Our monthly Sunday Family Dinners have kind of morphed into Saturday Family Dinners. It may not have the same ring to it but after an evening of consuming tons of goodness, the last thing I want to do is to drive back home to San Diego to make it to work the next morning.
So last weekend, we held our monthly Fam-Din at my seester’s casa where we jumped into a Middle Eastern inspired menu. The seesters made Roasted Garlic Hummus, Cucumber-Chickpea-Feta Salad, Shish Tawook and Basmati Rice.
Shish Tawook are chicken skewers that are marinated in yogurt, citrus, spices and then grilled. My seester served them with toum which was a super garlicky sauce that she was obsessed with. Truth be told, I had no idea what toum was before this weekend but it was fantastic over the chicken. As for the salad, it went really well with the Shish Tawook as the acidity helped to cut and brighten the dish.
Initially I was going to bake fresh pita to serve alongside with the hummus and chicken but well…I got lazy, really lazy. And since one of my seesters lives down the street from a wonderful Middle Eastern grocery store, I decided to pick up some of their delicious sangkak that they bake fresh throughout the day. Sangkak is a Persian flatbread that is slightly chewy and the one I picked up from Aria was about 36 inches long, speckled with sesames seeds, and was steaming hot.
As for my homemade contributions to dinner, I made a Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake for dessert and Pomegranate Mojitos. Yea, yea….I know mojitos are Cuban but I considered it a fusion since I used pomegranates and fresh mint for this cocktail—totes Middle Eastern flavors.
As for the cake, well…..truth be told, this was an 11th hour addition. The original dessert I had planned to make was a Pistachio Pound Cake but when it cooled, it weighed a gazillion pounds and was as hard as a brick!!! It totally confounded me as the recipe appeared “normal” and I didn’t over bake it but that’s how new dessert recipes roll sometimes. Hit or miss. But if I didn’t experiment on my loved ones, who would I try new recipes on?
So with dinner just a few hours away, I pulled out one of my tried and true recipes and modified it a bit to compliment our Middle Eastern themed menu. To a trusted cake batter, I added finely ground pistachio nuts, fresh orange zest and a few dashes of orange blossom water that I had picked up when I grabbed the sangkak.
With a hope and a prayer, I served my “do-over” cake with fresh berries, a citrus scented whipped cream and crushed pistachios. And guess what? The seebs and kids really liked it! Really! Because if they didn’t, they would’ve told me in a heartbeat. That’s the thing with family. They give brutally honest feedback–something I completely appreciate it….when it comes to cooking, that is.
The cake was rather light and beautifully aromatic from the pistachios and orange flavors. And although I did cover it with a glaze, it wasn’t too sweet and paired well with the fluffy whipped cream I scented with orange zest. As for the berries, wonderfully tart and bright.
All in all, it was a delicious and successful Fam-Din! And true to form, we hadn’t finished 1/2 of our meal before we started planning April’s menu—Japanese!
The Vapors would be so proud.
Pistachio–Orange Blossom Cake
2¼ cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1½ tablespoons fresh orange zest
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
½ cup finely ground pistachios
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
¼ cup roughly chopped pistachios
Orange Scented Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons fresh orange zest
Preheat oven to 350˚ F.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and eggs in another bowl.
In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, orange zest and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and with the paddle attachment beat at medium speed until ingredients are light and fluffy. Beat in the almond extract and orange blossom. Then add 1/3 of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Mix in ½ of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in 1/3 of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, mixing until the batter is well mixed, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Continue beating for another minute to ensure that the batter is thoroughly mixed and then add in the ground pistachios. Mix until just combined. Pour the cake batter into a well greased bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minute before carefully inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the cake has completely cooled, create the glaze. In a large measuring cup, combine all the glaze ingredients except the nuts. Microwave in 20 second intervals until the glaze has just combined (whisking in between). Slowly spoon the warm glaze over the cake, allowing it to soak in between spoonfuls. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the cake and let it cool for 1 hour before slicing and serving. *The glaze is quite thin. For a thicker consistency, double the amount of powdered sugar.
Before serving, prepare the whipped cream. Using a standing mixer fitted with the balloon whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar until you reach a thick consistency. Add in the zest and whip until combined.
Serve the cake with dollops of whipped cream, additional chopped pistachios and fresh raspberries (optional).