French Lemon Yogurt Cake

Getting ready for baking

I’ve been hauling Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Baking From My Home to Yours around the house (it’s heavy) for weeks now. I look at it while I’m drinking my morning tea and I get all geared up to bake something. I take butter and eggs out of the fridge to come to room temperature and I turn on the oven.

And then my day happens. The butter sits there until dinner time, looking all sad and flaccid. That’s when I face the fact that there’ll be no baking today, again. I heft the book back upstairs for some bedtime reading, and I fall asleep dreaming of French Yogurt Cake.

I think the only reason I got around to making this cake today is that I had a half-cup of Total Greek yogurt left in the container, which is just exactly the required amount for this cake. So I seized the moment!

There are a few very nice things about this cake:

1. You don’t need to soften butter.
2. There is no electric mixer needed.
3. You have to massage lemon zest into a bowl of sugar.

If you’ve never rubbed lemon zest between grains of sugar, you haven’t lived. It’s smells way better than that aromatherapy pillow I get to wear around my neck while I’m getting a pedicure.

Dorie’s recipe calls for a lemon marmalade glaze, but I didn’t have any lemon marmalade, so I took her suggestion and topped it with a mixture of crème fraiche, lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar. Somehow that makes it seem really French. She also says this cake is even better the next day. Great! I’ll have a thick slice with my tea while I dream about my next baking project.

Lemon-Scented Yogurt Cake
Adapted from Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan.
The author describes this simple cake as a cross between pound and sponge cake.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground almonds, or substitute another 1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
1/2 cup crème fraiche
2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Center an oven rack and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan and place on a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, almonds, baking powder and salt.

Put sugar in a large bowl with the zest and rub with your fingertips until sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla and whisk until blended. Whisk in the oil. Add the flour mixture and fold with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Scrape the batter into pan and bake 50 – 55 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes. Run a blunt knife around edges before unmolding onto a rack to cool, right side up.

Combine crème fraiche, sugar and lemon juice and spoon over cake.

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

Tuscan Pasta and Beans

Pasta Fagioli

This past month, I’ve been checking in with Alanna over at Veggie Venture – she’s been on a soup binge.

I don’t make soup enough, but when I do, the first thing I think of is pasta fagioli, which my mother would often make on meat-free Fridays. I’m a bean-eater any day of the week, and really savor the creamy, filling quality of cannellini beans, especially when paired with pasta.

My version is not much like my mom’s however. Her recipe was the more quick and convenient one, employing canned beans, dried Italian seasoning and lots of watered down tomato sauce.

I know I enjoyed it as a kid, but now I prefer a thicker, heartier soup. I go all out and use dried beans. The texture and flavor is a lot better than canned beans, although I will use them in a pinch.

This time, I also added a prosciutto butt that I picked up at my local Italian market. It’s inexpensive and adds lots of flavor to the beans.

Tuscan-Style Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta Fagioli)

Makes at least 6 servings

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 cups cooked cannellini beans * or 2 15-ounce cans, drained
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes, or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled ** and chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4-6 cups chicken broth or water
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 cups small, short pasta, such as ditali
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and rosemary to the pot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Scoop out and transfer to a food processor along with 1 cup of beans. Puree until smooth.

Return bean mixture to the pot along with the remaining beans, tomatoes, red pepper and 4 cups broth. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer; add the pasta and simmer until al dente. Add more broth to the soup to thin as desired- the pasta will continue to absorb liquid, and it does thicken up a bit. I kind of like it that way.

Serve soup topped with Parmigiano curls shaved with a vegetable peeler.

* To cook dried beans, soak in water to cover 2-6 hours or overnight. Drain, place in a pot with fresh water to cover and a bay leaf. Toss in a ham hock or prosciutto butt if you have one. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the beans are swelled and softened. This should take 1-2 hours.
** To peel a fresh tomato, score an “X” on the bottom and drop in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove, cool under cold running water and slip off the skin.

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

Who You Calling a Foodie?

The Bloglucker’s Table

Last week, we broke out of our usual Friday night routine and threw a potluck party for a bunch of foodies. And now I must digress.

I’ve always intensely disliked the label “foodie”, and cringe a tiny bit whenever I hear myself described as one. It’s friendly enough, but to me the word is just too cutie-pie in its diminutiveness. You might as well call me “bootie” “cookie” or “tootsie”.

According to Wikipedia, foodie is a synonym for a gourmet that emerged out of the yuppie, Silver Palate eighties, the era of sun-dried tomatoes and California cuisine. Coined by the co-authors of The Official Foodie Handbook, it seemed a slightly derogatory connotation for a certain kind of food groupie who bought foie gras futures and quoted from the Zagat guide as if it were the Old Testament.

It had some staying power, though. These days everyone’s a foodie, and proud to say so.
But what would be a better description? Gourmet, gourmand, epicurean, connoisseur? They’re all fusty, outdated words that call to mind images of white-gloved butlers and escargot out of a can.

I’m proposing a challenge to any of you who happen to be reading this to help me think of a new word. You know, something catchy, but cool. Come on! Get creative, and post a comment to share. To get this started, how about:

Fooder : heftier and more on-point than foodie, but admittedly could also refer to someone who tends to eat out of a trough.

Okay, back to business. Our assemblage of fooders was surprisingly well behaved (now I’m wondering – did we need stronger cocktails?) and the array of foods on the table was as varied and tasty as the people who brought them. And, as someone observed, we managed to talk about food pretty much the whole night.

Ian’s Venison Chili


Alanna’s Finnish Meatballs


My Crunchy Shrimp with Cilantro Ginger Dipping Sauce

Nupur’s Vegetable Biryani with Carrot Raita (photographer was vibrating)

Bruno’s Whole Grain Rustic Bread

Malcolm’sPissaladiere

Alanna’s Creamy Mascarpone Tart

Kristen’s Buttery Fruit Cobbler

Randall’s Artful Cheese Plate: Stilton, Aged Gouda and Marcona Almonds

In attendance were local bloggers Nupur of One Hot Stove* (see Nupur’s step-by-step biryani recipe here), Alanna of A Veggie Venture and Bruno of Zinfully Delicious along with a talented food-obsessed group from our weekly rag, The Riverfront Times; Malcolm, Kristen, Ian, Brooke and Randall.