Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Apple Cake (Not the bundt kind)

For years, I would make Jewish Apple Cake a couple of times each fall.  It was a production.  Great numbers of apples needed to peeled and sliced.  I carefully tried to divide a batter into thirds.  I prayed when it was time to remove the cake from the pan.  Would it stick or would it come out cleanly and be presentable?

Last year, I found a new apple cake recipe.  Sadly, I haven't gone back to the Jewish Apple Cake since.   I discovered this new cake was the perfect camping cake.  I make it in a 9x13" pan and all weekend, we snack on the cake--for breakfast while we wait for breakfast to be made, as a mid-morning/mid-afternoon snack, for dessert for lunch.  It's perfect.

I also don't peel the apples or thinly slice them--cubing them is just fine.  Sometimes, I mess up and don't follow the directions exactly--more than once, I forget put a layer of brown sugar/butter in the middle so I put a double thick layer on top.  Regardless, this cake is good and gets eaten quickly, whether we are camping or at home.

Makes one 9x13" pan

Apple Cake
adapted from thekitchn.com

1 1/2 c yogurt, well stirred (don't use Greek, it's too thick and doesn't have enough liquid)
2/3 c oil
a scant 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 1/2 lbs tart apples, such as Granny Smith
2 1/2 c flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon

1 c brown sugar
1 fat T cinnamon
4 T butter, at room temperature

Whisk together the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Core the apples and chop into 1/2" chunks.  Stir the chopped apple into the liquid ingredients.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and 1/2 t cinnamon into the liquid ingredients and stir just until no lumps (minus the apples) remain.

In a separate small bowl, combine the brown sugar, 1 T cinnamon, and butter.

Pour half of the apple batter into a greased 9 x 13" pan.    Sprinkle half the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture over the apple batter.  Carefully spread the rest of the batter over top.  I find it's easiest to do this by dropping it by large spoonfuls onto the cinnamon-brown sugar and then carefully connecting the spoonfuls with a rubber scraper.  Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-brown sugar over the top.

Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean in a preheated 350 degrees oven.  If it is browning too fast, cover it with foil at the end.  Let cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before cutting.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Eggplant Croquettes

I have a new secret cooking boyfriend, Yotam Ottolenghi.  I own his cookbook, Jerusalem, and recently decided to check out his book, Plenty, from our public library.  I looked through the entire cookbook twice before I noticed it was missing meat.  Two times until I finally realized this cookbook was vegetarian.  

That's my definition of a fabulous vegetarian cookbook--you don't miss the meat.  There aren't a lot of fake meat products (that have been processed like crazy).  In fact, there are zero fake meat products and limited tofu and soybean recipes.  Fabulous!  In my opinion, it is up there with the Moosewood cookbooks (which are my absolute favorite vegetarian cookbooks).  This cookbook is going on my Christmas wish list--maybe the dog will get this one for me.  Until then, I need to share a few recipes here so I have them in case the dog forgets what to get me.

Now that I have mastered frying, after many, many failed attempts, this recipe was relatively simple.  It is a time consuming recipe, but most of the time was letting eggplant drain (30 minutes) and chill (20-30  minutes).  Hands on time wasn't bad at all.  Everyone in my a family ate these, until.....until...M dissected the croquettes because I wouldn't tell her what was inside it and she discovered there was, horror of horrors, eggplant.  

The dipping sauce that accompanies the croquettes is a basic mayonnaise.  It is completely optional, however I would recommend serving a dipping sauce with this--a flavored mayonnaise, marinara, tartar sauce, or whatever your favorite sauce for breaded, fried foods are (the kids used ketchup).

This serves 6.

Eggplant Croquettes
adapted slightly from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

4 medium eggplants
2 medium russet potatoes, cooked, peeled, and smashed 
1 large egg, beaten
5 oz feta, crumbled
3 T grated Parmesan
1/2 t salt
black pepper
1 3/4 (or possibly more) c dried white breadcrumbs (or panko)

canola, safflower, or sunflower oil for frying

Optional Mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1 small garlic clove, crushed (optional)
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1/4 t salt
1/4 c grapeseed or olive oil (the oil gives the mayo a lot of it's flavor)
1/4 c olive oil
2 T chopped tarragon (optional, again this gives a lot of the flavor though)

Roast the eggplants (I prefer on a hot grill, as if I was making baba ganoush.  Char all the sides until the eggplant is very soft).  Cool the eggplants slightly, until you can touch them, make a slit along each eggplant and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.  Leave the black skin behind.  If there are lot of seeds, you can also discard some of them (but try to avoid taking out a lot of flesh).  Place the flesh in the colander and discard the skin (and seeds if you removed some).  Let drain for 30 minutes or more to get rid of some of the liquid.

Place the eggplant flesh in a large bowl.  Add the smashed potatoes (not mashed with milk, just smashed up), egg, feta, Parmesan, salt and a dash of pepper.  Stir together with a fork.  Add half the bread crumbs and stir.  The mixture should be solid enough to hold its shape, but it will still be very sticky.  If you need to, add more breadcrumbs until the mixture will hold together.

Remove the mixture from the bowl and divide it into four.  Roll each portion into a thick sausage about 1 inch in diameter.  Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs on the work surface and very gently roll the eggplant/potato mixture in them until  they are completely coated.  Carefully transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.  If the long snakes (sausages, I'm a mom) break apart when you are transferring them, that's ok.  Stick them back together the best you can.

While the croquettes refrigerate, make the mayonnaise.  In a small bowl (or a small food processor if you have one), place the egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice, and salt.  Using a handheld mixture fitted with a whisk (or you can whisk by hand), whisk the mixture on high speed.  While you whisk, slowly add the oils, one after another, in a slow, steady stream.  When the mixture resembles mayo (thick and creamy), fold in the tarragon.  Store in fridge.

Cut each cooled snake into 2 1/4" barrel-shaped pieces.  Pour enough frying oil--I use canola or safflower--into a heavy skillet (I use my black cast iron skillet) to come up about 3/4 inches on the sides.  Heat up the oil over medium high heat (to around 350 degrees.  I find the secret to successful frying is a frying/candy thermometer, which is very different than a meat thermometer because it goes much hotter).  Fry the croquettes in small batches for about 3 minutes, turning them to color them evenly.  Transfer to the paper towels to drain. 

Serve hot with a dipping sauce.