Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake, with a recipe.

Chocolate is a separate food group in my household and just like protein, I can’t live without it. Whenever I order a dessert in a restaurant, it is the chocolate desserts I gravitate to. However, I hesitate whenever I see a flourless chocolate cake on the menu because I do not know if it going to be fudge or cake. When it comes to flourless chocolate cake, I like them on the lighter side, not the ones that taste like dense fudge. It is not that I believe they taste bad, it is just they are very rich. The type of flourless chocolate cake I prefer, have a lighter airy texture, despite being moist and loaded with dark chocolate.

So far, I have come across two flourless chocolate cake recipes that satisfy my requirement of biting into a slice of cake, not a chunk of fudge. What makes them different from most flourless chocolate cake recipes out there is the use of finely ground nuts and whipped egg whites. The nuts act like a flour replacement and give the cake some texture and body. Also, because of the whipped egg whites, there is some air which gives the cake some lift and tastes light. Just like brownies, the cake is fudgy without being dense.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe

The only challenging aspect to making a flourless chocolate cake is how fragile they are. Especially the types of cakes I prefer. Without the gluten to hold it together, the cake can easily break and crack. Transferring the cake off the bottom of the springform pan onto a serving dish requires the strength of all the good karma, prayers and best wishes you can muster. As well as patience and your best problem-solving skills. It is a very moist cake, especially in the middle which makes it very delicate.

My recipe is adapted from Diana Henry’s Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe in her cookbook, Simple. She uses ground almonds which I love, but I could not bring myself to use almonds a day after I wrote a post about Earth Day Recipes and how growing almonds in California is depleting their water supply. I will not give up almonds altogether, but I should leave some time before I start using them again.

Bitter Orange Chocolate Cake recipe

Flourless Chocolate Cake Variations

In my recipe I substitute almonds with ground walnuts and I added orange zest and Grand Marnier. Chocolate pairs well with many types of nuts, so you can’t go wrong using any type of nut. I do love walnuts and chocolate, especially with bitter orange flavors from orange zest and orange flavored liqueur. I kept all the proportions the same, but I also added Grand Marnier for an extra orange punch. There is just enough of the walnuts for a subtle nut flavor with the dark chocolate the focal point.

However, the addition of Grand Marnier makes the cake more fragile than without it. I believe this is because of the extra moisture in the cake batter. I don’t believe baking it longer will help. If you are concerned about the final show stopping appearance, then don’t add the Grand Marnier. The whipped cream has Grand Marnier in it, so the dessert will have the great chocolate and boozy orange flavor.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe.

Removing the cake off the bottom of the spingform pan is challenging with this moist and delicate cake. If you don’t care, remove the sides of the pan and place the cake still on top of the pan’s bottom, on a serving plate. No one will care or notice while they are enjoying your delicious cake. Or, you can try lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to see if that helps. If your cake does break don’t despair, you can break it up and make ice cream sundaes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream with orange flavors and candied orange peel. Or, cut the cake up into bite size pieces for people to nibble on with their coffee or tea.

Orange Essence Flourless Chocolate Cake is worth making regardless of its delicate nature. Because the chocolate is the dominate flavor, use the best quality of chocolate you can buy with 70%- 72% cocoa butter. I have great success with Lindt chocolate and Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate, twilight delight found in candy section of the grocery store. Here is a link for more information on the best chocolate bars for baking from Serious Eats.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe

Enjoy!

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake

An effortless flourless chocolate cake with intense dark chocolate flavor and a light and nutty texture. The cake is very moist and fudgy but not dense.   

Serve with whipped cream 

Course Dessert
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Cooling Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Flourless chocolate cake

  • 6.75 oz (192 g) unsalted butter about 1 2/3 sticks
  • 11.5 oz (328 g) good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces 70% coco solids
  • 3/4 cup (164 g) super fine sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup (57 g) ground walnuts (see note)
  • finely grated zest from half a navel orange
  • 2 TB Grand Marnier Optional
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting the cake

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 TB confectioners' sugar or to taste
  • Zest from half an orange
  • 2 TB Ground Marnier or a 1/2 teaspoon of Orange Blossom Water

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (177°C /Gas Mark 4) oven. Butter an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan. Set aside. 

  2. In a medium metal mixing bowl, add the broken-up chocolate, the butter and sugar to the bowl. 

  3. Add some water to a large 10-inch (25.5 cm) skillet just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Set on a burner over medium heat. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and place the bowl with the chocolate, butter and sugar in the center of the skillet. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Do not let the water get to a brisk boil. Keep it at a gentle simmer, being careful not to splash water into the chocolate. 

  4. Remove the bowl from the skillet just before all the butter has melted and stir until all the chocolate and butter has melted. Let the chocolate cool for four minutes. 

  5. Add the egg yolks one at a time to the chocolate, stirring between each addition until each yolk is incorporated. 

  6. In a separate bowl, with a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff with soft peaks and still wet. Soft peaks will form when you lift out the beaters. Gently fold in the Grand Marnier if using. 

  7. Add the orange zest to the ground walnuts and mix together. Add the walnut mixture to the chocolate and half of the whipped egg whites. Fold into the chocolate. Then fold in the remaining egg whites. 

  8. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and place on a rimmed sheet pan in case it leaks.  Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. 

  9. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a cake rack. Don't get upset if you see the cake deflate and crack as it cools. When the cake is completely cool, unlatch the pan and carefully remove the sides. Run an icing spatula, or thin sharp knife under the cake to loosen. It helps to clean off the spatula or knife every time you pull it out from under the cake. Carefully transfer the cake onto a serving plate.

  10. Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar right before serving. 

Whipped Cream

  1. Right before serving, use a hand-held mixer and whip the heavy cream until it just holds its shape. Sprinkle in the confectioners' sugar and Grand Marnier, if using. Whip until combined soft peaks form. Taste and correct the whipped cream for sweetness and the Grand Marnier. Place in a small serving bowl. 

  2. Serve the whipped cream with the cake and extra fruit, like berries. 

Recipe Notes

Before you start the cake, toast the walnuts in a preheated 350°F (177 °C / Gas Mark 4) oven. Spread a couple of handfuls (60 g) of the walnuts over a small rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 minutes. Spread the toasted walnuts over a clean lint free kitchen towel. Fold a portion of the towel over the nuts to cover and rub the towel with the walnuts back and forth to remove the walnut skin. No need to go crazy rubbing off all the skin. Rub back and forth a few times until no more skin comes off without scrubbing. Collect the walnuts leaving the loose skin behind and grind the walnuts in a food processor. 

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake. A flourless chocolate cake recipe made with ground walnuts and flavored with orange zest and Grand Marnier. It has intense dark chocolate flavor complemented with the bitter orange essence. A very moist and light cake.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Earth Day Friendly Recips

View from Boscebel overlooking the Hudson River. Post about Earth Day with links to recipes.

Sometimes I just get so caught up in my own obligations I forget the time to set aside and pay attention to larger events going on around me. Earth Day is a couple of days away and I totally forgot about it. Besides from paying attention to keeping this planet healthy and clean, my son was born around Earth Day. It should be a day I never forget. Of course, I never forget my son’s birthday but now that my life no longer revolves around the school calendar, these extra-curricular activities are easily forgotten.

Fortunately, there are friendly reminders directing me to the goings on outside my work bubble. Recently, I came upon an article from Fine Cooking  with a list of recipes suitable for Earth Day celebrations and it got me wondering how many recipes on my website could I add to that list. Yet, because my blog includes recipes for all food groups and diets. At a quick glance I found 37 plant-based and environmentally friendly recipes out of 137 recipes on the blog. No dairy, eggs, cheese or animal proteins. If I add my fish recipes there are even more.

Spring Vegetable bounty from the Farmers Market. Earth Day post with recipes.

Earth Day Friendly Foods

What is Earth Day friendly food? Food made from plants that do not deplete our natural resources, pollute the environment, or contribute significantly to our greenhouse gas emissions. That is a tall order to fill because everything we grow, make and consume has an impact on the planet. Fortunately, there are farms that practice sustainable framing techniques with minimal impact on the environments. From my reading, I am a firm believer of buying local products from markets that source their products from local farms and venders, either livestock or plant-based food.

News to Me

From my reading and listening to Mark Bittman talk about food and the environment, I already knew anything related livestock and particularly to cattle, either beef or dairy contributes significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere. However, what I did not know about is rice. According to The Worlds Atlas, rice paddies are the “largest source of methane gas on earth.” Say whhat? Rice? Yes rice. Originally, I thought that distinction belonged to the cattle industry, but I was wrong. Carbon dioxide comes from microorganisms living in the rice paddies. As the world’s population grows, the more rice paddies there are, and hence more methane gas going into the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, I also read about how almonds significantly impact the water supply. This piece of information almost made me cry and struck a chord that goes back to my teenage years living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whenever I buy a non-dairy milk, I buy almond milk. Unfortunately, growing almonds requires large amounts of water, and even more water to produce almond milk. (See The World Atlas link for reference). According to The World Atlas, a significant amount of the world’s almonds comes from California. Need I say more? That poor state goes in and out of droughts time and again. These droughts sometimes last for years at time.

While I was growing up in CA during the 70’s there was a terrible drought that lasted a couple of years. 40 years later I can still hear Mom pointing out all the wasted water and ways to reduce our water consumption. Sorry mom, I just did not know. Maybe, If I make almond milk  at home, it will have less of an environmental impact.

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Carrot top pesto

Every Day is Earth Day

How do I manage eating environmentally responsibly on an omnivore diet? I buy locally whenever possible and within my budget, especially dairy and eggs. We eat beef maybe once a week at most, however we do eat a lot of chicken. Additionally, I buy fish that is considered a “Best  Choice” or “Good Alternative” from Seafood Watch.

Fortunately, we live in an area that has local dairy farms so buying local milk is easy and affordable. Cows no matter where they live produce methane gas, but I believe there is fewer emissions because the milk does not travel as far. Grass fed cows are also better for the environment. I used to be good about making my yogurt from the local milk. Making yogurt is something that Is easy to fit into your schedule, but yogurt from a half-gallon of milk should get eaten within the week.

We are by no means perfect and have behaviors that would receive a “needs improvement” score on our report card. My pet peeve are plastic shopping bags. We often forget to use our reusable ones. Reducing the number of plastic bags, we recycle and use, is one of my goals for the year.

Additionally, after reading the 10 worst foods for the environment, I realize we should eat more plant-based meals then we already do.

How to Begin

I recommend starting small and work your way into doing more each year. Years ago, the first act I did was not buy water bottles and sports drinks. That action saved me a lot of money and reduced the number of plastic bottles in my recycle bin. I bought water bottles to reuse and bought powdered sports drinks and made the beverage in reusable water bottles. Side bar – My sons were swimmers, and drinks like Gatorade were essential to replenish their electrolytes after a day’s practice. However, I do not recommend the daily consumption of energy drinks for children under the age of 12 and who do not participate in rigorous and daily sports activities. These types of beverages are full of refined sugar and salt, as is all flavored drinks. Studies show a direct relationship between obesity and the liquid form of sugar. 

Buy local whenever possible. Visit your local farmer’s market and buy your produce there. Even if the farmers are not certified organic, they possibly are practicing organic.

Remember the recycle symbol means, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce your waste cutting back on the amount of containers you buy. Reuse containers whenever possible. Recycle by either re-purposing or taking recyclable items to the recycling depot.

Earth Day Friendly Recipes

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce

Cold Sesame Noodles

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, South Indian Style Vegetable Curry

South Indian Style  Vegetable Curry

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Farro with mushrooms and roesmary

Toasted Farro with Mushrooms, add some chickpeas and swiss chard for a complete vegetarian meal

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Apricots

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Rosti, Potato Pancake with mushrooms

Potato pancakes, Rosti

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Fennel with Chickpeas Ratatouille

Fennel Chickpea Ratatouille serve with pasta or polenta

Soup

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Broccoli and Spinach Soup with Mint

Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Puree of Vegetable Soup

Purée of Vegetable Soup

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Kabocha coconut Curry Soup

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Miscellaneous Recipes

EArth Day Friendly Recipes, Parsley Juice

Parsley Juice

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Baked Oatmeal with Apples

Baked Oatmeal, made with non-dairy milk

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Aquafaba Meringue

Aquafaba meringue add whipped coconut milk with berries for a vegan pavlova

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Cocoa Banana Nut Snack Bar

Cocoa Banana Nut Snack Bar

Seafood recipes for those that need something more to eat besides plants

Buy fish that is sustainably farmed or harvested. Seafood Watch has reliable recommendations.

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Seared Fish Tacos with Avocado Mango Salsa

Seared Fish Tacos

Earth Day Friendly Recipe, Oven Baked Sole with herbs

Oven Poached Sole with herbs 

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth

Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth Buy Pacific Cod or from the Arctic on the east coast

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Spanish Style Mussels

Spanish Inspired Mussels, without the chorizo

 

This is just a sample of my plant-based and other environmentally friendly recipes on my blog. Most of my vegetable side dishes are plant-based or can easily be adapted by substituting olive oil for butter, non-dairy milk for cow’s milk, and eliminating the cheese in pesto.

Happy Earth Day everyone. Here is to a healthy life and a healthy planet.

 

 

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Leek Asparagus Risotto with Sugar Snap Peas

Leek Asparagus Risotto, a recipe.

Often, people believe making risotto is a chore. But I find it is not much more work than making a pasta dinner with a vegetable sauce or with shellfish. It takes about the same time and you must pay attention to what you are cooking. Regardless of your perspective, risotto is a meal worth having in your dinner repertoire. This recipe is inspired by Spring, using seasonal produce with the bright zing of lemon and mint. Leek asparagus risotto with sugar snap peas is pure comfort food. It is a blend of rice made creamy from stock and stirring, with a bounty of spring vegetables separately cooked to retain their crisp bite and shape.

Leek Asparagus Risotto, a recipe.

What is great about risotto, once you have the basic recipe down, the possibilities are endless. Anything goes. It is a great way to use up odds and end vegetables or leftover fish, chicken and cured pork. Any vegetable pairs nicely with the creamy rice. I like to add a lot of vegetables because I feel it is healthier for me. But many recipes include only just a cup of peas or no vegetables at all, like Risotto alla Milanese, which is the risotto that put risotto on the map. It is only made with the rice, stock, Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter, and saffron.

Leek Asparagus Risotto, a recipe.

When I make risotto, I have my music playing in the background or I have the pleasure of a friend sharing relaxed conversation with a glass of wine. It is also a time for meditation, especially if it has been one of those days and you need some quite time. Whatever the mood, you should never feel rushed or stressed when making risotto, you will just end up making mediocre risotto. This just can’t be rushed and defeats the purpose of making a comforting meal.

Leek Asparagus Risotto, a recipe.

Variations for Leek Asparagus Risotto

If you want to give leek asparagus risotto an upgrade either for a fancy dinner or for a romantic dinner for two, add some seared sea scallops on top of the plated risotto. If you do not know how to sear sea scallops, click on this link for Dinner Salad with Sea Scallops and Greens for instructions. Brown some butter after searing the sea scallops and drizzle it over the scallops and leek asparagus risotto with a squeeze of lemon. It is a great dinner for a couple to make together. Each person has a job. One can stir the risotto, the other can keep you company and sear the scallops and brown the butter at the last minute.

The dinner salad is a great alternative to risotto when the weather gets hot and humid and you don’t want to stand over a hot stove.

Read more tips on making risotto here.

 

Leek Asparagus Risotto

A springtime risotto made with leeks, asparagus and sugar snap peas. For a romantic dinner for two, add some seared sea scallops. 

When I use a store-bought stock, I like to enhance it by adding fresh vegetable trimmings and simmer for several minutes. This adds some time to your prep, but it does add more flavor to the stock. If you are pressed for time omit this step and save 15 minutes but remember to heat up the stock before adding it to the risotto. 

I prepare the asparagus and sugar snap peas separately. This helps the vegetables retain their shape and color. I like the vegetables on the crisp side which is a nice contrast to the smooth and creamy rice. 

Serve immediately. 

Course Main Course, Vegetarian Main
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 -5 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Leek Asparagus Risotto

  • 6 cups (1.5 L) vegetable or chicken stock homemade or low salt store bought stock
  • 1 lb (414 g) asparagus
  • 1 leeks cleaned and sliced
  • 4 oz (119 g) sugar snap peas a heaping cup
  • 4 TBS (57 g) butter divided
  • cup (300 g) carnaroli or arborio rice
  • ½ cup (150 ml) dry white wine
  • ½ tsp Kosher Salt (more to taste)
  • ½ cup (50 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • finely grated zest from one lemon
  • garnish with mint and parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Preparing the stock and vegetables

  1. Clean and remove the dark leaves off the leek. To clean leek, cut off the root end and slice down the middle of the leek lengthwise but not all the way through. Open the leek like a book and run it under cold running water. Peel back the layers looking for the hidden dirt and rinse off. The dirt likes to hide between the layers of the leek almost all the way through to the center. Dry off the leeks as best you can. 

    Trim off the dark green layers of the leek and reserve for the stock, then slice in half all the way through lengthwise. Slice the leek in half moon slices about a 1/8 inch (.5 cm) thick and set aside. 

  2. Pour the stock into a 3-quart sauce pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Trim off the ends of the asparagus and add the ends to the stock. Add the cleaned dark green parts of your leek. Add a small handful of sugar snap peas to the stock. 

    Bring the stock to a simmer. Simmer the stock with the vegetables for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the vegetables with a spider or slotted spoon. Discard the vegetables.  Return the stock to the burner set to low heat and keep warm. 

  3. Fill a sauce pan with salted water and bring to a boil. 
  4. While the water is coming to a boil, trim the asparagus into one-inch (2.5 cm) pieces cut on a diagonal. Start by trimming off the top tip just where it begins to get smooth, then work your way down the stalk. 

    Remove the string from the side of the sugar snap peas and trim each end if needed.  Also, while the water is coming to a boil, make a water bath by adding cold water and ice cubes to a medium bowl.

  5. Once the water comes to a boil, add a pinch of Kosher salt then add the trimmed asparagus. Quickly blanch for 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the asparagus from the boiling water then add to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. Keep the water on and boiling. When the asparagus is cooled remove them from the ice bath and dry on a clean lint free kitchen towel. Set aside. Add more ice to the ice bath for the sugar snap peas. 

    In the same pot of boiling water, quickly blanch the sugar snap peas for one minute. Remove the sugar snap peas from the boiling water and add to an ice bath. Once cool, drain and dry the sugar snap peas. Cut the sugar snap peas in quarter inch slices on a sharp diagonal. Set aside. 

Making the risotto

  1. In a Dutch oven or other 5-qt pot, add 2 TB of butter over medium heat. Once the butter stops sizzling add the leeks and cook until the leeks become translucent and tender, but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. 

  2. Add the carnaroli rice and stir to coat. Cook the rice until they become opaque about 2-3 minutes. Pour in the white wine and stir until the wine completely evaporates. 

  3. Add about a 1/2 cup (150 ml) of warm stock and stir the rice until it has absorbed the stock. Add the Kosher salt and continue to add warm stock in 1/2 cup (150 ml) intervals, stirring the rice and waiting until the stock is all absorbed until you add more. Continue adding stock and stirring until the risotto is al dente, about 20-30 minutes. After 15 minutes of cooking, taste the rice to gauge your progress. The rice should be tender but still firm. You might not use up all the stock. 

  4. Towards the end, add the asparagus and sliced sugar snap peas to warm up. Add the remaining butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with a 1/2 cup of stock. Stir to mix and melt the cheese. 

  5. Loosen up the risotto with some warm stock and stir if it needs it. 

    Spoon a serving into a shallow bowl or plate, and garnish with lemon zest, parsley and mint. 

  6. Serve immediately with more cheese and fresh black pepper. 

Recipe Notes

Depending on how salty your stock is, will determine how much Kosher salt you need to add. I always use low salt or homemade stock, which gives me some flexibility for seasoning my food. Taste first and season with salt as needed. 

For a really special treat, sear sea scallops separately and serve 3-5 scallops person. Arrange the sea scallops on top of the risotto in individual serving dishes. Brown some butter and drizzle over the sea scallops on the risotto. Garnish with herbs and lemon zest. 

 

Leak Asparagus Risotto, A spring risotto recipe Leek asparagus risotto is gently cooked in with a rich flavored stock, leeks, asparagus and sugar snap peas. Fresh herbs and lemon zest garnish the risotto for a bright finish. Add seared sea scallops for a romantic dinner for two.
Leek Asparagus Risotto. A spring risotto recipe Leek asparagus risotto is gently cooked in with a rich flavored stock, leeks, asparagus and sugar snap peas. Fresh herbs and lemon zest garnish the risotto for a bright finish. Add seared sea scallops for a romantic dinner for two.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Anchovy Caper Sauce

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

 Recipe for Braised Baby Artichokes bathed in a sauce made from a reduction of the braising liquid, anchovies and capers. 

The birds outside are particularly chirpy today and it just might mean sprinter, spring that feels and acts like winter, is moving out. The light sing-song of robins is so cheerful and upbeat, it is hard to imagine anymore sprinter surprises. As I gaze outside my window, I can see all the animals in my yard scampering about like preschoolers on a play-date. “Olly Olly all come free,” it is safe to come out of hiding.

What does all this wildlife activity have to do with food? It is a reminder and affirmation of good things to come. Something which I appreciate after the long winter hibernation. The first of the local spring vegetables are ramps, spring mushrooms, and asparagus. Yet, these local harvests are not yet available, and I must look westward and south for fresh produce. I am so envious of the produce I see displayed all over Instagram from California farmers markets. California food bloggers and chefs spill their bounty on the kitchen counter and photograph their treasures for all of us to see, making me want to transport myself into their photo. Our day will come, at least the ground is no longer frozen.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovies Sauce, a recipe.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

Recipes with Spring Produce

Stove top Grilled Asparagus, Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise, Pasta Primavera, Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables

California Baby Artichokes

In the meantime, we can enjoy produce, like baby artichokes, from California and pretend we are in full spring bloom. Baby artichokes are spilling over the produce baskets at grocery stores across the country. They are more tender than full size artichokes, but no less flavorful. At this stage the baby artichoke bud has yet to develop the choke, making them slightly easier to prepare and eat. I believe them to be the perfect size and an ideal first course meal or appetizer.

Seeing artichokes always brings me back to my childhood in Northern California, where artichoke plants grew wild in the hills around my neighborhood. I thought they were the strangest looking plants around and I never touched them. To me they were like the dinosaurs of the plant kingdom, with their prickly and ancient looking buds and jagged leaves.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

I’ll never forget the first time I ate an artichoke when I was a young girl. I gladly tried them being ever so eager to appear older and more sophisticated than I was. As I sat staring at my steamed artichoke, I studiously watched and listened to Dad’s instruction as he peeled off each leaf, dip the bottom fleshy part in warm melted butter then scrape off the meat between his teeth. With each step, Dad would explain and demonstrate how to get to the heart of the artichoke, what he referred as the “prize” and purpose for all that work. He spoke so ominously about the choke, saying we would choke if we ate the choke, hence the name. This terrified me, but his safe and loving expression in his fatherly eyes told another story, so I proceeded cautiously but without hesitation.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

Braised Baby Artichokes

Up front there is more prep work when you braise baby artichoke hearts, as opposed to steaming them whole, but the hearts get nicely flavored from the braising liquid and become so tender. Fortunately, because they are small it does not take that much time to trim off all the outer leaves. Braised artichokes are delicious eaten straight from the braising liquid, but I like serving them with a warm sauce made with the braising liquid and anchovies and capers. The anchovies and capers add extra body which compliments the mild artichoke flavor but does not overwhelm it. I purposely kept the anchovies on the light side for that reason.

If you are not a fan of anchovies, reduce the braising liquid as mentioned but omit the anchovies. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference then drizzle the sauce over the baby artichokes. This cooking method is also delicious with full-grown artichoke hearts.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Anchovy Caper Sauce

Baby Artichokes are braised in a stock seasoned with lemon, garlic, white wine and herbs. The artichokes are finished with a sauce made with a reduction of the braising liquid, anchovies and capers. There is just enough of the anchovy flavor to compliment the artichokes.  

Delicious first course meal, appetizer or vegetable side dish. 

Course Appetizer, First Course, Vegetable Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Braised Artichokes

  • 16 baby artichokes about 1 lb. 9 oz (729 g)
  • bowl full of water
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled and green germ removed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

Anchovy Caper Sauce

  • Braising Liquid
  • 2 T TB extra virgin olive oil Or butter
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tsp capers drained and rinsed
  • 1 TB white wine or vermouth (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • garnish with chopped parsley or chives

Instructions

  1. Peel off three strips of lemon peel with a vegetable peeler.  Set them aside. Thinly slice the garlic cloves and set aside. 

  2. Fill a medium bowl with water and the juice of one lemon. You want just enough water to cover the artichokes. 

  3. Trim the artichokes. Pull off the tough outer leaves by pulling them straight down and off. Continue until all the tough leaves are off until you get to the tender light green leaves. 

    With a sharp paring knife, trim a sliver off the end of each stem and clean around the edge where you pulled off the leaves. You do not want to cut away any of the artichoke meat, just trim the base to clean off any fibrous parts. Trim off about a 1/4 inch off the top of the baby artichoke. 

    Cut the artichoke lengthwise into quarters. As soon as you are finished prepping each artichoke, add the sliced wedges into the bowl filled with lemon water. The lemon water will prevent the artichokes from discoloring. 

  4. In a sauté pan add 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil and heat up over medium heat. Add the slices of garlic, lemon peels, sage, bay leaf, black peppercorns, fennel seeds to the olive oil and sauté for about a minute. Add the artichokes, 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) of the lemon water and Kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn down the heat. Simmer the artichokes until they are tender when pierced with a fork or to taste, about 20 minutes. 

  5. Once the artichokes are tender remove them using a slotted spoon and place in a bowl to keep warm. Taste the braising liquid and add wine or vermouth if needed. Boil the braising liquid and reduce to a 1/2 cup (125 ml). Add the anchovies and break them up in the sauce. Add the capers. Simmer briefly to meld the flavors and taste. Adjust the sauce with more wine or other seasoning if needed.  

  6. Arrange the artichokes on a platter or shallow bowl, drizzled with the anchovy caper sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon zest. 

    Braised baby artichokes are best eaten warm or at room temperature. The braised artichokes can be chilled, but the sauce should be warm. 

Nutrition Facts
Braised Baby Artichokes with Anchovy Caper Sauce
Amount Per Serving (2 artichokes)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Braised Baby Artichokes with Anchovy Caper Sauce. Recipe for braised baby artichokes simmered in a liquid seasoned with garlic, herbs and lemon peel. The braised artichokes is drizzled with a mild sauce made with anchovies, capers and concentrated braising liquid. Delicious as an appetizer or first course.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Maida’s Lemon Cake

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

Everyone needs those back-pocket recipes at their fingertips and Maida’s Lemon Cake is one of mine. Maida Heatter’s, “The Best Damn Lemon Cake” comes from her cookbook, Cakes and her New Book of Great Desserts. She explains in the recipe’s summary the cake got its name from the first thing her friends said after taking one bite. She is the guru of baked desserts and celebrated her 90th birthday last year. I have always found her desserts reliable and well tested, especially her cake recipes. They are all classics that never go out of style.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

Lemon cakes come in so many shapes, sizes and styles and this recipe is no exception. It is a loaf cake with a light lemon glaze on top that soaks into the cake. Early in my marriage, I made this lemon cake all the time. Unfortunately, I stopped because baking for pleasure was replaced with the pleasure of taking care of my children with a couple of baking projects squeezed in between.

Recently, I was reminded of this lemon cake recipe after being treated to a slice of Lemon Lulu Cake from Mother Myrick’s Bakery (A bakery in Manchester VT.) They are different types of lemon cakes, but the bright lemon flavor is similar. Lemon Lulu cake has a lighter texture and made in a Bundt pan, whereas Maida’s Lemon Cake has ground almonds in the mix and keeps its’ moisture even after a couple of days.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

The only downside to this recipe is, it is not something to make at the last minute. Ideally, the cake rests for 12-24 hours before you serve it. During this resting period the cake’s lemon flavor gets more pronounced and the cake becomes very moist from the glaze. You must plan accordingly. Yet, the advanced planning has its merits too. Bake it a day or two before you need it leaves you with more time to do other activities on the day of. Also, this cake gets better with age. It freezes well, is perfect for travel, picnics and gifts.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe

Best Types of Cake pans for Lemon Cake

My lemon cake did not rise as high as it should because my aluminum loaf pan is larger than the one specified in the recipe. It is hard to come by an 8½ x 4½ x 2¼ inch (21 x 11 x 6 cm) heavy-duty aluminum loaf pan that does not have a Teflon coating, made of glass, or made with a dark metal. These materials are all no-no’s in Maida’s book. I am partial to Nordic Ware baking pans, but their loaf pan has an 8 cup (2 L) capacity. Chicago Metallic makes a loaf pan with the right dimensions and material as well as Wilton and Williams and Sonoma.

My cake is also darker, because it cooked faster because the pan was not made with heavy-duty aluminum. My pan is a generic lightweight aluminum pan I bought over 30 years ago at the grocery store.  It might be a lightweight, but it is still going strong and baked it fair share of Pumpkin Bread over the years.

This baking experience reminded me, I should trust my instinct and not always follow a recipe blindly, I knew I should have checked the cake earlier than specified, but I followed the directions instead. Fortunately, I do not mind a darker crumb and the glaze keeps everything moist. See the links in the Notes of the recipe for the types of adjustments to make if you use glass or dark metal pans.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

 Lemon Cake

The only adjustment I made to the recipe is I added almond meal (flour) instead of blanched almonds. It is not always easy to grind nuts as fine as you can get with almond meal. Often the almonds start turning into a paste before you get the right consistency you want. Do not add a half cup of almond meal, measure the almond meal by weight, not volume. The two measurements are not equal. You may use the volume and weight measurement for the blanched almonds.

If you have the almond meal use that to flour the pan instead of bread crumbs. It will do the same job and add extra almond flavor to the loaf.

Why all the fuss about baking pans?

More Lemon Desserts

Maida Heatter’s Lemon Mouse, Lemon Saffron Syrup Cake, Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi’s and Passion Fruit Glaze

Maida's Lemon Cake

When Maida Heatter explains her name for "The Best Damn Lemon Cake," came from the first things her friends said after taking a bite. You just know it is good. Everyone needs a reliable lemon cake to bring to friends or just add some sunshine at the end of a meal. This loaf cake has great sweet lemon flavor but is not too sweet to turn you off. It is great paired with coffee and tea. I also like it with fresh berries. 

The instructions say to let the cake sit for 12-24 hours before serving so plan accordingly. I found the cake is even more delicious the day after it is made.

See recipe Notes for specifics about the loaf pan used to make the cake with. If you do not have the exact loaf pan, no worries. Just make the necessary adjustments recommended in the articles. 

Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8 -10 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Lemon Cake

  • ½ cup (60 g) blanched almonds (or 60 g almond meal)
  • cup (185 g) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ lb (115 g) butter 1 stick
  • 1 cup (235 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup (125 ml) whole milk
  • 1 oz (29 ml) real lemon extract 1- 1 fl oz bottle
  • Freshly grated zest from 2 extra large, or 3 medium lemons

Lemon Glaze

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 TB (113 g) granulated sugar (4 oz)
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) fresh squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

Lemon Cake

  1. Set the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven at 350°F (175°C / Gas Mark 4). Butter an 8½ x 4½ x 2-inch (21 x 11 x 6 cm) loaf pan with a 6 cup (1.5 L) capacity. Lightly dust the loaf pan with very fine bread crumbs or almond meal and set aside. (See note about pan). Line the bottom of the prepared loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper. 

  2. Ground the almonds in a food processor or nut grinder till they are very fine but are not getting pasty. Or use the almond meal. 

  3. Add the sifted flour, baking powder and Kosher salt to a small bowl and stir with a wire whisk until the ingredients are well incorporated. Set aside

  4. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan set over low heat. Cool slightly before using.   

  5. In a bowl of a stand mixer, add the melted butter and sugar. (Make sure the eggs are cool enough so they will not cook the eggs.) Turn the speed to medium and beat to mix. Turn down the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly mixing each egg in the batter between each additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions. 

  6. While the mixer remains on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions and alternate with the milk in two additions. Beat in the ingredients thoroughly between each addition but be careful not to over-mix the cake batter. Also, stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. Add the lemon extract and beat it in. 

  7. Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Add the lemon zest and ground almonds (or almond meal) to the batter and stir in with a rubber spatula. 

  8. Pour the cake batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 65-75 minutes. The cake is done when a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake and all the way to the bottom, comes out "just barely clean". The cake will crack down the middle because the outside cooks faster than the inside of the cake. This causes the cake to crack as the insides cook and the cake rises. 

  9. Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest in the pan for 2 minutes on a cooling rack. 

  10. After the two-minute cool, slowly baste the lemon glaze over the top of the cake. Take your time basting the cake so a nice even glaze coats the top of the cake and soaks into the body, about 5 minutes. 

  11. Let the cake rest in the pan until it is tepid, mostly cooled down. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake to loosen it out of the pan. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake right side up and cool on the rack. 

  12. Once completely cooled, wrap the cake with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and let it rest on the counter for 12 - 24 hours. Or place in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Or the freezer for 2 hours before serving. I prefer the results after the 12-24 hour period, but if you need it for the same day then the freezing options works fine. Just let it defrost before you serve it. 

Lemon Glaze

  1. A couple of minutes before the cake is done cooking, make the glaze. Add the sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not let the syrup come to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside until needed. 

Recipe Notes

Maida is very specific about what type of pan will produce the best results. You might think it is a lot of smoke about nothing but for baking, everything you use from ingredients to the oven affect the final outcome of your baked good.  She is adamant about not using a non-stick pan, dark metal pan, and glass loaf pan. Her pan of choice is a heavy-duty aluminum pan. From my experience, I agree with her about the dark metal pans and glass pans, they do not bake as nicely as a heavy-duty light-colored aluminum pan does.   

I used a large aluminum loaf pan, but it was not a heavy-duty one. It cooked up faster than the recipe suggested and got darker. It was either that or use my dark metal non-stick pan, which would have been two strikes against me. If you can't take her advice, use the loaf pan you have, but be forewarned. Why you should not bake a cake with a dark pan. Why you should not bake a cake in a glass pan. These articles give advice how to work with these types of pans when you need to bake with them.  

Maida's Lemon Cake. Recipe for a lemon cake, with sweet lemon flavor and is very moist. The unexpected ingredient is ground almonds for more texture and a nuttier flavor. Easy dessert recipe. From Maida Heatter's cookbook, Cakes, "The Best Damn Lemon Cake".

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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