A Perfect Antidote to Excess Chocolate
I told John tonight that our dessert was the perfect Valentine’s antidote and he got a little hurt, wondering what was so wrong with our Valentine’s Day (especially since I have never cared AT ALL about Valentine’s Day). So I explained what I meant and mentally crossed that off my list of possible titles for this post.
I started craving something simple and vanilla last night.I had my eye on a gorgeous Lisa Yockelson Vanilla Cream Cake, but today when I actually sat down to make it, I realized I did not have the mental energy for it.It involved a lot of vanilla beans and while it was not difficult, it did involve creaming butter and sifting flour, etc.It has been a hectic few days here and I wanted something even easier than that.
Dorie Greenspan’s French Yogurt Cake was a great starting point. It used oil and yogurt for its fat, so it did not need to even involve the mixer, let alone softened butter. Her basic version uses plain yogurt with some lemon zest and a little vanilla. Her Riviera version uses Greek yogurt and olive oil with some rosemary or mint. I kind of combined the 2 based on what I had around, and enhanced the vanilla and lemon flavors (but did not use rosemary or mint).
It came out very tasty, but next time I think I would butter the loaf pan and then use parchment paper on the bottom with additional greasing, because while it came out tasty, it did not come out in one piece. The bottom stuck pretty badly. Otherwise this was an excellent cake, the crusty top in particular was spectacular—kind of crisp and crunchy. It almost tasted like I had sprinkled the top of the cake with sugar—but I had not!
Lemon & Vanilla Yogurt Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours
2 t baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup vanilla sugar
¾ t lemon oil (I used because I did not have any lemons—this is a great ingredient to keep around for just this reason; feel free to substitute lemon zest, maybe 1 ½ T)
1 T vanilla extract
½ cup full fat Greek yogurt
3 large eggs
½ cup olive oil
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 F. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of an 8 ½ X 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Generously butter the loaf pan, place the parchment paper into the loaf pan and butter it.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Whisk together the sugar, lemon oil or zest, vanilla and yogurt. Add the eggs and whisk vigorously to combine. Add the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Switch to a rubber spatula and mix until the flour is totally combine. Add the ½ cup of oil and fold it in. The batter will be thick—Dorie says it should be smooth but mine had some tiny lumps which seemed to not matter in the end. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth its top.
Bake at 350 F for 50-55 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Set on a cooling rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it and turn it out onto the cooling rack. Cool it right side up.
The Meal Before the Dessert: Smoky Piperade Pasta Toss with Eggs
The actual meal that was served before the yogurt cake was a pasta dish that I have been making for some time now. It is based on a recipe from Steven Raichlen’s Big Flavors called Penne Piperade. The idea was to take the piperade, a Basque specialty frequently made with scrambled eggs, and lighten it by serving it with pasta.
This was before the whole anti-carb revolution, when fat was the big enemy.
I make it with both scrambled eggs and whole grain pasta, in the interest of moderation of both fat and pasta, while getting some protein, and I use Serano ham and smoked paprika, where he calls for prosciutto and regular paprika. For a while it entered our regular rotation, and we never got sick of it, I just got distracted by other recipes.
But this past weekend, my sister was in town and we went to the winter farmer’s market, where a local cheesemaker was selling goat’s milk feta cheese and goat cheese. Then we went to my local huge international emporium-like grocery store (which is actually an hour away, but whatever), where Josie discovered the amazing European cured meats counter, which I had previously missed (more likely than you would think—this place is huge but not perfectly organized). So I came home with some amazing Serano ham. This dish really hi-lights feta cheese and Serano ham, so it all seemed like a sign that it was time for piperade.
Smoky Piperade Pasta Toss with Eggs
Inspired by Big Flavor, Steven Raichlen
1-3 t Smoked Spanish paprika, sweet or hot (if sweet you can add some cayenne for heat)
3 oz Serrano ham, chopped (can be left out for vegetarian version)
3-5 oz crumbled or diced feta cheese (this one is to taste—Raichlen originally called for 1 ounce, but John and I both feel that this dish deserves a lot of feta, more like ½ – ¾ ounce per serving)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes or 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped, including juices (use about ½ of the extra juice in the can)
8 oz dried whole grain short noodle of choice (penne, fusilli, macaroni, rigatoni, etc)
6 eggs, scrambled separately in non stick skillet with no added fat
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley, divided in half
Boil the pasta until al dente according to package instructions and set aside. It will be tossed into the sauce, so you do not want to overcook it.
Heat a large nonstick skillet or chef’s pan on medium high heat. Add a drizzle or 2, about a tablespoon, of the olive oil. Cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook one more minute. Add the bell peppers and cook for one more minute (if you like bell peppers softer, add them earlier).
Add the tomatoes and the smoked paprika and ¼ cup of chopped parsley. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the juices have thickened and become more of a sauce. Add the pasta and toss it into the sauce.
In a second nonstick skillet, quickly scramble and cook the eggs—if you are having the dish for leftovers, as we did, you might want to only scramble half the eggs (we had 3 eggs for the whole family each night and the dish lasted 2 nights for us). Be careful to not over cook. Set aside.
Toss the pasta and sauce with the feta, reserving some for garnish. I used raw milk feta and because I have small children I let it cook a few minutes longer. Toss in the remaining ¼ cup parsley, reserving a small amount for garnish. Serve the dish garnished with parsley, feta and the scrambled eggs. Serve with cayenne pepper for additional heat for those who want it. John feels this dish should be quite hot, I like it a little hot, the girls not at all.