Monday, November 22, 2010

Orange Cornmeal Cake and Upside Down Cake

There are several recipes floating around for orange cornmeal cake. This version is less sweet than most, and uses frozen OJ rather than fresh. After having to use 4 oranges to get 1/2 c. juice, and determining the grated rind most recipes call for is a little bitter, I moved to the frozen version. Much easier, more predictable, and I can keep the juice in the freezer so I always have it on hand.

Orange Cornmeal Cake - Variation I
This is the basic cake, with just a simple sugar crust for a frosting. Delicious after a heavy, spicy meal.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar plus 1/4 c. sugar for the topping
1/2 cup orange juice (I've had trouble with dry oranges so use 2 T. concentrated frozen orange juice diluted with water to make the 1/2 c.)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan with oil (can use butter for this); line the bottom of the pan with wax paper or parchment paper, and brush the top of the paper with oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and orange juice until smooth. Add flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, whisk lightly to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan; sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes.

Cool the cake in the pan 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to separate it from the edge of the pan. Invert the cake gently onto a plate, and remove the parchment paper. Re-invert the cake onto a rack to cool completely before serving. Do not leave it sitting on it's top, the crispy sugar topping will get soggy and stick to the plate.  Serves 8.

Variation II - Pineapple Cornmeal Upside-down Cake
This is a rather elegant version of the cake above. It's a little more work, but is so moist and flavorful it's worth the effort!

Topping Ingredients
3 T. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. dried cranberries or cherries
1/3 c. halves or pieces of pecans or walnuts
1  15 oz. can pineapple chunks - drain and save the liquid to use in the cake mixture.

Line a 10 inch cast iron skillet with release foil. Over medium flame melt
3 T. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
Continue to simmer this mixture until slightly thickened.
Stir in the drained pineapple chunks and simmer until they take on a little of the brown sugar color.
Remove from the heat. Distribute the pineapple evenly over the pan, then place the nuts and dried fruit evenly around the pan, between the pineapple pieces. Allow this mixture to cool while you mix the cake.

Follow the directions above, using the pineapple juice, reduced over a low flame if necessary, to combine with the frozen orange juice to make the required 1/2 cup.
Mix the cake following the variation I directions, then spread the batter over the mixture in the skillet.

Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake tests done when pierced with a toothpick. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then place a large plate over the pan and turn over, peel off the release foil and allow the cake to cool another 15-20 minutes or more before slicing.Top with ice cream or whipped cream if so desired.

Serves 8.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pringle Falls Potatoes

We came up with this recipe while camping at Pringle Falls, in Oregon. Served with smoked pork loin it made a might satisfying meal. The recipe is easily expanded for a larger group, using a larger Dutch oven, and can be cooked without any major changes in a household oven.
  • 2 slices smoked bacon
  • 4-5 medium size potatoes sliced thin
  • 1/2 large white onion sliced thin
  • 1/2 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 c. diced carrot
  • 2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder
Slice 2 strips of smoked bacon into 1/2 inch pieces, brown in a 10 or 12 inch Dutch oven, then lift out the bacon bits, drain off and save most of the fat.
Layer half of each of the above vegetables and cheeses, add the seasonings, drizzle a little of the bacon fat and sprinkle a few of the bacon bits over the mix, then repeat the layers, ending with the cheeses and bacon bits.
Pour 3/4 c. water or broth over the mixture.

Using 14 top coals and 14 bottom coals, cook for about 30 minutes, then pull most of the bottom coals out to the outer edges of the pot. Turn pot and lid every 10 minutes. Check at 30 minutes and before finishing to be sure the potatoes aren't sticking to the bottom. If they start to stick add a little more liquid and pull away the rest of the bottom coals, placing them on the top.

Serves 4-6 depending on how large the potatoes were.

Dutch Oven Bread

I've made bread completely by hand, using a KitchenAid mixer, and using a bread machine. I've never had bread come out as well as this simple recipe, baked in a Dutch oven.

Step 1
1/3 c. warm water
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 T. sugar
1 pkt. Red Star Quick Rising Yeast
Mix together in a medium size bowl, cover and let stand one hour at room temperature.
When the mixture has set for an hour it should be bubbly.

Step 2
Beat together:
1 egg
2 T. vegetable oil
1/3 c. water or milk (room temperature)
Add this mixture to the yeast and allow to stand, covered, in a fairly warm place until the mixture is frothy. 

Step 3
Combine the dry ingredients so the salt is evenly distributed
1 t. salt
2 c. white flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
(can also substitute 1/2 c. cornmeal for part of the white flour)

Add the special flours and salt to the wet ingredients and beat until it appears a bit stretchy. Then gradually stir in the remaining flour 1/2 c. at a time until you have a nice elastic ball that isn't too sticky.

Turn out on to a lightly floured board and knead until no longer sticky.
Shape dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl, oil the top of the dough. Cover and let rise until double in size.

When doubled, turn out again onto a lightly floured board, knead until all the air is worked out, shape into a flat ball and place into an oiled 10 (or 12) inch Dutch oven (or loaf pan). (If the air is cold warm the oven slightly.) Allow dough to rise about 20 minutes, more if the weather is cold. It should nearly double before baking.

Use 12 (16) top coals and  9 (12) bottom coals. Keep the top coals toward the outside edge of the lid. After 12 minutes pull the bottom coals out to the edge of the kettle and continue baking with only top coals. Bake 20 - 25 minutes. (Numbers of coals and time are pure suggestions. So much depends on wind and temperature, you'll need to adjust to fit the situation.) [Bake 20 minutes at 375 F in a regular oven]

Serves 4 - 6. Don't count on serving more than four if you bring out the blackberry jam!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maria Antoinette's Eggplant Parmesan

When we were visiting with friends this summer they served this absolutely scrumptious eggplant Parmesan dish. This variation is firmer than most, and not soggy, due to the eggplant being browned without the usual egg coating. It's a great main dish, but also works well as a side dish for a nice BBQ'd steak.
2 large eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch slices
8 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
4 cups marinara or tomato sauce
    Brown the eggplant in the oil over med-high heat. Drain on paper towels for several hours to pull out all the extra oil.
    Layer in a deep 9x13 baking dish: egg plant, sauce Parmesan and mozzarella and basil, then repeat, using just Parmesan for the very last layer. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. You want the entire dish to be really hot throughout, but not over cooked and mushy.

    Makes about 8 servings.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Chris's Lakeside Piña Colada

    While we were visiting with friends on Lake Payette our host made the best (and most potent) margaritas we'd ever had. He said it was a spur-of-the moment recipe, so as he made the second batch we wrote down the ingredients. Chris used a Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker to process the beverage. These machines have a two-stage ice crushing system, which produces a really thick, smooth product like you get in restaurants. If you don't have such a thing, start out with your ice partially crushed so your blender doesn't have to work so hard.

    Ingredients to make 36 oz. of Piña Colada
    14 oz. Mr. & Mrs.T Piña Colada mix (or your favorite)
     2 oz. Cream de Banana
     4 oz. Bacardi Coconut Rum
     2-4 oz. Sailor Jerry Spiced rum
     1 qt. ice

    Blend and enjoy beside the lake!

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Slow-cooker Banana Bread

    Whether you call it a slow-cooker or a Crock-Pot, these little appliances are the answer to cooking in hot weather. You do have to plan ahead a bit, but it's amazing what you can cook in one. When we're out traveling in our RV in hot weather I really hesitate to start up the oven as it puts a lot of heat out into the living area, and it can be really hard to get it cooled off again. Consequently, I don't bake much in the summer, and I start missing some of my favorite things. The craving for baked goodies and a hand full of overripe bananas resulted in a brain storm recently - slow-cooker banana bread! I didn't have a cook book along except for the Dutch oven cookbook we'd purchased recently at a state park visitor's center, so I started with that, adjusted the amounts a bit, and this is the result. It does take 3 hours to bake, but it doesn't heat up the house, and you can plug the pot in anywhere there's electricity. It was 104 outside the day I baked this (that's why I wasn't excited about cooking over hot coals!), so I plugged it in to the outlet on the side of the RV and let 'er bake!

    Before you start mixing the batter, plug in a small (2 qt.) slow cooker, set to HIGH and spray with no-stick cooking spray. 

    1/2 c. brown sugar
    1/3 c. Smart Balance
    2 eggs
    1 c. mashed very ripe banana (about 2 large bananas)
    1/2 t. each cinnamon and Bitters
    1/4 t. ground nutmeg
    1 t. baking soda
    1 t. baking powder
    1/2 t. salt
    1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
    1/2 c. chopped pecans

    Cream together the sugar and Smart Balance, blend in and then beat each of the eggs. Stir in the banana and the salt and the spices. Sprinkle 3/4 c. flout over the mixture and stir it in. Sprinkle the remaining 1 c. flour and all the baking soda and baking powder over the mixture, then beat until thoroughly blended. Stir in the nuts, then pour the batter into the heated pot.

    Cover with the lid and bake for 3 hours. Test with a knife or toothpick to be sure it's done in the middle before turning it out of the pot. This obviously does not yield the typical loaf shape. Slice it in half from top to bottom, the with the cut side down, make half circle slices. The resulting shape is pretty similar to a loaf slice that way. The top won't be brown as it does if cooked in the oven,  but the sides brown up pretty well, so you don't have the damp effect you get with a microwave baked product.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Mexican Pickled Carrots

    I first had these crispy pickles at a little Mexican restaurant near the University of Oregon. They're a perfect appetizer or side to tacos and other standard fare. The heat is easily adjusted by varying the amount of jalapenos that are used.
    2 lbs large carrots, peeled and sliced into ⅛ inch thick pieces
    ½ large white onion cut in ¼ inch slices
    5 cloves garlic peeled and diced
    1 ¾ cups cider vinegar
    1 ¾ cups water
    10 bay leaves, whole
    1 tablespoon peppercorns
    1 teaspoon salt
    3 oz. pickled jalapenos

    Combine vinegar, water, peppercorns, salt, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes and then add the carrots. Simmer 5 minutes. Add the jalapenos along with a little of the juice they were packed in and bring to a simmer again for another 5-10 minutes. Check for texture = you want the carrot slices firm, but tender enough to bite easily, not limp and mushy.

    Let the carrots cool to at least room temperature and then transfer the carrots and cooking liquid into a covered container and refrigerate overnight. It improves the flavor if you layer in a little fresh cilantro, but do this only if they will be eaten within a few days.
    Transfer hot into canning jars and seal. You can combine the carrots with fresh cilantro at serving time if you seal  them.

    Store the carrots in the liquid in the refrigerator and use a slotted spoon or pickle tongs to serve them. You may leave the bay leaves in the liquid to add to the flavor, but do not eat them.
    This proportion of jalapenos produces an only slightly hot pickle. Double it for more fire. The pickles also pick up more “heat” if they stand for several weeks. Best stored in the refrigerator a few days before serving so the flavors mingle, they will keep for several weeks.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Aunt Flora's Shoepeg Corn Salad

    We had this salad at a family reunion this summer and thought it was one of the best summer side dishes we'd come across. It's adapted from one served at a famous steakhouse near Snyder, TX. The dressing in this version is a little less sweet, but that certainly can be adjusted to individual tastes. The salad calls specifically for shoepeg corn. This is a common ingredient in southern cooking, but may be difficult to find elsewhere. [We found it in Nevada in Walmart and another local grocery store. In one store it was in with regular canned corn, in the other it was with black-eyed peas and other "specialty" canned vegetables, so look over the whole department before you give up.]

    Shoepeg corn kernels are smaller, crisper, sweeter than most corn, but if you can't locate it use frozen or good quality whole kernel petite white corn and the results will be similar. The original recipe called for canned corn peas and French green beans, so that's what I started with, but I've tried using frozen and I think you get a fresher texture and better color, so those amounts are included in parentheses in the recipe. I undercooked the frozen veggies by just a smidge so they wouldn't get too soft. I cooked each separately as they all required different times by a minute or two, but used the same liquid to preserve some of the flavors.

    1 can French style green beans (1 1/2 c. frozen, cooked according to package directions)
    1 can LeSure English peas (1 1/2 c. frozen, cooked according to package directions)
    1 can shoepeg corn (1 1/2 c. frozen shoepeg or petite white whole kernel)
    1 c. celery (diced small)
     2 oz. canned pimiento (chopped)
    1/2 c. green pepper (chopped)
    1/2 c.  red or yellow pepper (chopped)
    1 bunch green. onions (chopped - use white and green parts)

    1/3 c. cider vinegar
    1/2 c. sugar
    2/3 c. salad oil (or half salad and half olive)
    1 tbsp. water
    1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper

    Drain canned vegetables, or prepare frozen and cool, then combine in large bowl. Add diced fresh vegetables. Bring dressing ingredients to a rolling boil. Cook 2 minutes, cool. Pour over vegetable mixture, store covered in refrigerator overnight before serving so the flavors mingle. This salad keeps well. It's a great salad by itself, or used as a garnish on a mixed green salad.

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Pimento Cheese

    When my dear husband said, "There's a great recipe for pimento cheese in the electric co-op magazine that I want to try",  I have to admit I looked at him cross-eyed. My childhood memories of pimento cheese involved a disagreeable paste one scooped out of little glass pots that later turned into juice glasses. This is not even vaguely related to that stuff. Pimento cheese is a classic in the South, and you'll find a wide variety of approaches, using all kinds of cheese and varying spices.

    The original recipe from an article in the PerdernalesEC Edition of the Teas Co-op Power magazine (March 2010), by Juddi Morris:
    Juddi's Pimento Cheese
    1 pound grated longhorn or mild or sharp Cheddar cheese
    6 ounces chopped pimento
    1/2 c. minced onion
    1/2 c. chopped green olives
    3 T. capers
    2/3 c. mayonnaise

    I increased the amounts slightly, and thought it needed a bit more mayonnaise than the original proportions, so here's the final version.
    1 1/2 pounds grated cheddar cheese (fine or coarse grate, your choice) this is about 5 c.
    8 oz. chopped pimento
    3/4 c. minced onion
    3/4 c. chopped green olives (pimento stuffed type)
    4 T. capers (chopped)
    1 1/4 c. mayonnaise

    Combine all ingredients, then to meet your own tastes, add any of the following:
    Tabasco, fresh lime juice, minced jalapeno peppers or other peppers of choice, chili powder, or anything else that appeals to you! My taste testers insisted it didn't need any of the additional ingredients suggested, so we continue to make it this way. It's great as a dip or sandwich filling, and goes well with sliced ham or roast beef. Good also on sourdough bread or plain crackers.