December 21, 2011

Orange and saffron cake

orange and saffron cake

Little A is going to be 2 next month and I think I made a breakthrough this month. You see, last year, I made this delicious birthday cake for him and he barely tasted it. This entire year, every time we went to a birthday party or if I baked a cake at home, I would try to get him eat a bite. Lil A would make a face, and now that he's talking say 'yucky' and walk away. So I had kind of given up on him eating cake. So this cake was not for him.

It was for us and for our friends. This has been my go to recipe for this holiday season. I've already made various versions of it (including a cake pudding trying to salvage a disaster) and it comes out great every time. But let me not digress.

At our friend's place when we were getting ready for dessert, Lil A points towards the cake. I ask him surprised "You want a piece?" He nods his head. So I sit him on a chair and cut a piece and he takes a bite. And another and then another. Yeah, Lil A ate and liked the cake. :)

It also helped that there was a 4-year-old sitting next to him eating a cake piece. But I may have just found a winner. Here is the recipe with Lil A's stamp of approval. I got the recipe from here, and modified it with saffron and reducing eggs and baking powder.

(Modified from: Morocconfood)
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
2 cups flour
3 tspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

orange and saffron cake

Juice from 1 fresh orange and its zest
1 good pinch of saffron soaked in 2-3 tbspoon warm milk
2-3 tbspoon powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350° F (180° C), butter and flour the pan and keep it aside. Beat the eggs and sugar until it becomes thick. Then slowly add in the oil.

Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt in the mix, and then the orange juice, little bit at a time. Beat until smooth, and then mix in the zest and saffron milk.

Add the batter into your pan, and bake for about 40-45 minutes till the toothpick comes out clean.

orange and saffron cake

Cool on a rack and then add some dusting of powdered sugar.

orange and saffron cake

Serve plain or with some ice-cream.

Have a wonderful holidays everyone.

December 12, 2011

Playdate # 2, this time it's raviolis

ravioli both

Little N and Little A, and this time there was also Little O, got together for another playdate, or rather Nicole and I got together again for some wine and another cooking session.  We made raviolis, and enjoyed it with family and friends along with some salad, and ice-cream.

Ravioli dough

Wine bottles were opened, stories were exchanged, and raviolis were made under Nicole's guidance. I've never made raviolis before. It confounds me, the thinness of the dough, how much filling to add, when do you know it's done, do we need a sauce? All these questions were swirling in my mind when Nicole generously agreed to show how to do it.

To save some time, we each made a filling and a sauce beforehand and then put it all together just before dinner.

Nicole made:
1. Ricotta and spinach filling and a tomato sauce.

I made:
2. Butternut squash filling and a white sauce.

Nicole brought her pasta machine to roll out the dough and a ravioli maker. She gave me one ravioli maker too!  We rolled out the dough using her pasta machine, spread the final dough sheet on the ravioli maker, filled it up with a filling and voila, in a couple of hours we had a good batch ready to be cooked.

I also have a cool video of Nicole explaining how much filling to put and the ravioli maker and I promise to post it soon ( as soon as the battery is charged).

Cheese Ravioli

Here is how Nicole made the ricotta and spinach filling and the marinara sauce:
Ricotta and spinach filling
(Adapted from Lidia's Italian American Kitchen)
3 c whole milk ricotta
2 T olive oil
1 leek, white part only, chopped
1/2 c minced scallions (about 6)
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed.
4 c fresh spinach chopped
1 c grated parmesan cheese
1 egg

Drain the cheese overnight in the fridge in a fine mesh colander lined with a coffee filter.
Saute the leeks and scallions in the olive oil about till soft.
Stir in spinach, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 min., until liquid has evaporated. Cool before next step.
Stir together ricotta, parmesan, spinach mixture and egg. Chill before filling the ravioli, otherwise it will cook the pasta dough.

Cheese ravioli
Tomato sauce
1 35-oz. can of diced San Marzano tomatoes, with liquid
1 can "6 in 1" ground tomatoes (Plum has it. If you can't find that brand, you could use tomato puree.)
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped red bell pepper
1/4 c finely shredded carrot
1/4 c finely shredded celery
4 fresh or 2 dry bay leaves
1 T grated parmesan cheese
1 t brown sugar (optional)
chopped basil to taste

Sautee the onions and peppers on medium until the onion is translucent, maybe 5 min.
Add celery and carrots. Cook til it turns a light golden color, about 10 min.
Add the tomatoes and bay leaves and bring to a boil
Lower heat to a simmer, add brown sugar, and cook for about 45 min, stirring occasionally.
Remove bay leaves. Remove 1/2 to 2/3 of the sauce from the pan and carefully puree it in the blender. The amount you puree depends on how chunky you want the sauce.
Stir pureed sauce back into pan.
Stir in parmesan cheese and basil.
Season w/salt and pepper if necessary

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Here is how I made the butternut squash filling and the white cheese sauce.
Butternut Squash Filling
1 butternut squash - sliced
10-12 green olives chopped
1 small onion chopped
handful walnuts chopped
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
fresh black pepper powder
2 tbspoon oil

Heat the oven to 350 deg F and put the sliced butternut squash in for 40-45 min mixed with 1 tbspoon oilive oil and salt and pepper. When there is 4 min cooking time left, add in the walnuts to toast them.

Take it out, mash the butternut squash, chop the walnuts and set aside.

Heat the rest of 1 tbspoon oil and add in the chopped onions and saute for a couple of minutes. Add in the mashed butternut squash, and mix it together.  Add the chopped olives, cumin seed powder, salt and pepper and let it cook together for a couple of minutes. Add in the walnuts and take it off the heat.
Let it cool before you add in as a filling.

Butternut Squash Ravioli
White Cheese sauce
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup cheese (I used a combination of parmesan and white cheddar shredded)
1/4 tspoon basil powder
2 cloves garlic minced
salt to taste
1 tbspoon butter

In a deep pan, heat the butter and add the garlic and saute. Then add the cheese and milk and let it cook on low heat till the cheese dissolves. Add in the salt and basil powder and then let it thicken for 3-4 minutes. Take it off the heat.

Putting the raviolis together
Once the raviolis are ready, heat water with some oil and and salt. When the water is boiling add in the raviolis and let it cook for 12-13 minutes.

Then add the cooked raviolis to the sauce and serve immediately.


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