Simple Lemon Berry Cake with Lemon Cream – 12/67

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The past weekend has felt approximately two weeks long. I feel like I just need to document it all so I remember in 20 years what a lazy “stay at home” long weekend was like right before I turned 30. Thanks for joining me for this xanga entry! 

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Friday – Went to grocery store, casually made this cake for tomorrow’s BBQ, meandered to local bookstore and ended up with a copy of Indian-ish which I cannot WAIT to cook from, met friends at a bar and bragged about my new cookbook. Then came home and made a riff on this soba tofu bowl for a dear friend who came over for dinner. After she left, friend from Boston arrived to stay the weekend. Late night catch-up ensued.

IMG_036586F1A670-F948-441E-A6A3-98C406F06CD6Saturday – Coffee and bagels, then a yoga class. Don’t recommend that order. Took ferry(!) to Astoria for lovely rooftop soiree. Brought cake, with frosting in its own refrigerator bag. Not the easiest cake to travel with, but definitely not the worst. Ate my weight in salads and dips and veggie burger (just one, to the chagrin of the hosting couple who are now left with three mediocre frozen patties). Left BBQ early to rush to BAM for a DanceAfrica performance that blew my mind. Home for frozen watermelon drinks and another late night.

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Sunday – brunch and omg this weekend is killing me. How do people maintain this lifestyle? Ask questions later! Let’s go into the city! For Chinatown noodles, a crowded salsa bar, and cocktails around the corner. Another late night.

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Monady – byyye friend, have a safe drive, and oh shit we’re supposed to bring things to a BBQ. I didn’t prepare cake in advance, dang. Whipped together this really delicious artichoke white bean dip (but parsley instead of basil because I thought it went better) and Ottolenghi’s gingery cucumber salad from Plenty, which I thought would complement the various izakaya-style organ meats being grilled. (I cannot attest to its success in doing that, but it was mostly consumed, so I’ll consider it a success.) Then I fell into a stupor on our couch.

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I’m exhausted. And now I go to work. xo, gossip girl.

IMG_2118IMG_2120A couple things about this cake — this is a really easy and really delicious cake to whip together at the last moment if you know someone is coming over. The only tricky ingredient it has is pre-made lemon curd. I bought the Bonne Maman variety, which I’ve been eating with a spoon ever since. It makes a surprisingly luscious topping when beat with fresh whipped cream. Also, I didn’t feel like splurging on fresh berries, as I knew we had a bunch of frozen ones in the fridge. I ended up with half a cup of frozen blueberries, then picked the other half cup out of a bag of mixed frozen berries. A couple blackberries made it in too. They were also delicious. No need to be picky about your fruits. I forgot the demerera sugar on top, but don’t think I missed it.

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I talked about a different blueberry lemon cake recipe on here some years ago. That one is a decadent layer birthday cake, not to be confused with this delicate, weekday-afternoon-appropriate version. Both are hella delicious.

Simple Blueberry Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream aka the Best Psuedo-Frosting

from my friend Liz!

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup sugar
zest of one lemon (about 1 ½ teaspoons)
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, room temp
½ teaspoon (or a bit more) pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or 2%)
¼ cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw)
1 ½ tablespoons turbinado sugar (I forgot this…)
fresh berries to serve (optional)

Lemon Cream

I doubled the original recipe and did not regret it. This is the ratio I used —

½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons store-bought lemon curd

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan (I used springform but it isn’t necessary). Cut out a circle of parchment paper for the bottom of the pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a big bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix together with your fingertips to combine, until the mixture is sand-like and smells like lemon candy. Add the butter and beat for 3ish minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. (I used my Kitchenaid but hand mixer should work fine.) Beat in vanilla and the egg until combined. Add yogurt and beat well.

At low speed, beat in half the flour. Then add milk and beat until just combined. Add rest of the flour and mix until just combined.

Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pan. Scatter berries on top and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cake is golden-brown and a tester comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto a rack. Peel off parchment and let cool all the way. Invert again onto a nice plate.

Meanwhile, back with your mixer, beat together the whipped cream and the lemon curd until creamy and thick. This took 3ish minutes for me. Texture should be the consistency of yogurt. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Dollop lemon cream on top of completely cooled cake. Top with fresh berries, if you’d like. Let your guests gush over how good this simple cake is.

Liz’s notes:

  • You can substitute ½ cup buttermilk for the yogurt and milk
  • This cake bakes quickly. (true!) Start checking it at 20 minutes.
  • Cake can be made one day in advance — just wrap it well in saran wrap overnight. Lemon curd can be made 8 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
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BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos + Upscale Bar Food Dinner Party

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Imagine: You invite two friends over for dinner. You may have previously bragged a bit about how much you love cooking and recipe planning etc. You chat about blogs, Bon Appetite, restaurants, food trends. You promise to go all out.

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Flash forward to two weeks later, the morning of said pre-planned dinner. You have some frozen corn in the freezer from last week’s CSA. That’s it. You realize that you have roughly nine hours to create a beautiful and memorable meal. You have a minor freak out.

But then coffee was consumed and magazines and blogs were consulted. And so a theme was deliberated over: Bar food? No, Mediterranean. No, fancy bar food. Bourgeois bar food! The barista thinks its a good idea.

Commence brainstorming: some sort of soup, but on toast? something like dip, but in salad form? how much fried stuff is too much? do we need dessert?

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And so, four grocery stores, one bike ride, 4 bottles of vegetable oil, and many hours later, this is what we came up with.

“Spinach Artichoke Dip” Salad

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not pictured: a very healthy dose of parmesan and feta, and lots of lemony vinaigrette

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” 

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Daniel says, “yeah those tasted great but dang were they ugly. I’m not taking no pictures.” And I said “oh okay YOU=CAULIFLOWER.” And its my blog so here’s his picture.

Sesame-Soy (actual) wings

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“Stuffed jalapeno” individual polenta cakes (leftovers amazing with scrambled eggs!)

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a healthy dose of bacon to please the carnivores

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Homemade Sweet Potato Chip nachos, vegetarian and meaty versions

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With beer and whisky. No need for dessert.

We mostly just followed other recipes, tweaking as we went. But, in honor of the blog name, here’s the recipe for those awesome nachos.

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Vegetarian (or not) BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos

adapted from the Food Network

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices with a mandoline
vegetable oil for frying
¼ c salt
⅛ c ground pepper
⅛ c garlic powder
healthy dash cayenne
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapenos, one diced and two cut into thin rounds
1 T tomato paste
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ lb ground beef, optional
2 cups shredded cheese; we did half smoked gouda and half monterey jack
½ bunch of cilantro, chopped, optional
sour cream to serve, optional

Make sweet potato chips:

First make seasoning mixture by combining salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. (Keep in mind this makes a ton! Keep leftovers for future chip batches.) Break out a large heavy pot (5 quart if you have it), fill it up to roughly ⅓ with vegetable oil (I’d say about 4 inches depth. You’re going to use a lot of oil here), and heat it until it reaches about 360º (use a candy or deep-fry thermometer). Place enough sliced sweet potatoes in to create a fairly dense surface layer and start actively patting them down under the oil with a slotted spatula. The temperature is going to drop pretty quickly, but if it stays above 180º you’ll be fine. Keep stirring and turning and drowning for 5 to 7 minutes, and just when you start seeing the hearts of your sweet potato chips going brown, start removing them and place them on a thick bed of paper towels. Sprinkle your seasoning mixture and coat to taste. As soon as the oil temperature reaches 360º, repeat. Once your crispy batch cools enough, toss them into a bowl, but keep the same paper towels on the plate for reuse with all cooked batches. As you repeat this process, more and more of the seasoning will rest on the paper towels, so keep that in mind as you’ll need to coat each new batch a little less. Also, feel free to eat as many of these chips as necessary to “test” that you’re doing it right, as well as to revel in how amazing it is that you’re making chips all by yourself.

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Make BBQ beans/meat:

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onions are translucent and garlic smells wonderful, about 5-6 minutes. Add diced jalapeno and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the air smells spicy. Add tomato paste, black beans, and s&p. Mix so tomato paste coats everything. Add BBQ sauce and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so, or until mixture thickens and smells amazing. Add extra BBQ sauce if mixture becomes too thick. If you want a non-vegetarian version as well, heat another medium skillet. Add a small splash of oil and add ground beef, stirring frequently, until evenly browned and cooked through. Add half of bean mixture to beef and simmer together for another five minutes or so.

To make nachos:

On a rimmed cookie sheet, or any other large platter, layer sweet potato chips, bean/beef mixture, jalapeno rounds, and cheese. Repeat. Place in a 400 degree oven until cheese gets melty, about 5-7 minutes. Top with chopped cilantro and sour cream and serve while hot!

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