November 26, 2013

these two...

What do you bring to the table? Me? I bring Teddie's Apple Cake and White Bean and Fennel Dip. And I'm not talking just about the Thanksgiving table, I'm talking about any table - the book club table, the play group table, the you-just-had-a-baby table, the Sunday football table, the Saturday apero table, and the let's-get-together-for-the-heck-of-it-table. I figured in the spirt of all the gathering that will happen this week that it was a good time to share my gather go-tos, the ones I'm constantly asked about and continually make and yet never seem to have time to write about. 

These are both homey recipes in that they are made from a few simple ingredients and will make you feel all warm and cozy when you eat them. If you have a hand-knitted scarf at hand I suggest you wear it while eating the dip and for the cake I recommend fleece slippers. Neither of these recipes are fancy, but is anyone really looking for fancy when the sidle up to the spread of appetizers or slice into a piece of cake? I'm going to go with no. And if you're with me on that, I think you should keep reading. 

Let's start with the cake. Teddie's Apple Cake has made the internet rounds. I think that's probably why I haven't written about it here - it's a been there done that cake. Unless of course you haven't been there or done that in which case, get on it! At the risk of being repetitive let's chat about the virtues of this cake. First, you need to know that it's rustic, crumbly at the edges with a soft center studded with large apple chunks, walnuts and raisins. It's not a dainty cake. Secondly, because it's made with vegetable oil and not butter it has an incredibly moist, yet sturdy crumb and can keep for days without drying out. I made one last Tuesday for play group and I finished the last piece on Sunday for breakfast. That's six days of cake. Thirdly, the top crust, it's all about the top crust. I've been known to eat just the top off the cake after the guests have left. It's not in the original recipe but you've gotta sprinkle the top with cinnamon-sugar. It is so good. The cinnamon and sugar crystallize on the surface making for a sweet and crunchy bite, a perfect partner to the melt-in-your-mouth apples.

Teddie's Apple Cake : 1973 NYTimes, unearthed by Amanda Hesser 2007

butter for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups apples (about 3 apples), cubed
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan

Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer. After five minutes add in the eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated and the batter is creamy.  

Sift together the flour, salt and cinnamon and add to the batter. Add the vanilla followed by the apples, walnuts and raisins. 

Pour into the buttered and floured pan. Sprinkle the batter with a healthy dose of cinnamon-sugar. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted. Let the cake cool before turning it out onto a wire wrack.
As I write about gatherings, I should note that they have become a key piece to my sanity the past few months. It is vital that we get out of the house everyday and see people, preferably friends. If we don't I get a little stir crazy and Alice risks turning into a pumpkin, one with a sly grin and threatening eyes. Yesterday was a good reminder of that. I had set aside the day to cook because I wanted to share these recipes with you and so our only outing was a super speedy trip to the store and back. All was going splendidly until it came time to put Alice down for her second nap, which was to be my cooking time, and she decided that she didn't want to take a nap. There was a lot of yelling and most of it was timed perfectly with the buzzer on the oven, pulling me in two directions. Alice was relegated to her swing to cool off while I haphazardly hustled around the kitchen. Have you ever tried to do anything while a baby is crying? How about while your baby is crying? Gah! I challenge you. It's impossible to think let alone measure ingredients. 

Anywho, at some point after lifting her in and out of her crib, the swing, and the bouncy seat she finally fell asleep on the couch and I ventured back to the kitchen to finish up this dip. 

This is the best dip on the planet. It's warm, it's flavorful, it's reasonably healthy and it makes people smile. The cannellini beans provide for a smooth foundation on which the hearty flavors of roasted fennel, garlic and rosemary can really shine. I like to eat it with bread, but it takes just as well to carrots or tortilla chips. It's versatile. Eat it with veggies and bread and serve it at an apero, or pair it with tortilla chips and serve it at a football party.

White Bean and Fennel Dip : adapted from Food52
Over the years - wow it really has been years - I've cut back on the amount of olive oil. The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of olive oil, but I've found that too be a bit too much. The beans themselves are so smooth and pillowy once pureed that you really only need a small amount of oil to achieve the desired consistency and flavor.

for the roasted Fennel
2 medium sized fennel bulbs, cut in chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves still in papery shell

for the cannellini bean puree
1/4 cup of olive oil plus 2 Tbsp
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans (from 2 cans)
1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the chopped fennel and garlic on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until the fennel is brown at the edges and soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool on the roasting pan. Once cool remove the garlic from their skins.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the minced garlic and cook until lightly golden. Add in the cannellini beans and rosemary. Stir for two minutes and then take off the heat. Add in the roasted fennel, garlic and lemon juice. Puree in a food processor or with an emersion blender until smooth. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and half of the parmesan cheese. (you can add more oil if you want, I sometimes do if it seems a bit too thick). Smooth out in a baking dish and top with the remaining cheese.

Raise the oven temperature to 450º and bake until golden and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Here's Alice, all nice and happy after her nap on the couch. It didn't last long. For some reason last night at bedtime she went completely bonkers. Up until the last two nights she's been easy to put down at night. I have no idea what happened. She eventually went down after an hour of red faced crying and I went into the kitchen and ate a big slice of cake while wearing my slippers and a knitted scarf. 

November 21, 2013

I never would have guessed

I never would have guessed... that I'd find myself sining the Wheels on the Bus while cutting out the backbone from a chicken. Yet there I was last Sunday night doing exactly that...with a little add lib here and there..."the kiddies on the bus say "we want chicken! we want chicken! we want chicken!" ... all through the town." My hands were gross and the little lady was fussy so I sang and sang and sliced and sliced until the backbone was clean and Alice calm. 

I never would have guessed... it would go by this quickly. I know, yadda yadda, so cliche, but it is going by so fast. Alice is almost 4 months. Gasp! I got her to giggle for the first time yesterday. We were dancing in front of the mirror, and there it was, a little chuckle. I nearly died. My heart exploded. (My heart seems to have a fast recovery time considering how many times it's exploded in the last 4 months.) 

I never would have guessed... I'd spend so much time thinking about Alice's sleep. On any given day I have no idea when she'll sleep or for how long. I can tell you that she'll likely take four naps, but when they occur and how long they last is only known by some little sleep center in Alice's brain. Right now she is taking a long nap, almost an hour and a half, which is lovely and amazing, for me and her. You see, Alice's sleep and the blog are deeply connected, because when she naps I can blog. So along with sleep I'd say I never would have guessed it would be this hard to blog. I miss it. I crave it. And yet, it's still hard to get to.

I never would have guessed...that homemade challah would be this good. Ever since Darcy posted the recipe I have been dying to make it. There's something about making your own bread that is incredibly satisfying. It's easy, yet it feels like such a worthwhile accomplishment. I've been delighting in buttered toast and avocado sandwiches and dreaming of French toast and bread pudding.

.... and here are a few favorites from my iphone.....
1) Alice all bundled for an excursion outside
2) yes, my baby has a bald spot - will it ever grow back?
3) my little Who from Whoville - reading Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who
4) a nice evening stroll
5) Alice and I rode the Chocolate Tram around town. She was eyeing all the treats.
6) cozy in her sleep sack
7 ) Fall! I love Fall!
8) Alice busy playing with her toy gym.

...and the little lady is still sleeping - from start to finish in one nap time - it's a blogging miracle :)