French Apple Cake…

cake

I thought it might be time for a brief break from poetry and photography…

In the fall, I love baking with apples. In Canada, it’s almost Thanksgiving, and with company coming this year I was looking for a new recipe that isn’t too sweet and puts the emphasis on the apples.

I happened on a recipe for French Apple Cake that really appealed to me. I love simple, rustic French food, and not only did this recipe sound great but it looked easy, which is even more important, so I thought I’d give it a try.

This dessert has a custardy, apple-rich base beneath a light, cakelike topping. Cook’s Illustrated recommends microwaving the apples briefly to break the enzyme responsible for firming up pectin. I followed that suggestion and it worked really well.

This cake goes really well with a light dusting of powdered sugar, whipped cream, ice cream but it’s also lovely by itself — and tastes just as good the next day or the day after, in the unlikely event that anything is left.

If you like apples or French food — or both — you might want to give this a try!

slice-of-cake

French Apple Cake

1 ½pounds apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and sliced ⅛ inch thick crosswise (about 4 to 5)
2-3 tablespoons rum (optional)
teaspoon lemon juice
cup (5 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
cup (7 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
large egg plus 2 large yolks
3/4 cup vegetable oil
cup whole milk
teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

Serves 8 to 10

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Place prepared pan on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place apple slices into microwave-safe pie plate, cover, and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Toss apple slices with rum and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.

2. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Whisk egg, oil, milk, and vanilla together in second bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Transfer 1 cup batter to separate bowl and set aside.

3. Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine. Using spatula, gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing on apples to create even, compact layer, and smooth surface.
4. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into reserved batter. Pour over batter in pan and spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar evenly over cake.
5. Bake until center of cake is set, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top is golden brown, about 1 to 1¼ hours. Transfer pan to wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, then cut into wedges, and serve.
Note: The microwaved apples should be pliable but not completely soft when cooked. To test for doneness, take one apple slice and try to bend it. If it snaps in half, it’s too firm; microwave it for an additional 30 seconds and test again.
Adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe.

 

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Light and fresh summer fare…

A steaming bowl of Green Shrimp with Coconut Kale served on basmati rice

Grilling coconut kale

Shrimp in green sauce before being placed in a hot oven for 15 minutes

After a travel-filled winter and spring, we are staying closer to home this summer. That means closer to the garden and all its vegetable goodness. Our kale was looking luscious today so I went out and cut some and then searched through my recipe collection for a new way to prepare it.

I had saved a New York Times recipe on Pinterest for Coconut Kale that captured my imagination. It was from a famous Indian chef who works out of Vancouver. It seemed quite easy — bonus! — and I had all the ingredients — the main one being coconut milk — so it was a go.

We also had some shrimp in the freezer so I found another New York Times recipe that I thought might go well with the kale. Shrimp in Green sauce, which I renamed “Green Shrimp” as a nod to Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, my favourite children’s book, well I digress…

The recipe called for only oil, garlic, scallions, parsley and wine or stock plus some heat. And it seemed quite forgiving. You blitz everything together in a blender and then pour over the shrimp. Fifteen minutes later you are ready to enjoy.

The kale was a bit more fiddly. Soaking the kale in coconut milk for the afternoon was a breeze. But then you need to grill each piece for a few seconds. You have to work quickly so they don’t burn. I let Bob do that so I could take some pics. Not at all hard though, and oh-so-worth it. The flavour was amazing and the texture was tender.

The kale proved a perfect complement to the shrimp, which also had an intense but fresh flavour. With some basmati rice to soak up the sauce, it was a great light summer meal.

Here are the links to the recipes should they appeal to you as well. By the way, do you have any favourite ways to cook kale — I’m always on the lookout.

Green shrimp

Coconut kale

 

 

Time for dessert…

torte

I’m not a vegetarian! I’m a dessertarian!

Calvin and Hobbes

Over the last few months I’ve gotten away from indoor photography since the weather has been so ideal for outdoor shooting.

And as we’ve travelled to a few new places like West Virginia and the Northwest Territories, I’ve found myself focusing more on landscapes and nature and even a bit of wildlife.

But now as November rolls in and the view outside becomes a bit more desolate in this part of the world, my mind turns more toward food, and so does my lens.

My favourite things to prepare are vegetables and desserts. I mostly leave fish and meat to others…

Sometimes I even try try to find desserts with healthy ingredients (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek). This tart has heart-healthy walnuts and high-fibre raspberries, along with the other bad stuff like sugar.

And if not low calorie, this tart is delicious, festive looking, and very easy to make. All in all a great combo for this time of year. The crust is a shortbread-cookie type crust so it’s quite foolproof and simple to throw together.

The walnuts are layered on the shortbread cookie crust first and then the frozen raspberries. Then the egg mixture is poured over the top, which gives it a pecan pie-ish look.

If you’d like to try it, you can find the recipe here.

torte2

To balance things out, here is a bonus recipe — for healthy salmon. It’s called horseradish grill-roasted salmon, and can be done on the BBQ, although we used the oven.

We were introduced to this recipe by my sister and brother-in-law and they learned of it from their chef friends Anna and Michael Olson, who have some gorgeous cookbooks out. It tickled our taste buds and left us feeling satisfied but not overly stuffed. (And quite happy to be getting our Omega 3s!) This is a great dish for company and the guests we served it to the other night were hugely enthusiastic.

The topping — we used panko — has flavour and crunch and keeps the salmon underneath very moist. It can be prepared very quickly and takes only about 10 to 15 minutes in the oven. If you don’t like horseradish you can scale it back or omit it completely.

Here’s the fish chef in our household just before taking the meal to table. You can find the salmon recipe here. I also made four veggie dishes to accompany the salmon (beet and apple slaw, butternut squash soufflé, smashed roasted baby potatoes and green beans with garlic and ginger), which were all tasty and colourful, but I was too busy coordinating them all to take pics. Another time…

What are you cooking these days?

bob and salmonsq

 

The perfect oatmeal cookie…


cookies3

I don’t know about you, but when the cool weather rolls in, I yearn for homemade treats.

And when I’m wishing I was back in New York, taking pictures, I distract myself by baking.

Cookies.

cookiesGIlr

But not just any cookies. Oatmeal cookies.

They can’t be too soft or too doughy or too hard. They must be thin and light and buttery and crispy and chewy. A tall order for sure.

And I tried many a recipe until I found the perfect one. And if you’ve ever had the same problem, I will share it with you.

You can whip up a batch in no time at all — and even feel somewhat smug that they contain whole grains and aren’t as unhealthy as many other cookies. I also add a bit of ground flaxseed to the mix, which makes the cookies even more wholesome.

Get the recipe here.

And if you’re ever in need of distraction, give them a try.

Things I’m loving right now…Monday edition

crabapple blossom

I love spring, I love tree blossoms, I love wine, I love colourful fruits and veggies (more so now that I’m a vegetarian once again), I love learning tricks that make life easier, and I love recipes that are super easy and also super good.

So in keeping with the above, here are some tips, tricks and recipes that you might love too, along with a fresh image courtesy of a nearby crabapple tree in glorious bloom.

Rainbow sangria — the most beautiful (and healthiest) sangria you will ever set eyes on.

THE best and fastest way to separate eggs — you have to see this to believe it (thanks sis!)

Strawberry rhubarb crisp bars — I made these last weekend with rhubarb from my garden and they are too fast and too good not to try.

Goat cheese and avocado toast — yum!

And just because life is so short and we’re all getting older by the day…40 Regrets You Don’t Want to Have in 40 Years (well, maybe not even 40 — it was written for a younger audience!)

Have a scrumptious week, everybody!

Of rhubarb and farmers’ markets…

final-rhubarbsmall

Preparing to stew some rhubarb with coconut sugar.

baking

Rhubarb coffee cake. This is the moistest coffee cake I have ever had, and it’s very well-balanced between tart and sweet.

rhubard-sauce

I add vanilla to my stewed rhubarb.

cake

Yum!

rhubarb bag

More rhubarb delights to come…

I hope you’ll forgive the riot of rhubarb shots, but, at this time of year, it is one of my great joys. (Yes, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.)

Rhubarb is really a vegetable, but we eat it sweetened, like a fruit. I adore its tartness and acidity. It must be in the genes because my mother and sister are very fond of it too.

A quick trip to the farmers’ market this morning and five pounds of rhubarb and a few hours later, I’m in the kitchen, stewing it up and making rhubarb coffee cake. And I still had enough left over to freeze for another day.

I love our local farmers’ market. I bought my rhubarb from the same wonderful couple as last year. (Let’s call them Joe and Dorothy.)

Today, I was at the market early enough to buy up a good share of what they had to sell.

Last year, things were different. One weekend, my family was visiting, and we arrived at the market just minutes before it closed. I had my heart set on rhubarb, but it was too late — there was none left. After I expressed disappointment, Joe offered to drive all the way back to the farm just to get me some. I thanked him profusely for offering but said I didn’t want to put him to that kind of trouble. “Oh, no trouble,” he said. “Meet me back here in 15 minutes.”

And so I did. True to his word, Joe was there waiting with a bagful of lovely freshly cut rhubarb. I wanted to pay him extra in appreciation for his effort, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Needless to say, I am now a big fan of Joe and Dorothy’s and a regular customer of their fine produce.

We’re now growing rhubarb in our own garden. We started it last year from a cutting, so the plant is still small, but I have great hopes for next year.

There’s so many good things you can make with rhubarb. When I stew it or bake with it, I often add vanilla for a wonderful flavour combination. Ginger is lovely too.

Here’s my recipe for rhubarb coffee cake (pictured above) from Epicurious.

Here are 10 more rhubarb ideas courtesy of the Kitchn.

So, what’s your favorite thing to eat this time of year?

Sharing with Favorite Thing Saturday and Home Sweet Home.