Desserts/Pastries · Sunday Family Dinner

Pistachio–Orange Blossom Cake

Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

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.

March 2013 Family Dinner

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.

March 2013 Family Dinner

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.

March 2013 Family Dinner

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.

Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

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. 🙂

Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

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.

 

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Pomegranate Mojito
Appetizers: Roasted Garlic Hummus with Sangkak Flat Bread
Entrees: Shish Tawook with Toum, Crispy Rice, Cucumber-Chickpea-Feta Salad
Dessert: Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

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Pistachio–Orange Blossom Cake
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

Cake Batter
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

Glaze
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).

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Desserts/Pastries

Pistachio Biscotti

Pistachio Biscotti

 

 

The other day I paid nearly $4 for a small, almond biscotti to dunk into my drip coffee. Sure, it was good—but pricey!

 

 

Pistachio Biscotti

 

 

My cheapness motivated me to get my lazy butt into the kitchen to bake up my own batch. Not to mention, at a fraction of the cost of what I spent for just one cookie!

My sis suggested I use Alice Waters’ version as it stays the most true to traditional biscotti since there is no butter in it. I did, however, make a few tweaks to it—opting for pistachios instead of almonds and dusting the tops with raw sugar. And, of course, dipping half of the batch in chocolate. YUM.

 

 

Pistachio Biscotti

 

 

This base recipe also has so much potential for other delish flavoring such as orange zest, dried cranberries and other fruits….so many options! And with the holidays quickly approaching, a tin full of these biscotti would make a wonderful gift.

No more overpriced biscotti for this gal!

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Pistachio Biscotti

Ingredients:
1½ Cups Roasted Pistachios, toasted, unsalted, and roughly chopped
2¼ Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1½ Tablespoons Raw Sugar
3 Eggs, at room temperature
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
6 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl, sift together flour and baking powder.  In a mixer, beat together eggs and granulated sugar until the mixture forms a ribbon. Gently stir in the dry ingredients until just incorporated and then fold in pistachios and lemon zest.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, form the dough into two 3-inch wide loaves.  The dough will be quite sticky. Wet your hands with water and smooth the loaves. Sprinkle the tops with the raw sugar. Bake for 25 minutes and remove from the oven.  Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F and let the loaves cool on racks for 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut ½ inch thick cookies on a diagonal. Place the cookies back on the sheet and continue baking on each side for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.

Once the cookies have cooled, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Dip one side of the biscotti into the chocolate and allow to cool on the baking racks.

Adapted from Alice Waters’: The Art of Simple Food

Condiments/Sauces · Salads · Side Dish · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Asian Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Asian Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

 

My siblings and I live all over the country so when we come home for Christmas, we try and squeeze in as much time with each other as possible. And of course when we’re together, there is always some type of cooking, eating, laughing….and sometimes even a little bickering. Hey—just because we’re older, we’re still siblings after all 🙂

Before joining our extending family for dinner and presents on Christmas Eve, the siblings (sibs-in-laws, kids, and 4-legged furry kids) gathered for lunch. The menu included Peach Bellini Cocktails, Cosmopolitan Martinis, Lemon Bars, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Rosemary Bread, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad, and a decadent Seafood Cioppino in honor of our Mom.

I thought this Asian Pear and Gorgonzola Salad would be a nice compliment to our lunch spread—-plus the green and red colors added a lovely festive touch. When I initially thought of making it, I had intended to use Bosc or Bartlett Pears. But when we had some juicy Asian Pears on hand, my sister suggested that they would be a nice alternative. You’ll also find that most pear salads will have walnuts in them. But since walnuts are my least favorite nuts, I swapped them out for one of my favorites—pistachios. Yum.

I think the end results was a bright dish that had great texture balance from the crunch of the pomegranates and pistachios to the creamy and slightly piquant flavor from the gorgonzola to the verdant essence from the greens.  As for the Pomegranate Vinaigrette, it brought together all of the components without overpowering them.

Would our Mom have enjoyed the meal? I have no doubt she would have loved it.

And I think she would be extra proud of us for eating our veggies. 🙂

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Asian Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

8 Cups Mixed Greens (ie. Arugula, Baby Spinach, Mâche, etc.)
2 Small Asian Pears, sliced paper thin
1/3 Cup Fresh Pomegranate Seeds
½ Cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
1/3 Cup Pistachio Nuts, roughly chopped

Pomegranate Vinaigrette:
2 Tablespoons Fresh Pomegranate Seeds
3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
½ Teaspoon Sugar
2 Shallots, thinly sliced
½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste

Prepare Vinaigrette. In a small sauce pan or skillet, heat olive oil on low. Add shallots and cook until softened—about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Place pomegranate seeds in a small bowl. Using a fork, crush the seeds to allow the juices to come out. Add shallots, sugar, and red wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil from the shallots until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the greens onto a large platter. Place the pears over the greens and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and gorgonzola on top. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve immediately.