Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cantaloupe Bars

I entered a farmers' market bake-off this weekend.  I didn't win, but I _did_ come up with a new way to eat cantaloupe.  The judges preferred a blueberry buckle to my quirky melon dessert, but it _is_ melon season and the markets are full of unusual varieties.  I've only recently become a melon lover, but they really are refreshing and "clean" tasting and I think their upgrade to dessert status is overdue.

I thought it would be fun to play on my beloved agua fresca flavors, and the result was a gorgeous melon-y curd paired with a tangy buttermilk/crunchy pepita crust. [The crust is a winner by itself; I've got lots of ideas for it.]  These bars are definitely more rich than my normal fair, so I suggest making them to share... at a Labor Day cookout, perhaps?
Recipe: Cantaloupe Bars

Friday, August 27, 2010

Howdy Cakes

[Where did I go?  I certainly didn't mean to abandon the blog, but in my evergrowing frustration with self-taught web design, I kept working in Dreamweaver until I couldn't possibly sit at the computer a moment longer and stormed away.  My apologies to anyone who reads regularly and has felt snubbed... but that's probably only my mother and she's holed up in the woods for the summer so she probably hasn't noticed.]

Whoopie Pies are a New England thing and not pies at all [chalk another one up to "Yankee know-how"] but two chocolate cake discs and a gooey white filling usually made from a marshmallow fluff base.  [I've also seen the cakes in trendy flavors like vanilla and pumpkin.] Now, chocolate cake is easy and marshmallow fluff ain't hard if you know how to make marshmallows, but I thought I'd try them in a traditional red velvet as homage to my southern roots... and that, of course, means doing it old-school with pureed beets and roux frosting!
Despite the magenta batter, beet-colored red velvet cake is not as bright as the artificial kind and the rosey hue can easily be overwhelmed by the cocoa content.   The beets actually go really well with chocolate and give it a little more sweetness and earthy complexity. I wanted a chocolaty cake, but was bummed at first by the normal brown-black color of the final product. The taste, however, is fantastic and I'm not going to quibble because the tint wasn't as odd as I hoped. 
Roux frosting is traditional for red velvet cake and amazing -- if you don't try these pies you should at least try the frosting the next time you have a need. It's equal parts milk, butter, and sugar (plus a few other things) and it's got all the texture of a great buttercream but without the overwhelming sweetness and is far less likely to break into grainy bits when it gets warm. I added a little buttermilk powder and amaretto for flavor, but if you don't have those things you shouldn't let it stop you.  I'm in love with this stuff -- real love, too, not just some trashy fling.**

Recipe: Howdy Cakes
I refuse to call them pies.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It worked!

My epazote has returned from the dead.  For once, my excess of optimism paid off.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Garden Woes

Remember my happy little garden?  While I was out of town I lost: the tomatoes, cucumbers, cayenne, nasturtiums, oregano, thyme, cilantro, lettuce, aroogula, and epazote.  Boston's freak heatwave and an unnoticed faucet drip baked some and drowned the others.

Most of them were summer flings, but I'd had the epazote plant ~6 years and was one of 3 herbs [and 9 orchids] I brought from Texas. I'm still watering it, hoping some tiny shoot will emerge from the brittle twigs. [I realize that my optimism often serves to set me up for even more disappointment.]

I went to the garden store to replenish the rest and discovered there is a very small planting window in Yankee Land and it has passed... there were simply no herbs or vegetables to be had: Better luck next year, kid.