There was little doubt that my latest science project would work, but I wanted to know how long it would take and whether it was worth the effort.
I’d been reading that green onions will grow indoors in a mere glass of water with roots attached. Now, that’s appealing. Rather than throwing trimming away, I love the idea of recycling onions for another growth or two.
This summer my doorstep garden has kept up a steady supply of my favorite herbs, but I’ve missed fresh picked chives or green onions. When I returned home from grocery shopping with another bag of very healthy green onions, I was more than ready.
I got busy, grabbed a handful of green onions, chopped all the greens off, down into their whites and set the pile aside for later use.
I located a small jar, perched the 2-inch rooted starts around the edge and poured an inch or so of filtered water into the bottom. Like most sun loving plants they do best with at least 6 hours of sun per day, and my summer kitchen window supplies that and more. They get a daily change of water and grow so fast it’s like having a live YouTube channel for entertainment.
By the end of week one, the green onions had grown from 2-inch starts to 6-7 inch lengths. Now, that’s cause for celebration! I cut 4 onions down to 2-inches again.
Enough to make a batch of scallion pancakes.
½ cup AP flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning or salt & pepper blend
2 Tbsp minced green onion
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup water, approx.
½ Tbsp canola oil
1. In bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Add the minced green onion and blend well.
2. Beat the egg and stir into the flour. Add enough water to form consistency of pancake batter.
3. Heat skillet over medium-high heat with oil.
4. Drop 1 tablespoon or more batter onto skillet, cook cakes until bubbles form on top, turn and cook 2-3 minutes per side. Makes 6-12 cakes, depending on size.
Finish idea: top with thin sliced smoked salmon, salted yogurt, and a sprinkle of green onion.
I finally came up with a smoked salmon pizza that makes sense. I love the idea but have been stuck on a Nova salmon approach for so long, I missed the obvious.
I had to get beyond the New York Nova style salmon, the cold smoked process that we think of with bagels and lox. In my mind, this equated to adding salmon after baking the pizza to preserve its delicate smoked essence.
Well, of course. Here in the Pacific Northwest, hot smoked salmon is king. That smoking process delivers a bolder, firmer, deeply smoked salmon that’s unflinchingly good, whether hot or cold.
Once out of that box, a concept finally emerged, a hot smoked salmon pizza with a buckwheat crust topped with toasted onion rings.
I’d retain some elements associated with traditional Nova, but for this pizza I’d veer off with a buckwheat infused crust. I’d keep it simple with a light white sauce and bites of the hot smoked salmon graced with toasted sweet onion rings, capers, dill and rosemary.
There’s nothing complicated with any of these moving parts, but they do require a little advance work.
The buckwheat crust brings a toasted nuttiness which is lovely with the salmon. I often use buckwheat in baking as an alternative to whole wheat and stock a small amount of the flour purchased in bulk for occasional use.
The crust is the usual pizza dough here, substituting ½ cup buckwheat flour for ½ cup AP, if no buckwheat go with wheat flour if you have it. Since the dough only needs a few minutes to rise and pats out like a dream, I tend to continue on and prebake 2 medium crusts (or 1 large) because they freeze so well. This way, finishing a pizza can be done at my own speed rather than futzing with dough at the last minute.
For the onion, I opt for sliced sweet onion which is not caramelized in the true sense. Rather, the rings are kept as intact slices and laid onto a flat skillet with a light coating of butter and evoo. The slices are left to toast undisturbed, then flipped over and browned a little longer for a total of 10-12 minutes.
The sauce is essentially a light Mornay enriched with a little Asiago cheese and a dollop of thick yogurt. It’s flour base provides stability for the yogurt— which holds beautifully and supplies a creamy bright edge rather than richness.
The pizza makes a superb dinner with salad. As you would expect, it is delish the next day for breakfast.
Smoked Salmon Pizza with Buckwheat Crust & Toasted Onion Rings
1-2 tsp evoo for pan
1 recipe Quick & Easy Pizza Dough
½ cup buckwheat flour (or whole wheat flour)
5 oz hot smoked salmon Toasted Onion Rings
2 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, slices Cheese Sauce
2 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp AP flour
¼ tsp each salt, ⅛ tsp white pepper
2 Tbsp Asiago or Parmesan cheese
½ cup liquid: stock, water, etc.
½ cup milk
⅓ cup thick yogurt Finish
½ cup Asiago or Parmesan, grated
¼ tsp or more coarse ground pepper
2 tsp capers, drain
2 tsp mixed fresh herbs: rosemary and dill
Prepare dough, substitute ½ cup AP Flour with ½ buckwheat flour. Let rise 10-20 minutes. For medium pizza, use ½ recipe. For large pizza, use entire recipe.
To toast onion, heat butter and olive oil over medium/low heat in wide skillet or on a griddle. Lay sliced rounds of onion into pan and toast until golden; carefully turn and toast second side, for a total of 10-15 minutes. Remove rings, cool on plate and set aside.
For Cheese Sauce, in small saucepan heat butter and oil over medium/low heat. Add the flour, salt, and pepper and stir for 3-4 minutes. Add the cheese to melt and then stir in ½ cup liquid to dissolve flour, then add the milk, stirring to create a sauce. Stir in the yogurt, combine and heat briefly. Adjust seasoning and set aside.
Shape ½ the dough with oiled hands onto oiled 9-10” pizza pan or pat out all for 1 large crust. It can be prebaked at this point, see dough recipe.
Spread the dough with Cheese Sauce.
Divide the salmon into chunks and arrange evenly oven the sauce. Drape with onion rings.
Sprinkle with ground pepper, grated cheese, capers and herbs.
Bake 425-450°F until bubbly and top begins to color, 18-25 minutes. Makes 1 medium/large pizza
I was in the mood for a quick pasta dinner and all I had in my pantry was a package of bow ties, likely an impulse buy. For pasta staples I tend to stick with the basics, a linguine or similar strand, a tube such as rigatoni, a lasagna type, and a smaller shape such as acini.
I started the whole project late; it was closing in on dinnertime, so it needed to be straight forward. I envisioned a fast tomato sauce, the pasta, a little kale for roughage, and fill in with mozzarella and Parmesan.
Actually, this evolved into a one-pot meal in a hurry and turned out to be an incredibly nice surprise.
I started by making a marinara sauce of sorts. Once it was underway, I added chopped kale. Then, I decided to throw in the dried bow ties plus a little extra water to extend the sauce. Why not cook it all together? I ventured.
In the time it took to simmer the sauce a few minutes the pasta was al dente and had absorbed much of the excess liquid. I poured it all into a quiche dish, tucked mozzarella pieces into the crevices of the bowties, sprinkled on a little Parmesan, and baked it long enough to melt the cheese, make a salad, and clean up.
The surprise was that the bow ties expanded but retained their mouth-sized shape and held together. Their curly edges and flat surfaces were ooooozing with sauce and cheese. Oh, my. If you are a sauce (and cheese) lover, this is the way get it!
One-Pot Bow Ties & Kale in Marinara Sauce
2-3 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, cut into strips
1 cubanelle or other mild-medium hot pepper, seed and cut into strips
1 clove garlic, mash & mince
½ tsp dried oregano or basil
1 tsp fresh rosemary
16 oz can crushed tomatoes
8 oz can tomato sauce
½ tsp salt, pinch crushed red pepper
3-4 leaves kale, cut away center rib, chop bite-sized
1 cup water, approx.
8 oz pasta bow ties
4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 1”x ¾”x ½” thick strips
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese.
In a sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium heat; add onion to soften. Stir in the green pepper, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic. Add herbs, cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomato products, salt and pepper, and simmer 5 minutes.
Stir in the cut up kale, 1 cup water, and cook to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Pour the pasta into an oiled wide quiche dish.To finish, tuck mozzarella into the pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Cover with foil and bake at 350-375°F for 20 minutes, remove foil for the last 10 minutes, until bubbly and cheese is melted.
Serves 3 or more
Note To add ½ lb ground sausage or beef, brown it first; drain and proceed.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all trying to stay as healthy as possible. We are told to drink lots of water, get plenty of rest, exercise, and hopefully, find a dose of sunshine. In times of self-isolation, that can be a daily challenge.
Keeping our immune systems healthy is important, too. One way we can do that to is to eat more colorful vegetables, those that are especially rich in vitamins and minerals. Sweet, bright carrots fall into that category. Of all vegetables, they are the highest in Vitamin A and beta carotene—known to boost the immune system.Carrots store incredibly well and are nearly indestructible. If the fridge is getting empty, chances are there are still carrots. These days, that is a very good thing. Here’s a carrot dish that does not deserve last choice.
Carrot Coriander Soup evolved from my desire for something different than the usual ginger-carrot affinity; I wanted more complexity. Coriander, a longtime favorite was the obvious choice, and this soup remains a reliable player in my repertoire.
There’s not much to it, beyond a few vegetables. Once cooked, the carrots are pureed with an immersion blender until smooth, and it is magically transformed. This soup is so good, I can never decide which way I prefer it most, hot or cold? That’s another bonus.
Carrot Coriander Soup
2 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, mash & mince
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp salt
2 tsp fresh ginger, peel and grate
1½ lbs carrots (5 medium), peel, cut in half lengthwise and chop
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
cilantro, mint or chopped green onion
In a soup pot over medium heat, heat the butter, add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Stir in the coriander through the ginger and cook for 1 minute to release flavors. Add carrots tossing for a minute to combine.
Pour in stock, bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
Using an immersion blender, puree the carrot mixture until smooth. Reheat the soup and simmer 5-10 minutes; if too thick, thin with a small amount of water. Adjust seasoning. Serve hot or well chilled with a dollop of yogurt, garnish with fresh herbs. Serves 3-4.
Optional Prior to serving, combine ½ cup plain yogurt with ¼ cup hot soup to temper. Stir yogurt into soup but do not boil.
Incorporating vegetables into desserts is an appealing way to slip more valuable nutrients into our daily food intake. Carrot and zucchini cakes are solutions, likely loaded with exorbitant amounts of oil and smeared with heavy-duty cream cheese toppings. Any natural benefits have been all but cancelled out.
Delicious but not devastating, that’s my goal. Trying to elevate the plight of vegetable desserts, here’s my latest take on zucchini cake. First, I’ve learned that steaming, rather than conventional baking, can introduce moisture and lower the need for massive doses of oil.
I zeroed in on two other ingredients of interest: chocolate and nuts. I like the chocolate and zucchini combination—but chocolate easily overwhelms, and I’m not looking for another chocolate cake (probably one of few to so admit). Nuts add deep taste, complexity, and crunch. Then, it made perfect sense: why not keep it simple and go with cacao nibs? They have all that, and more.
There is a difference between regular chocolate and nibs. Typical chocolate bars come from cacao seeds, which are fermented, ground, and further processed. Cacao nibs are crumbled pieces from the exterior cacao bean shell, with a bitter chocolate punch and nutty texture. Nibs are rich in flavonoid antioxidants, minerals, and more; they contribute plenty of fiber—but nothing extreme as gnawing on wood.
I’ve included another duo that works well together: coriander and orange. Instead of the usual grated zest, I’ve gone with tiny nibs of minced orange peel (white removed) for a super-charged citrus flavor that’s offset by the exotic perfume of coriander. The backdrop for all of this comes from a huge surplus of green summer squash, rather than zucchini.
The cake steams in 35 minutes—literally from the inside out—it cooks thoroughly, thanks to the center hole in the bundt pan. You would never guess it had been steamed; once turned out of the pan and cooled, it appears browned and perfectly baked. The cake’s surprisingly light texture is speckled with flavorful flecks from the orange, green squash, and chocolate brown cacao nibs. It’s quite a party!
Update! The pressurized steaming process also softens the cacao nibs. As the cake rests, the nibs seem to bloom (stored in the fridge). Their nubby texture relaxes, and more complex chocolate qualities unfold. Fascinating… and highly delicious.
Steamed Zucchini Cake with Cacao and Orange Nibs
1½ cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp each baking soda and salt
1 tsp coriander
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup each granulated sugar and brown sugar
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups grated zucchini or summer squash, skin on
2 tsp orange peel, white removed, sliver and chop well
⅓ cup roasted cacao nibs
Thinly coat 8” bundt pan with Baker’s or nonstick spray.
Prepare Instant Pot or other multicooker: fill with 1½ cup water and insert trivet. Cut aluminum foil cover for pan and prepare sling for pan.
Combine flour through spices together and set aside.
In mixing bowl whisk eggs, then beat in the oil. Whisk in the sugar to fully combine, and then stir in the yogurt and vanilla. Add the zucchini. Stir in the dry ingredients just to incorporate and finally add the cacao and orange nibs. Scrape batter into the bundt pan and level the surface.
Begin heating multicooker, set to Sauté More. Add 1 ½ cup water and place the trivet in pot.
Cover filled bundt pan with foil. Fold the other length of foil into a long sling. Wrap it under the pan, up the sides, over the top, and lower it into the pot.
Seal pot with lid, reset to Hi Pressure for 35 minutes. When complete, turn off unit, disconnect and let rest undisturbed for 10 minutes. Slowly release remaining pressure and open the lid. Using the foil sling, carefully lift pan out of pot and onto a rack. Remove foil and cool for 10 minutes. With thin knife, loosen any edges adhering to pan and turn cake out to cool onto rack. Makes 1 cake, serves 10.
If you happened to read the preceding post, you know that this past St Paddy’s Day took a turn and the usual corned beef and cabbage evolved into homemade pastrami. It wasn’t until well into the pastrami making process that I began to consider new accompaniments.
A peppery rub and time in the smoker had altered this corned beef so greatly that thoughts of traditional boiled vegetables seemed horribly wrong. Rather, the deli side of the pastrami emerged far more intriguing. As I continued to tinker with the pastrami, visions of an upgraded deli potato salad took form… one with roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, carrots and fennel.
Pulling it all together, I’d keep it simple (famous last words): throw on a few stashed Red-Hot links during the smoking stage for a little variety and transition to an easy mixed grill. Maybe include some pickled items—no horseradish here, I’d pull out a delicious stone ground mustard.
The trouble with roasted vegetables is that they take so long to actually roast. I decided to help them out by briefly precooking the potatoes, carrots and fennel in the microwave (the fennel really works here). Then, when convenient finish them in a hot oven.
To be honest, I added a tangy spoonful of aioli to the dressing, rather than garlic and 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise. It makes a dramatic difference if you have it; but the standard formula works well, too.
As with many potato salads, this one improves when made ahead for flavors to fully develop. It will last 3-4 days in the fridge—good on a deli plate whenever you are ready.
Roasted Potato Salad
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, skin on
3 carrots, peel
½ cup fennel stems and fronds, chop
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, crush
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 small stalks celery, chop
2 green onions, chop
1 Tbsp fresh fennel fronds, light chop
1 Tbsp capers
1 tsp lemon juice or caper juice
Cut potatoes in chunks, place in microwaveable bowl add 2 Tbsp water, and a pinch of salt. Cover and steam for 2 minutes. Place in colander to drain. Repeat next with carrots and fennel.
Distribute the semi-cooked vegetables on a lined baking sheet, toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes; turn the vegetables . Set broiler to 450°F and cook 5-10 minutes longer until cooked and beginning to brown. Remove and cool.
Meanwhile prepare dressing: combine the mayonnaise, garlic, yogurt and mustard to taste. Add the celery, green onion, fennel fronds or 1 tsp fresh thyme, and capers. Point up with lemon or caper juice, season with salt and pepper.
Place the cooled vegetables in a medium bowl, toss with dressing to coat well. Best made an hour or more ahead. Serves 3-4.
This really isn’t a recipe, it’s more a prompt for designing a Breakfast Bagel & Lox. In its simplest form, you begin with a toasted bagel and smear it with a topping such as cream cheese, ricotta, even hummus; it’s crowned with a healthy portion of thin sliced smoked salmon—plus any other touches, such as capers, onion, & dill.
People have their preferences on smoked salmon. If you are from the east coast it’s probably Nova Scotian or Scandinavian cold smoked salmon. On the west coast, we are all over the board, with even hot smoked a consideration. As far as I’m concerned it is all good, but I do love pristine Nova.
Creating your masterpiece, you could go two-sided and build up both bagel halves. I’m happy enjoying a really good onion bagel with the focus only on one side. That’s plenty, because I like adding an egg.
For the egg(s), lately I’ve taken to using an egg ring and either poaching or scrambling the egg. It’s good to butter the ring and the pan surface before dropping in the egg. Once it begins to set, add water to pan, cover with a lid, and steam until the white is set and yolk is pink and cooked to taste.
If you are a dyed-in-the-wool bagel lover, you know this is not just morning food. Rather, it falls into the breakfast-all-day category. It’s good anytime.
Breakfast Bagel & Lox
1 bagel, sliced in half
2 Tbsp or more cream cheese or fresh ricotta
1 sliced tomato
1-2 eggs, poached*, scrambled, or fried
1-2 ounces thin sliced smoked salmon
capers, red onion, fresh dill or other herbs, ground pepper, sliced tomato, radishes, fresh lemon
Toast the bagel and spread both sides with cream cheese or ricotta. Layer on slices of tomato and top with prepared egg*.
Drape with smoked salmon and add capers, red onions, fresh dill and sliced lemon. Serves 1 or more. *For poached egg using egg ring, heat skillet to medium. Butter ring interior and pan surface. Drop egg into ring in pan and let it set briefly. Drizzle pan with a few tablespoons of water to create steam, cover with a lid 2-3 minutes, until white is set and yolk is pink, or cooked to taste.
Perhaps you too suffer small twinges when faced with throwing away odd scraps of food. These days I’m becoming increasingly aware of the waste factor and I try to think before chucking food. In the heat of the moment there are still plenty of times when I’ll do the ‘should I, or shouldn’t I?’ shuffle and toss away—only to regret it later.
The latest such event proved to be a good lesson in why I need to pay attention when that twinge hits. It happened while prepping tender red chard leaves for a fast brunch dish. At the time I wasn’t much interested in the stems, they were in my way and I was ready to pitch. I took another look at the intensely beautiful burgundy stems, and in that moment my better self intervened. Instead of sending them arbitrarily to the trash I dropped them in the fridge instead. I’d deal with them later.
The next day I consulted Lindsay-Jean Hard’s Cooking with Scraps cookbook to get her take on chard stems. She says they are well worth roasting, grilling, pickling, even steaming… and my plan began to take shape.
I considered my obvious resources and centered on a small spaghetti squash that needed attention and a jar of fresh mozzarella balls marinating in a yummy garlicky evoo herb blend. I’d keep it simple; I’d steam the squash and stems, liven them up with a little of the marinade, perhaps tuck in a bit of cheese, maybe some fresh basil, and see how that all works.
Despite its appearance, spaghetti squash is very forgiving to prepare—I’ve even had success cooking it in the microwave. For manageability, I prefer smaller squash, 1½ to 2-pounds in size. My plan here is to cook both the squash and stems at the same time in the Instant Pot. It’s the pot-in-pot concept in which you layer 2 or more dishes or items into the pot and steam them simultaneously.
I’ve read cutting spaghetti squash in half, across its mid-line, will cook faster than lengthwise, plus yielding longer strands and using less space. I accumulated over ½ cup of seeds while scraping them out of the squash, and sampled one; they were mild and meaty. Again, my better self stepped forward and I set them aside; they were well worth saving for a short brine and fast roast in the microwave. I figured they might not make it today, but they’re enough for a later snack, a salad topping, or other such. I’m on a roll with scraps—when I’m paying attention there are benefits all over the place!
I move on and place the two squash halves in the Instant Pot on a trivet with 1 cup water. The stems are cut into smaller lengths, tossed with a bit of marinade for flavor and moisture, and sealed in a foil packet. It’s all layered in the Instant Pot and set for 7 minutes under pressure. That’s it. Once cooked and removed, the squash drains a few minutes to release excess moisture from steaming.
Ah, the stems, the stems… what a surprise. They are earthy, tender, and absorb just enough marinade to elevate them straight to delicacy status. The sweet spaghetti squash is a perfect foil, lightly seasoned with salt, red pepper flakes, the marinade further helps to separate the strands. The ruby red stems are folded in like jewels and pieces of mozzarella meld into the warm spaghetti squash. This is an affirmation to slow down and give scraps a chance.
Steamed Spaghetti Squash & Red Chard Stems
1½ – 2 pounds spaghetti squash
stems from 1 bunch red chard Marinade
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic mash & sliver
1 tsp fresh rosemary or thyme
¼ tsp sea salt and coarse ground pepper
1-2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 fresh round mozzarella or 1 cup other melting cheese
¼ tsp crush red pepper flakes
fresh basil or other herbs
To prepare marinade, combine olive oil, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and whisk in the vinegar. If time permits, marinate the mozzarella overnight in the fridge.
If the chard stems are large, cut them lengthwise into ½” thick strips and then into 1-2” lengths and place in medium bowl. Lightly drizzle with about 1 Tbsp of marinade and toss to coat.
Carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half across its mid-section. Remove seeds and set them aside.
In liner of Instant Pot, add 1 cup water and place trivet in bottom. To preheat, set pot to Sauté More. Wedge the squash halves sideways in the pot on the trivet. Place 18” length of foil on work surface and pile chard stems and marinade in center; wrap and fold foil to seal packet and wedge into pot with squash.
Seal lid and set pot to Hi Pressure for 7-8 minutes, depending on squash size. When time is up, disconnect pot, let stand 5 minutes and then release remaining pressure. Carefully open pot. The squash should be fork tender; remove the squash to drain upside down for 5 minutes. Open foil packet and check stems, they should be tender and fragrant.
To assemble, loosen squash with fork into spaghetti like strands and place in medium bowl. Season lightly with marinade, salt, red pepper flakes, and toss. Gently add the chard stems. Slice the mozzarella and tuck into the warm squash to soften. Sprinkle with fresh herbs. Serves 2.
We all have our favorite places and cultures to visit. Mine has long been the northeastern corner of Spain, the mysterious Basque country and the Pyrenees Alps. It’s got the total package, a rugged coastline and breathtaking mountains, plus resourceful, resilient people with a world class cuisine.
Basque food has the unique ability to reach into the heart and linger there, and such is the case with the notorious Basque Gateau. Popular versions of it crop up across the border in the Pays Basque region of France and down into the southern reaches of Spain. It’s a simple pastry marked by crosshatches across the top and filled with either cherry jam or pastry cream. So, what’s the big deal?
People praise the cake’s holding powers and reverently speak of it as the item to take when traveling or visiting friends. Admittedly, I’ve had my own visions of romantic adventures complete with this charming cake—safe in the knowledge it would sustain in any conditions.
I’ve considered making a Basque Custard Cake but have been put off by the complicated process and rich pastry. However, there is one recipe I have held onto for quite a while. It’s an interesting take from the French perspective by accomplished chef Michel Richard. In my notes, he describes it endearingly as a “pastry cream encased in two cookie crusts; aka a weekend cake in France because it holds so well.” Sweet.
The more I’ve studied Richard’s approach, the more I like it. For example, pastry cream often uses egg yolks with cornstarch for thickener because cornstarch does not not lump when added to hot liquid; however, it can break down with prolonged cooking. Richard’s version opts for flour instead, which makes sense since this pastry cream cooks twice. His should hold up very well and continue to maintain mass at room temperature or cold.
I’m impressed with Richard’s brilliant crust solution, too. Rather than a labor intense, buttery pastry, he elects to use the whites left from the custard. He cleverly incorporates them into a light, resilient cookie/cake-like base. The first thin layer is baked just to set, the filling is added, remaining dough is spread on top and it is given a final bake. Simple enough.
I decided to give it a try. Here are a couple of notes: I further simplified Richard’s custard by using double the vanilla extract, rather than soaking a vanilla bean (which I was missing) for an hour in hot milk. It also makes twice as much as needed, but that’s fine; it came in handy. I also dabbed a small amount of cherry jam on the baked bottom crust before the pastry cream. It appears that cookie/cake dough is quite scant. However, it blends beautifully with the pastry cream and works out fine.
So, there you have it. I will definitely make this Basque Custard Cake again. (Actually, I did make it again. It was easier the second time with remaining custard and refined method. I kept my fingers off of it and it was just as good the next day!) The cherry and custard combo gives it real character, but you could use either.
I dare you to eat just one piece—evidently, I practically polished an entire cake by myself!
Basque Custard Cookie Cake
Inspired by Michel Richard, Baking from the Heart
Ingredients Pastry Cream
2 cups milk
½ cup sugar, divided
2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
4 large egg yolks, room temp
⅓ cup flour
1 Tbsp butter Cookie Dough
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 large egg whites, room temp
½ cup AP flour, plus 1 Tbsp
½ cup cherry jam, optional
1. Make Pastry Cream
In 4 cup microwaveable measure, heat milk in microwave with salt, and ¼ cup sugar for 2-3 minutes to dissolve sugar, add vanilla extract.
In small mixing bowl, beat yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar until thick and pale yellow, 2-3 minutes. Mix in flour. Gradually pour in the hot milk and whisk to incorporate.
Pour the mixture into a small pan, set over medium heat and continue whisking as it thickens to avoid lumps and curdling. Reduce to medium low and cook 2-3 minutes, whisking to keep smooth and not curdle. Off heat stir in butter and remaining vanilla. Scrape into a bowl and cover top with film. Chill 2-3 hours until cold, up to 1 day ahead. You should have enough for 2 cakes.
2. Make Dough
Preheat oven to 350-375°F. Thoroughly butter and flour 9″ tart or springform pan.
In mixing bowl beat butter, add sugar in 3-4 batches, beating well after each addition until light. Beat in egg whites one at a time, incorporating after each. Stir in flour to just combine and form a soft batter.
3. To Bake
Spoon enough batter to thinly cover bottom of pan, about ½ cup spread ⅛” thick. Bake 10-12 minutes, until dough is firm to touch, and edges turn golden brown.
If using preserves, randomly dot spoonfuls onto crust spreading away from edges. Top with cold pastry cream, leaving ½” border at edge.
Carefully spoon remaining dough evenly over all, spreading to cover cream and fill in border edge. Bake 25-35 minutes, rotating pan until golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack. Release cake from pan and slice into wedges. For best flavor, allow to come to room temperature for 1 hour prior to serving. Cover and chill for storage. Serves 6-8
I spend a lot of my free time reading cookbooks and checking out online recipes. It’s my form of relaxation. But there are times when all I really want is a familiar, well-tested recipe; one that delivers what I expect.
When I’m thinking ‘casual cake’, here’s a contender. Not only is it always good, it is basic and highly adaptable. I especially like tinkering with this one because it easily changes with the season—and it loves fresh fruit, too.
At its heart is a well constructed European-style cake that rises high and fills the pan. It uses 3 eggs, which I consider generous, but they are core to its success: they add structure and don’t fade into the background. To control the fat quotient, I tend to use plain yogurt for tenderness and moisture and then fold in a little olive oil on the finish.
While this cake benefits from a good beating to get the eggs and sugar fully integrated, I have taken to forgoing a mixer in lieu of a whisk. You could call it a dump cake, because the dry ingredients are quickly added to the wet. Olive oil is gently folded into the batter and it’s quickly popped into a moderate oven.
That’s it. Since any additions and flavorings incorporated will become quite apparent, I tend to use a mild olive oil because a bold extra virgin oil can overly dominate. Which brings us to what prompted this cake…
At my market they have been actively promoting beautiful blueberries from Chile. Of course, I would pause and stare. I’d mentally note that it’s a long way to go for something that grows like crazy in Oregon, and then I would move on. It’s wrong—on so many levels…
That argument blew up today. They reduced the price of the blueberries, and I buckled. (My dirty-little-secret.) So, today’s cake features two of my favorite things: blueberries and polenta.
I’ve gone with a simple upside-down cake that features sweetened blueberries topside and includes a bit of fine polenta in the batter for taste and texture. These two are true partners in crime, and what a color combination!
Since blueberries have an affinity for lemon and nutmeg, they flavor the cake beautifully and bring it all together. Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream would be worth considering, too.
Blueberry Polenta Upside-Down Cake
Ingredients Berry Layer
1 tsp butter
1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, picked and rinsed
⅓ cup granulated sugar Dry Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup fine polenta or cornmeal
½ tsp each baking powder and baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg Wet Ingredients
3 eggs, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup plain yogurt, room temperature
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
⅓ cup mild olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Butter a 9″ cake pan and spread the blueberries evenly in the bottom of the pan; sprinkle with sugar and set aside. On wax paper, blend the flour through nutmeg and set aside.
In mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until light and gradually beat in the sugar.
Add the yogurt, lemon zest, vanilla, and mix. Stir in the dry ingredients just to incorporate. Fold in the oil; don’t over mix. Scrape bowl down and spread the batter evenly over the berries.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating to brown evenly, until center springs back when touched.
Cool on rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of pan to loosen the cake, cover with a serving plate, quickly flip to invert cake onto it and cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve. Serves 8-10.