fresh ginger-lemon cake

Ginger-lemon cake
January seems to be the month people flip their internal switches from out-of-control, wild bingers of rich food and drink to wholesome souls sucking down juice meals, promising to spend each and every day at the gym sweating out their toxins.

Or so that’s what some major retailers want us to think, according to the huge display I saw at Whole Foods on January 2. It was a tower more than 15 feet high, precariously constructed out of crates of lemons, bottles of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and jugs of maple syrup; all the ingredients necessary for the Master of Cleanses.

lemon ginger sugar fresh ginger

Post-holiday detox probably isn’t a bad idea, considering the amount of wine corks that pile up around me, but I’ve never submitted to a juice fast, for 2 reasons:

1. I’m afraid I might perish from hunger and then get very, very cranky; which is what tends to happen when I don’t eat in regular 3 hour intervals.

2. I associate the word “cleanse” with “not clean”.  As in dirty. You can take it from there.

My approach is a little gentler and keeps the tremors at bay. I just stick to eating all the real, fresh food I usually do and drink lots of water. The sugars and alcohol get pushed back into careful moderation.

I believe moderation includes a slice of cake, and my very favorite kind of cake is plain and simple, one that I can toast for a snack with some really good apricot or raspberry jam.

This is the most basic of pound cakes,  hit with enough ginger and lemon to freshen your inner being. Way better than drinking juice, I think.

fresh ginger lemon cake

Fresh ginger-lemon cake

Serving Size: 10 - 12 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon plus 2 sticks butter at room temperature

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

4 eggs, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325; butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 –inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter.
  2. Put ¼ cup sugar in a pie dish or shallow bowl; add the lemon zest and ginger and massage the two together with your fingers. You can also use a small wooden spoon or a fork, but you will miss the aromatic therapy.
  3. Beat the 2 sticks butter in a heavy-duty standing mixer on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Add the ginger-lemon sugar and beat for a few seconds before adding the remaining 1 cup sugar; beat 2 minutes, until lightened and fluffy.
  4. Lower the mixer speed and drizzle in the eggs and salt; beat on medium-high speed for 2 more minutes – the mixture might look curdled but don’t worry. Slow the mixer to stir, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add half the flour; mix 15 seconds before adding the remaining flour. Mix just until there’s no more flour visible.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake 1 hour; insert a toothpick or skewer into the middle of the cake. If wet crumbs cling to the skewer, bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack 15 minutes before carefully loosening the sides with a knife. Turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/fresh-ginger-lemon-cake/

egg drop soup with kale and potato

Egg drop soup with kale and potato

Soup is in these days (yes, you might rightfully ask: when was it ever out?) If cool cities like Portland are an indication, soup is having a moment. I’ve seen hardy entrepreneurs load homemade soup into specially crafted thermal boxes fitted on the racks of their bicycles for delivery to hungry people around downtown Portland, sometimes with freshly baked bread on the side. I know there are lots of other cool cities with soup carts and bicycles but I’m just speaking from my personal experience in that particular one.

My sister-in-law lives in Portland, which is arguably the food truck capital of the world. And also maybe the rainy day capital of the world, so it makes a lot of sense that the demand for warm, comforting bowls of soup would be higher given the situation. When she was visiting recently, we talked about how we don’t seem to treat soup as a full meal. Or rather, I realized that I don’t. She goes out to the soup cart for lunch, after all.

It’s something I mean to change. I might even call it a New Year’s resolution – to make more soup! My son loves nothing more than eating soup, with the very strong exception of soup containing any form of seafood; so I know I have at least one taker.

egg drop soup egg drop soup with kale

This homey egg drop soup - stracciatella - is as Italian-grandma as it gets. Except for I don’t remember either of my Italian grandmothers making it –  a loss I can easily get over now that I’m a big girl.

You might know what happens to eggs when mixed with hot liquids, but the magic of this soup is that combined with fine semolina, they turn a basic broth into a creamy soup filled with “tiny shreds” of egg, the stracciatelle. I added some potato and kale to my soup to make it even more of a nourishing meal. It must be the Italian mama in me or something.

Egg drop soup with kale and potato

Egg drop soup with kale and potato

Serving Size: Serves 4

The semolina flour swells as it cooks, giving the soup a creamy consistency. I like Asiago here; it's like a combination of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, but Parmesan will be delicious that's all you have.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, diced (about 1 cup)

Salt

1/2 onion, finely chopped

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 eggs

2 tablespoons semolina flour

2 tablespoons freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups finely shredded kale

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil or butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the potato and cook for 2 minutes; stir in the onion with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for a few more minutes.
  2. Pour in 1 cup of the broth, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until the potato is soft.
  3. Whisk together 1 cup broth in a bowl with the eggs, flour and cheese.
  4. Add the remaining 2 cups broth to the pan and bring to a boil.
  5. Slowly add the egg mixture to pan, whisking constantly; turn the heat down to low and continue whisking for 2 minutes, until the soup thickens.
  6. Stir in the kale. Serve in bowls with additional cheese, if you like.

Notes

inspired by Mario Batali

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/egg-drop-soup-with-kale-and-potato/

spaghetti and meatballs: familystyle

Spagetti and meatballs, familystyle

I experience New Year’s Day with mixed emotion. As much as I love holding a new calendar fresh with possibilities for the year ahead, at the same time my head is spinning trying to process the one that just sped by, seemingly faster every time. What’s up with that?

I can only think it’s what happens when we’re living a full life – each day a series of events that unfolds onto the next. But in the middle of the daily process of work and school; relationships with family, friends, dog…it becomes like a monotonous ride. Some mornings I feel like a character in Groundhog Day.

Italian parsley and Parmigiano cheese

spaghetti

Which is why I’m grateful for the few weeks in December when I can make a plan to unplug; to spend time to nourish myself and my family, with things like mornings without an alarm clock and a schedule with absolutely nothing on it.

And food, of course. There aren’t many things that connect us like time shared around the table, especially when a large platter of spaghetti and meatballs is sitting on top of it.

I’ve shared my personal attempt at my mother’s meatball recipe on this blog before, but this latest version has become all my own. If my mom were here to sit at my table, I think she’d approve.

spaghetti and meatballs familystyle

Spaghetti and meatballs: familystyle

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6

Ingredients

Meatballs:

1 ½ pounds ground beef

1 ½ pounds ground pork

1 onion

3 garlic cloves, crushed

½ cup fresh bread crumbs *

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano, Romano or Asiago cheese

2 eggs

3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Large pinch crushed red pepper

Olive oil

Gravy:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

Salt

2 or 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 container Pomi strained tomatoes

Pinch sugar

Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. To make the meatballs, put the ground meats into a large bowl. Grate the onion over the bowl on the side of a large box grater. Add the remaining ingredients (except the olive oil) and mix together with your hands or a large fork until thoroughly combined. Form into 2-inch diameter balls and arrange on a large baking sheet.
  2. Heat a large, deep sauté pan (12 – 14-inches in diameter) over moderate heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan completely and heat for a minute or two before adding the meatballs. Cook until nicely browned on one side; carefully turn the meatballs with tongs or a spatula to brown the other side. Transfer the meatballs to a platter.
  3. Drain the fat from the pan. (Note – if you don’t have a large sauté pan with at least 3 inch sides, fry the meatballs in a sauté pan, in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Make the sauce in a separate wide saucepan or soup pot.)
  4. To make the gravy, place the pan back over moderate heat. Add the olive oil, onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook the onions until they become very soft. If they begin to brown, add a few tablespoons of water, lower the heat and cover the pan until they’re ready.
  5. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.
  6. Put the meatballs into the pan, cover and continue simmering for another 10 minutes or so.
  7. Serve the sauce and meatballs over hot spaghetti or pasta, with plenty of cheese grated over.

Notes

*To make fresh bread crumbs, trim the crust from a large hunk of crusty peasant bread. Cut the bread into large pieces and toast 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Grind in a food processor to form fine crumbs. Keep extra crumbs in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/spaghetti-and-meatballs-familystyle/