Follow by Email

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Simple Cake, Simple Icing – Elegantly Simple

Finished Peach Cake with icing
My faithful readers should know by now, I like to keep things simple.  I’m a simple man of simple tastes.  A quiet, tableside martini, mixed by a thin man in a white dinner jacket, in the elegant bar of a five star hotel and you’ll find me serenely happy. 

While “Simple wife, simple life” may be a complete fiction, in the kitchen, there’s no need for complexities that drift beyond the male mind’s comprehension or attention span, especially when it comes to baking a superb cake for the ravenous, but unworthy multitudes.

I settle for the masculine outlook:  Huummmm, cake good, me want more! Next time me use fork.

This culinary delight is not the usual cake because this one uses pie filling.  Pie filling in a cake?  Yes, those who are faint of heart, release your inhibitions. Cast aside those dark, spurious doubts. This cake is so simple and delicious you’ll never buy another box of cake mix!  You’ll be able to smile benevolently at the admiring throngs and brag “Naturally it’s made from scratch!  I grow my own heirloom wheat, fertilized by free-range bovines who graze on sustainable native shrubs.”

Snobby, organic eating friends, who often avoid you, will lower their upturned noses and invite you over for a glass or two of wheatgrass flavored champagne.  But, before you accept their invitation, get your wife to teach you about forks.

Simple Cake, Simple Icing – Elegantly Simple

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)
Butter an 8 X 13 inch (21 x 33 cm) baking dish.  I prefer glass or ceramic.

2 Cups white sugar
1 Cup butter (2 sticks)
4 Eggs
4 Teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Cups flour
3 Generous teaspoons baking powder
1 Cup milk
21oz can of fruit pie filling (Sometimes I use peach and sometimes cherry)

1.    Cream together the sugar and butter and set aside

2.    Crack the eggs into a small bowl
3.    In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder
4.    Alternately beat in an egg and some flour mixture into the creamed butter and sugar, until everything is combined.
5.    Add the milk and mix until the batter is smooth

6.    Mix in the fruit pie filling.

7.    Put the batter in the prepared baking dish and slide it in the oven.

Bake for 80 minutes. Every 20 minutes, test with a knife to insure it’s done. ALL OVENS BAKE DIFFERENTLY.  The first time I tested, all I had to do was shake the baking dish to see the center jiggle.  I cooked it another 20 minutes, then another 20 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center came out clean.

VERY IMPORTANT:  Let the cake cool completely before putting on the icing.

Make the simple Icing:

2 ¾  Cups confectioner’s sugar
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
½ Cup sour cream
¼ Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1.    Cream the sugar and butter. (Simple man that I am, I use an electric handheld mixer)
2.    Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the icing is smooth
3.    Spread the icing on the cooled cake and decorate (For the cherry cake version, I used cheery pie filling for the cake, but  maraschino cherries as decoration.)

Now it’s time to pop the cork on some bubbly, slice the masterpiece, and show your guests the real reason they’ll love your cake as much as they love trousers with an elastic waist!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sirloin Steak Italian Style

Think you can’t go low carb with Italian?  Think Italian means only pizza, breadsticks and pasta?  Well, think harder!  Italian cuisine is robustly expansive.  Just remember Italy has a long coastline.  Fish is prominent and I’m not talking Captain D’s.

Then there’s the sumptuous meats, from Parma ham to another thousand varieties of cured meats and salamis.  Salami itself is another wonder world of flavors and none of them taste like the packaged, un-definable, nitrate saturated stuff labeled salami in most American supermarkets.

Today, I’ll take you past even the Italian meats you know and let you in on a new favorite of mine, Sirloin Italian Style.

This recipe isn’t original, but then few recipes are.  The basis came from a magazine, Tastes of Italia.  Nice magazine that’s mostly about Italians who immigrated to California a few generations ago, but haven’t forgotten how to cook.

Hard to call this a recipe, which is essentially steak and wine, with chopped this and that, all of it your choice.  But, that’s the essence of cooking, right?  Machines can easily be programmed to follow recipes.  How do you think canned goods and even bread can be shipped, or baked around the country, and always taste the same?

As a rule, I stay away from prepared foods, but I have to admit I don’t make my own donuts.

Home cooking seldom tastes the same way twice, because it’s seldom prepared the same way twice, even when you use the same ingredients.  Why?  The meats and vegetables are never exactly the same.

Check this simple example: Every time I squeeze fresh orange juice, there’s always a difference in flavor.  Maybe because I used different varieties, but most likely it’s because every orange is different, even if they all come from the same tree.  Then why do commercial orange juices always taste exactly the same?

Commercial orange juice is a combination of thousands of oranges, often stored in huge vats for up to a year.  All the air is removed from the vats to prolong the life of the juice.  Lack of air also makes the juice tasteless, or so I’m told.  Companies then use specific flavor enhancers to re-flavor the juice and therefore it all tastes the same, every time.

Ok, let’s get back to Italian steak and wine.  This recipe, as simple as it is, needs some forethought.  Follow along and you’ll see why.  One of the things I love about this recipe is that with a little planning, I’m never working very long at any one time.

Sirloin Steak Italian Style

About 2 Pounds (1 kilo) of sirloin.  I used two good-sized steaks.
1 bottle of dry red wine
Diced vegetables of your choice.  I used half a thin sliced onion, four cloves of garlic chopped, two stalks of celery diced, and two good-sized sprigs of fresh rosemary.  Surely you have a rosemary bush growing in your garden or flowerbed.  No?  You heathen!

Some people say to chop the rosemary.  No need.  The leaves come off in the cooking and the stalks are easily removed before serving.

How to:

Salt and pepper the steaks.  Put them in a gallon sized, sealable bag.  Add the vegetables and the full bottle of wine.

Put the bag in the refrig and leave it overnight.  Turn the bag every now and then.

The next day, preheat your oven to 350ºF (180ºC) 
Remove the steaks, brushing off the marinade, add a little olive oil to a large frying pan and quickly sear them on both sides.  Leave the steaks in the pan and pour in the bag of marinade.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and put the pan in the 350ºF (180ºC) oven for two hours.

I served mine with broccoli, steamed, then pan roasted.  Add Mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) and soy sauce as the broccoli is roasting.

Ok.  Time to refresh your hungry guests’ goblets and get down to some Sirloin Italian Style!

Just be prepared for at least one guest to remark:  “Jeez, I thought Italian meant pasta.”  Those folks clearly have no imagination.  Don’t invite them back and turn down all their invitations unless you want to dine on cans of Chef Boy-r-something, or Coast-to-Coast Pizza.

Why would you want to punish your taste buds like that, when I'm offering you Sirloin Steak Italian Style?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Frittata on Sunday

Some folks describe frittata as an omelet.  Others say it’s quiche without the crust.  All of them are clutching at straws.  Really, does a quiche taste like an omelet?  You kidding? Yeah, sure and you might as well say a hamburger tastes like a flattened hotdog.

Frittata brings a lot more to the table than mere sustenance. It’s a toss together microcosm of the Italian happy-go-lucky view of life: First we cook, then we take off our clothes, pour some Prosecco, and share an Italian Happy Meal.  What time does your husband come home?

Well, maybe they’d never say that, but you’d follow the gist with the sensually erotic smiles and the expressive hand gestures that wrinkle your blouse.

You’re asking yourself, all that in a dish of eggs?  Oh, yeah!  But, as an American, you must be able to transform yourself and your state of mind.  Takes practice. First, the average American male must lose thirty pounds.  The front of your pants must not look like an overextended trampoline, with the belt as a safety device.

Cinch that waistline until your eyes bulge and your cheeks begin to collapse.  Unbutton that shirt a bit.  Let a cigarette languish on your lips, even if you don’t smoke. Roll up the sleeves of your linen shirt. Carelessly don a classy sports jacket with no tie and don’t forget to push up the sleeves. Turn up the collar. Practice Al Pacino’s lingering eye contact, and give your lips a sensual curve, even when saying simple things like:  the grinding of salt reminds me of your teeth mia amore, red brick matches your eyes mia cara, and soft socks flatter your stubby toes mia principessa.

Now I know you’re ready to do some ‘talian cookin’.  Ok, here’s the prep work.  Chat casually with two or three lovelies, in your white linen shirt, open at the collar, while sipping a glass of Italian wine, and feeling more at ease than the fire-red Ferrari in your cobblestone driveway.  Throw in vowels at random.

Mix in a few hand gestures that tell the world Miss Universe begged for it, but (insert a big what-can-you-do shrug) you’re only one man.

Keep that frame of mind going while you cook this low carb, easy, sumptuous crowd pleaser.  This recipe serves two, but easily doubles or triples or more…

Frittata For Sunday

One small onion, diced
4 Eggs
1/2 Cup half & half (I used 1/4 Cup whipping cream and 1/4  Cup water, but use any dairy you wish)
Olive oil
1/3 Cup thinly sliced and chopped hard cheese of your choice (I used Pecorino with chili peppers)
1/3 Cub grated Parmesan
Couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh basil, or your favorite herb
Salt and pepper to taste

Pour your guests and yourself another glass of wine.

Mix the eggs, cream and water in a small bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC)

Splash a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a small frying pan.  Add the diced onion and cook on medium to low heat until the onion is translucent.  Remove half the cooked onion and put it aside for now. Leave the rest in the frying pan.

Pour the egg mixture into the frying pan and turn up the heat just a bit.  This is not a quick fry dish.

As the egg mixture begins to crawl up the sides of the pan and before the center is set, scatter on the rest of the diced onion and add the bits of sliced cheese.

The onions and cheese should sink into the frittata.  Give it a minute, then sprinkle on the grated Parmesan.

Slip the pan into a 350ºF (180ºC) oven and allow the frittata to cook until it is firm and beginning to very lightly brown on top.

Remove the cooked frittata from the oven and toss on the chopped basil.

I like to serve this dish with English style bacon.  Not familiar?  English bacon is cured from the top of the loin.  The English refer to American bacon as ‘streaky bacon,’ which comes from the belly.

Note:  Variations on frittata are almost limitless.  Add anything you like, from chopped Italian Sausage, to chopped dried tomatoes, and any cheese that calls to your taste buds.  Hey, this dish is Italian and just as happy go lucky!

In case you think I’m being too hard on Italian men, let me clarify.  I plan to move to Italy, buy a villa on the Mediterranean, have a wife and two very frisky maids, and drive a Lambo….as soon as I’m young enough.