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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Salmon-Asparagus Salad

I've made something similar to this in the past, but somehow never posted about it. I was in Utah this weekend and needed to do something with a filet of Costco salmon. Here's my solution, which also uses fresh in-season asparagus. In late summer and fall, when asparagus isn't so plentiful, it tastes great with green beans.


Salmon-Asparagus Salad
loosely inspired by The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

1 filet (approx 2.5 lb) salmon
1 large bunch (2 lb? How big are the packages at Costco?) asparagus, ends snapped off and snapped into two-inch pieces

Spray salmon with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees until just firm and opaque throughout. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. Blanch asparagus pieces in boiling water for 30-90 seconds, depending on thickness of spears. Let cool and refrigerate also.

juice of one lemon
twice as much olive oil as lemon juice
1 pkg fresh dill, leaves stripped and minced (about 3-4 T)
3 T capers, minced
2 ribs celery, diced fine
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
1/2 or more English cucumber, cut into quarter-rounds
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix lemon juice, olive oil, dill and capers with some salt and pepper, then stir in remaining ingredients and reserved salmon and asparagus. Adjust seasonings and serve.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Banana Layer Cake--We Have a Winner!

As promised, I tried again to make the banana layer cake I was imagining: moist, with a strong banana flavor, but not dense like a quickbread. I wanted something rich enough not to cry out for whipped cream or ice cream or any kind of sauce, and I thought it would be nice if chocolate played a role in there somewhere. Eureka. Today I made the Banana Layer Cake recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook (you know, the big yellow one, with the retarded yellow ink color for the internal titling). It turns out a three-layer banana cake with cream cheese frosting and banana slices in the filling. I made it pretty much by the book, with a little less sugar in the frosting, and added a layer of chocolate ganache in the filling on top of the banana slices. It was divine, if possibly a little too rich. You won't want a big slab of this one.
Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Banana-Ganache Filling
adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

Ganache Filling:

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or I use chocolate that comes in pastilles, so no chopping required)
6 1/2 oz heavy cream

Put chocolate and cream in a glass bowl and microwave on high for one minute. Stir well, then microwave for 30 more seconds and stir until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and glossy, microwaving for an additional 30 seconds if absolutely necessary. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until room temperature and thick enough to spread easily but not drip or ooze, using refrigerator judiciously to hurry process.

Cake:

2 1/4 C sifted cake flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 C mashed very ripe bananas (about 2 large)
1/4 C plain whole-milk yogurt (I prefer Brown Cow)
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1 C sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350, and prepare three round cake pans (the original recipe calls for 8-inch pans, but I used 9-inch pans and got thinner layers in less time). Sift flour into measuring cups, then stir together with baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Mash bananas in a small bowl, then whisk in yogurt and vanilla. Set aside both bowls.

Beat butter and sugar at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternate adding flour and banana mixtures, starting and ending with flour and mixing at low speed just to combine, scraping sides of bowl often.

Divide batter evenly among pans and smooth tops. Bake, switching positions of pans mid-way through for even cooking, 18-22 minutes, until just springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean (15-18 minutes for 9-in layers). Cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes, then invert layers onto racks to cool completely.


Frosting:

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
2 1/2-3 C powdered sugar

4 ripe but firm bananas

Beat butter and cream cheese in stand mixture with whisk attachment until light and fluffy, 6-7 minutes. Beat in vanilla and salt, then gradually add sugar, scraping sides of bowl often, until thoroughly blended and fluffy.

To assemble the cake, put one layer, top side down, on cake plate. Put waxed paper under edges of cake to keep plate clean. Spread top of cake with a thin layer of cream cheese frosting, just enough to cover. Slice bananas thinly on the diagonal and arrange slices in a spiral pattern almost to edges of cake. Top bananas with half the ganache, and spread to within 1/2 inch of the edge (not flush with the edge as shown in the picture below--I had more ooze out the sides than would have been ideal). Repeat with second layer, then place third layer on top.





Spread sides of cake with a thin crumb layer of cream cheese frosting to contain filling and keep chocolate streaks from appearing. Refrigerate cake 1/2 hour to firm up crumb layer before proceeding.


Spread a nice 1/4" layer of frosting around the sides of the cake using a straight spatula, then scrape remaining frosting onto top of cake and smoothe to edges.


Refrigerate an hour or two to firm everything up, then serve.



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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Street of Eames

I went to this yesterday, thanks to Melissa giving me her ticket. It was awesome. I mean, just look at this ticket:



I tried to get the angle of the light just right so you could see the quality of the print job. Way cool. I went to six of the seven houses on the tour, and could have seen myself living in more than one. Many of them featured radiant heating in the floors, which I plan on incorporating into a future project at my house. One of them had a turntable in the driveway (!) which we'll never do here because we don't have a driveway to speak of, but it was super-kewl.

The best part about the whole thing? It's a benefit for homeless kids in Portland Public Schools. I can't imagine why I haven't gone before, but I'll be sure to go again. And again.

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"Reading"

She's only just started to learn a couple of letters, but that's not going to keep Cindy Lou from reading. I wish I'd gotten footage of her just before this, when she was "reading" every page. I was afraid to move into a better position and distract her into quitting. Unfortunately the Wizard spotted my attention shift and had lots of things to tell me.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Banana Layer Cake #2



I tried that banana layer cake again (my notes from the first attempt here, with a link to the original recipe. This time I used (per Lindsey's suggestion) four whole eggs instead of seven egg whites. Unfortunately the cake was still (to my taste) too dry and too tender, and not banana-y enough. The ganache turned out a little better, but still not perfect. I used plain diced roasted hazelnuts instead of candied pecans in the filling, and that was a total winner of a choice. To solve the cake issues (and because banana desserts still sound good to me), I've now got my eye on a banana layer cake recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook. It's got less sugar and more banana, no cinnamon (which I was starting to find distracting), and uses cream cheese frosting, with sliced bananas between the layers. Sounds good to me. I'm debating whether I'll try to retain some chocolate and hazelnut elements. What do you think (other than Di who doesn't like bananas)?

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Weekend Pics

Saturday morning there was an Easter egg hunt in the Primary President's giant backyard. It was chilly but not too wet, so we went. Unfortunately, because of Newton's swimming lesson, we were late, and so the hostess and cousin Miss Pea went ahead of the two little kids "hiding" eggs for them to find. Grandpa Artsy-Fartsy, who was visiting, helped the Wizard:


And Newton helped Cindy Lou. Wandering around outside + chocolate to drool down the front of her jacket = one of her favorite days ever.


Helpful egg hider Miss Pea.


Between church and changing clothes for lunch, we tried to get a good picture of the kids in their Easter finery. Yeah, right. We had to settle for having three sets of eyes on the camera.


Cindy Lou showed impressive focus and fine-motor skills in carefully peeling the foil off her Lindor eggs. Unlike every kid in my own family of origin, she did not attempt to eat any half-peeled pieces of candy. I am amazed and grateful.


The boys showing off their bunnies (amazingly, mid-week now, still intact).


Easter dinner was at J&J's, and Cindy Lou basically disappeared to play with the "big kids" as soon as we got there. Goodness she's getting more and more independent!


Cindy Lou also had her first day of nursery on Sunday, and had what the nursery leaders would probably term the best first day of nursery ever. She didn't even look up from her puzzle when Mavis left after dropping her off, and as far as we know she didn't give anyone a speck of trouble for the whole nearly two hours she was in their care. Way to go, girlie! She also said her first complete sentence this week: "I don't like it," when I gave her a bite of egg salad (after she spit it out). Grunts, whines and points are dwindling as they are replaced by words. Awesome.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm Still Here

Just haven't been blogging, as you can tell. Got into Facebook in January (it's all MWR's fault!!), and then for the last month I was swamped with getting ready for the Enrichment birthday dinner, leaving on a 9-day vacation the next day, and then having a 10-day houseguest shortly after our return. Oy. Just this last weekend, Mavis turned 40 and Cindy Lou turned 18 months, plus it was Easter. Baseball season has started for Newton, and I'm gearing up for a performance next month with the small choir I joined in January. I couldn't be much busier. So food has been of the tried-and-true variety, though I've been trying to incorporate new seasonal stuff from the farmers' market (it opened on March 21!), and last night we had Columbia River spring Chinook salmon!

So, I resolve to post new content soon, and leave you with pictures of the kids from our vacation (captured by my sister the Laundry Queen in my parents' backyard on one of the few non-snowy days of our spring break):



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