.) 
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3  tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 ripe bananas, sliced into coins 1/4-inch thick (ff&f note: + 1/2 banana sliced into semi-circles for garnish) 

Beat egg yokes and sugar until light and frothy. Slowly add in the cornstarch. (Seriously, add the cornstarch slowly… I got a little ambitious and launched a massive cloud of cornstarch all over me and the counter.) 

Heat milk, salt, and vanilla in a large sauce pot until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from burner and stir for one minute to let thicken.

Slowly pour half of hot milk mixture into egg yoke mixture to temper the yokes. Pour the egg and milk mixture back in pot and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Lower heat (Gale says to medium low, but I needed to set it to low) and continue to whisk until mixture becomes a think custard and no longer tastes of cornstarch. (about 4-5 minutes) 

Remove custard from burner and add the pieces of butter. Once the butter pats melt, fold in the 3 sliced bananas and pour the filling into the pie shell. Gale recommends you push in any sliced bananas to avoid browning. Let the pie cool in the fridge for anywhere from 6 hours to overnight. 

Top pie with chunks of brittle and whipped cream. Serve and enjoy.

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Jónsi and Alex- Riceboy Sleeps

 Jónsi and Alex is the musical project of  Sigur Rós’ lead singer, Jónsi Birgisson, and his beau, Alex Somers.  

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The duo is releasing their first album, Riceboy Sleeps, on July 20, but you might have also heard their track “Happiness” on the Dark was the Night charity CD. One of the Riceboy Sleeps tracks, Boy 1904, has been floating around online. The song is totally ethereal and features the vocals from “the last castrato singer” (which means sort of what it sounds like.. :-/. ). Give it a listen here…

riceboysleeps_boy1904.mp3

I like Terri Timely

If you are like me, you might  know who Terri Timely is (are) and not even KNOW IT. They have made music videos for Joanna Newsom, Midlake, and, most recently, St. Vincent. You can watch lots of their stuff on the Terri Timely website. Their short films are really fun to watch (“Children are a Gift” is hysterical.) It would seem they prefer stylized and colorful films, which is fine by me. 

I definitely recommend you check out “Synesthesia.” Here are some tempting stills taken from the website. 

SynesthesiaScreen2_thirds  (from Synesthesia)

Picture_142_thirds (From Children are a Gift)

Mid5_thirds (From Midlake’s “Young Bride” Vid)