Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Japanese Fruit Cake

I REMEMBER MY GRANDMOTHER MAKING this lovely celebration cake each year for the holidays. As a girl I thought this was the most impressive and beautiful cake I had ever seen! After my grandmother passed away, the cake stopped making an appearance at our holiday gatherings.

For years, I asked family members, especially some of the older aunts, if they had the recipe. I searched through old southern cookbooks.

Last summer, because she knows my interest in heirloom recipes, Mama gave me a cookbooklet she had found in some of her aunt's belongings. The booklet was published in 1952 by a community group in Chambers County, Alabama. Imagine my delight when I turned to the cake chapter and there was the recipe for Japanese Fruit Cake!

 I have no idea why this cake has such a mysterious name. I don't believe it is remotely Japanese and it is not a fruit cake in the traditional sense. The fruits in the cake are coconut, lemon, and raisins. There are two moist and fluffy yellow layers and two spice layers with pecans, raisins, cinnamon and allspice. The cake is topped with a luscious lemony coconut glaze.

I loved making this cake!

Japanese Fruit Cake
3 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. allspice
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour four 8-inch cake pans.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine the chopped raisins, pecans, cinnamon, and allspice.

I mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar; beat with mixer to combine them well. Add eggs one and a time, beating after each addition, to make a smooth, fluffy mixture.

Stir the vanilla into the milk. Add about half the flour mixture, the half the milk, beating at low speed just until combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and milk.

Divide half the batter between 2 of the pans. Stir the raisin and spice mixture into the remaining batter. Divide this mixture between the remaining 2 pans. Set all 4 pans in the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until the layers are golden brown, pulling away from the sides of the pans, and spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool the cakes on wire racks for 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto the wire racks to cool completely, top side up.

Lemon Coconut Icing
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
3 1/2 cups (approx.) frozen shredded coconut
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup water

In heavy, medium saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and the coconut. Bring to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle boil, and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir cornstarch into the 1/2 cup water, stir well and add to the pan, mixing to dissolve. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and clear. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring from time to time.

To assemble the cake, place a plain layer, top side down, on a cake stand, or serving plate. Poke little holes all over and spread about one fourth of the icing over the layer, spreading all the way to the edges. Place a spice layer over the icing and spread another 1/4 of the icing. Continue layering with the remaining layers and icing. Place the last spice layer, right side up and pour all the remaining icing over the layer so that some of the icing cascades down the sides of the cake. Let stand for several hours, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove cake from refrigerator about 1 hour before serving.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Celery Salad with Dates and Roasted Pecans

THIS SUPER SIMPLE SALAD MADE with only a few ingredients is surprisingly delicious. I got the recipe from my long-time blogging buddy, Rosie Hawthorne of Kitchens are Monkey Business. At her blog she speaks of her discovery of Medjool dates and shares some date history. Check it out!

I have found that most good produce departments have Medjool dates but sometimes you have to ask because they are not always obvious.   I have posted a few date recipes before, always using Medjool dates, though not specifying. Here is a lovely summer dessert, Stuffed Dates. Here is another stuffed date recipe; one of my favorites and one of my favorite photographs

Celery Salad with Dates and Roasted Pecans
4 stalks celery, sliced on a diagonal
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
3/4 cup roasted pecans
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon joice
2 -3 Tbsp. good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (approx.) shaved Parmesan cheese

Combine celery, dates, pecans, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Stir well. Garnish with Parmesan.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Vegetarian Gravy

THERE IS NOTHING I LOVE MORE THAN A VEGETABLE PLATE.  I am not a vegetarian, I just love vegetables--all vegetables. I was this way even as a kid. I was the nerdy kid who liked rutabagas, beets, brussels sprouts. I especially love greens and beans of all kinds.   

For this vegetable plate, I cooked fresh turnips with turnip greens and fresh black eye peas, all of which I got at the Farmers Market. I know rice is technically not a vegetable, but it is a plant based food. Plus I was craving gravy (which I often do) and needed something to serve it over. Also, I think rice is lovely with beans.

Vegetarian Gravy
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1 1/2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. rubbed sage
1/4 tsp thyme
generous salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet

Melt butter, in a medium skillet. Stir in flour until well blended, the add the finely minced onion. Cook over medium low heat until onion is tender. Slowly stir in milk. Add bay leaf, sage, thyme, and salt and pepper. Cook and stir until thickened to desired consistency. Remove bay leaf and stir in Kitchen Bouquet. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if desired. Serve hot.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Peach and Orzo Salad with Mango Viniagrette

OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF WEEKS, I HAVE made several pasta salads. Loaded with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, they seem to be perfect for a light supper on a hot summer evening. The combinations are endless with the varieties of pasta shapes available as well as the abundance of summer produce.

This was one of our favorites. Our Southern peaches from South Carolina and Georgia have been outstanding this year--perfectly juicy with intense peach flavor. This salad uses those flavorful peaches along with small mozzarella balls and toasted pecans as well as other vegetables. The mango dressing really ties everything together.

Peach and Orzo Salad with Mango Viniagrette
8 ounces orzo, cooked according to package directions, drained
2 large peaches, peeled and chopped
4 scallions, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
8 ounces small fresh mozzarella balls
1 cup pecan halves, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup mango chutney
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large serving bowl, combine cooled orzo, peaches, scallions, celery, bell pepper, cheese, pecans, and parsley.

Add mango chutney, olive oil, and red wine vinegar to a mason jar and shake vigorously to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste and shake again.

Pour the dressing over the salad and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or vinegar if needed.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Creamy High Protein Chicken Salad (No Mayo)

THIS DELICIOUS CHICKEN SALAD IS MADE WITH NO mayonnaise. It doesn't use yogurt either as I find it too unstable for a salad with planned leftovers. The dressing is made with low fat cottage cheese which is blended with lemon juice, honey, garlic, onion, salt and pepper, paprika, and cayenne. The salad consists of tender chunks of moist chicken, sliced celery, cubed granny smith apples, and pistachios.

I bought  a whole chicken, about 2 1/2 pounds, and poached it with aromatics. It is easy to do and results in the juiciest, most flavorful, and tender chicken. As an added bonus, you are making chicken broth, for later use, at the same time.

The delicious cottage cheese dressing is clearly superior nutrition-wise. One cup of 2% cottage cheese contains 194 calories, 5.5 g of fat and 26.7 g of protein (almost half your daily value). One cup of mayo (and yes people do put that much in salads) has 1500 calories, 160 g of fat, and only a trace of protein.

Everyone loved this chicken salad and no one missed the mayonnaise.

Creamy High Protein Chicken Salad
3 cups cooked chicken
1 cup sliced celery
1 granny smith apple, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup roasted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
1 cup 2% cottage cheese
1 clove garlic
1/2 large sweet onion (I used Vidalia) roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine chicken, celery, apple, and nuts in a large bowl.

Add cottage cheese, garlic, onion, lemon juice, honey, paprika, cayenne, and salt and pepper to a blender or processor. Process until smooth and creamy. If you want it a little thinner, add some milk.

Stir into the chicken mixture until blended well. Best if chilled for at least an hour before serving. Even better the next day.