Monday, June 29, 2009

Pizza A Metro

I’m lucky enough to not only have a great job but to also work for a company that hosts a twice monthly pizza lunch for all the employees. I know it sounds crazy but it's true. Although there's a regular rotation of places we order from; periodically we’ll try something new. This is how I got to taste Pizza A Metro.

Roughly translated to mean pizza by the meter; Pizza A Metro’s meter long pies are the perfect size for large groups like ours. They normally don’t deliver; it's eat in or pick up only. But Anna, our hospitality person, was able to sweet talk Lorenzo into making an exception. And I'm so glad she did. Pizza A Metro had been on my "must try" list for quite some time.

Anna had ordered 5 pies with various toppings. For the sake of this blog and being able to provide you with an accurate review; I tried them all.

I'm usually happiest with a plain pie but this time my favorite was the pepperoni.

The pizza’s were topped with the freshest ingredients and cooked in a wood-fire oven. The crusts were thin but not too crispy; maybe even a little on the doughy side. (which I don't mind) With their slightly sweet sauce they reminded me a lot of the pizza I had when visiting Rome.

The consensus around the office was favorable. Although, there were a few that said it wasn’t perfect; the majority really seemed to like Pizza A Metro. Hopefully, they will become part of our regular rotation.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Welcome to the 39 Club

This past Sunday I celebrated my 39th birthday and although I know they say age is only a number I’m really starting to feel the effects of getting older. For example: I’m starting to forget things…simple things…like buying the sugar I needed to make my cake. I know it sounds minor but when you’re all set to bake and realize you’re missing an essential ingredient it’s truly a hassle. And I can’t stop could I forget sugar?

Deciding on what kind of cake to make had been hard enough. I knew I wanted chocolate and some sort of cherry filling but I just couldn’t find the perfect recipe. One or more of the components, in every recipe I found, just wasn’t right. So after going through tons of cookbooks I ended up piecing together a cake of my liking from various different sources.

It wasn’t until I had preheated the oven and had most of the ingredients measured out that I realized I had forgotten to buy the sugar. I wasn’t about to run back out to the store (I’m old, remember) so I started digging through the pantry. I found a box of Sugar In The Raw; the front of which said that it was “perfect for baking." I thought to myself “this could work”... so I tried it…and it worked fine. Just think I never would have known to substitute Sugar In The Raw if I were younger and didn’t forget simple things like buying sugar.

So getting older might not be all that bad. They say you live and learn…I guess that’s true.

Chocolate Cake
(old family recipe)

1 cup cold water
1 stick butter
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour your pan.
2. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
3. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl at medium speed. Add eggs one at a time mixing after each addition. Add sour cream beat well. Alternate between dry ingredients and water mixing just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
4. Bake 50-60 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

One Bowl Butter Cream Frosting
(Phylis's famous frosting)

6 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup Cocoa
2 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small bowl, cream butter. Add cocoa and confectioners sugar alternately with milk; beat to spreading consistency. (additional milk may be needed) blend in vanilla.


1 small jar cherry preserves

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Friends That Like to Cook

It’s not often we find others that like to cook as much as we do. So when a coworker mentioned her passion for cooking I immediately suggested getting together to share a meal. We spent weeks hashing out just the right menu and just as much time tracking down the perfect ingredients. Courses were divided up and last minute changes were made; but this past weekend it all paid off. We met at Ann’s for what could best be described as a delicious feast.

John and I were in charge of appetizers and dessert. Ann and John (yes, two John’s) were in charge of the pasta and main course. Chris brought the drinks and intermezzo. We decided early on to do a caponata as one of the appetizers. I had seen an episode of Emeril Green where he did an Oven Roasted Eggplant Caponata and I was dying to try it.

The caponata was a blend of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and red peppers mixed with kalamata olives, and capers all of which was marinated in a light vinaigrette. Served with some homemade bread it made a tasty appetizer. We also made some cherry tomatoes stuffed with ricotta blended with green olives and chopped garlic. Perfect bite sized treats.

The pasta was simple yet elegant; invoking a feeling of summertime with each bite. Grilled zucchini tossed with chopped fresh mint, just the right amount of ricotta salata and a drizzle of balsamic made it a very light and refreshing dish. This would also work nicely as a main course pasta.

We enjoyed some delicious lime basil sorbet from Sweet Republic in Scottsdale Arizona as our intermezzo.

Ann and John spent a lot of time preparing the Braised Pork Shoulder with Chestnuts, Olives and Herbs adapted from A16 in San Francisco; 3 days to be exact. I can attest that the end product was worth the effort. We were each served a bowl of tender succulent pork meat bathed in its own juices with olives and chestnuts alongside.

Dessert was another recipe from A16; Pistachio and Almond Cake with Orange Salad. I honestly can’t recommend this recipe. Although the end product tasted good there was definitely something wrong with the cooking directions. The recipe calls for 45 minutes in a 300 degree oven. 1 ½ hours later and the cake was still wet inside. Needless to say that by the time it got remotely close to being down the bottom layer had totally burnt.

At this point I was in a complete panic. What am I going to do with a burnt bottom cake? My husband keep telling me not to worry there is nothing that can’t be fixed. So with a huge kitchen knife he removed the bottom layer and really no-one was the wiser.

Everyone agreed the finished product was very good but I’m not sure I would risk trying it again.

All in all the dinner was a success!

***I'm submitting the Penne with Grilled Zucchini Ricotta Salata and Mint to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Daphne of More Than Words. Stop by to check out the Round-up.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bowl Cake

My favorite time of the year is from June 2nd to June 20th. Why? Because my husband’s birthday is on the 2nd and mine is on the 21st. So for that short period of time from the 2nd-20th,every year, I can tease him about being an old man. I know…I’m rotten; but hey I made him this delicious cake for his birthday…doesn’t that make up for it.

This cake is known in my family as the “Bowl Cake” and it’s what we always had on birthdays. The recipe has been passed down to me from my great uncle on my mom’s side who was a professional baker back in the day. It’s a pound cake with a very light crumb topped with traditional butter cream frosting.

Bowl Cake
4 eggs
½ lb. butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups cake flour (sifted if you want an even lighter cake)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup of milk
Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl beat butter and sugar until creamy.
Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
Add vanilla.
Add flour alternately with milk and beat well.
Bake 350 degrees for 1 hour or till done

Buttercream Frosting
½ cup Crisco
½ cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
31/2 cups powdered sugar
milk as needed for consistency

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Cake Bible's Golden Almond Cake

I like checking out cookbooks before I actually commit to buying them. I know I'm weird but I need to see if there are enough recipes inside, that I would make, to justify the purchase. So when I find a cookbook I’m interested in I usually try and borrow it from a friend or the library first.

My latest cookbook of interest is Rose Levy Bernabaum’s, The Cake Bible. After several weeks on a waiting list I was finally able to check it from the library this past weekend. I have to admit I liked this book almost immediately. Recipes range from basic pound cakes to the more advanced and intricate wedding cakes.

All of the recipes include nutritional information and most importantly all give various measurements for ingredients. When I bake I like to use ounces vs. cups. With the cake Bible I don’t need my conversion chart to tell me how many ounces 2 cups of sifted flour is. It’s all done for me. Makes baking that much easier.

After browsing through the book several times I finally decided to try baking the Golden Almond Cake. Made with ground almonds, almond extract, and just a dash of vanilla the cake was bursting with flavor. The book suggests serving it with either chocolate shavings, powdered sugar or raspberry sauce. Although, I made the raspberry sauce I decided after the first piece that it didn’t need it and that I actually preferred the cake with just a light dusting of powdered sugar. I would definitely make this again and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. It was very simple to make and very delicious to eat.

I’m looking forward to actually purchasing my own copy of the Cake Bible and trying out more of the many recipes inside.

Golden Almond Cake
The Cake Bible

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 2/3 cups sifted cake flour
1/3 cup, ground, unblanched sliced almonds, toasted and finely ground
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons softened butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-by-2-inch cake pan or 9- inch springform pan; line the bottom with parchment or wax paper, then grease it again and flour it.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the eggs, ¼ of the sour cream and the extracts. In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining sour cream. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1¤½ minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure.
Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and unmold, or remove the sides of the springform pan. Allow to cool completely before wrapping airtight.