Lemon Blueberry Skillet Cake

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Today marks my first full week of being home with the baby on maternity leave alone and Selim’s first week being back at work. I’m learning that neither is easy. Selim has to get up early, after having frequently interrupted sleep all night, go to work all day, and be separated from this little baby he loves so much. Me, I don’t have to do most of those things, but my life completely revolves around this little 8 pound dictator. We’re lucky though – from what we understand, she’s a really good baby. (Of course, we think she’s the best baby in the entire world…!)

But I wanted to celebrate our first week back at work/home alone and have been thinking about making this cake all week. We have some lovely summer blueberries and several lemons that have been staring at me from our kitchen all week. I got this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Seasons & Suppers (as I’ve mentioned several other times on here… Other recipes of hers that we’ve tried & shared here: Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle & Maple & Mustard Pork with Shallots). Every recipe from this blog looks amazing, partially due to her gorgeous photography, and every single one I’ve been has turned out wonderfully! The original recipe is just for lemon cake; I added the blueberries after thinking about the combination of lemon and blueberry for the past week. Most of the blueberries sunk to the bottom while baking, making this feel like halfway between a crumble and a cake at the end. It’s moist and flavorful; definitely a keeper even if it doesn’t exactly look like a cake in the end! Also, don’t be alarmed when your pour the liquid “sauce” over the cake batter at the end. It seems like a lot of liquid and maybe a bad idea and maybe you misread the recipe – don’t worry!

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Lemon Blueberry Skillet Cake

(Adapted from Seasons & Suppers)
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter + extra
  • 1 cup sugar (divided)
  • 2 lemons, juiced (divided)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 {heaping} cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • Hot water
  • Powdered sugar
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet (or a similarly-sized baking dish) with some extra butter.
  2. In bowl of stand mixer, cream together the butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Once combined, add in the juice of 1/2 a lemon.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the 2 eggs together, then add them to the mixture. Follow this with the vanilla and milk.
  4. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add this into the mixture. Once combined, gently stir the blueberries in by hand.
  5. Now, spoon the batter into the greased skillet and spread out evenly.
  6. In another bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the cornstarch. Place the remaining juice from the other 1 1/2 lemons in a measuring cup. Additionally, fill to the 1 1/4 cup mark with hot water. Whisk this in with the sugar and cornstarch mixture.
  7. Once combined, gently pour over top of the batter and immediately place in the oven.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar prior to serving.

Lamb Meatballs with Minty Pesto

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Here’s our first guest chef post courtesy of Ally’s mom! How this hasn’t happened before is mind-boggling because she is an amazing cook. Ally was super lucky to grow up with a mom who made homemade dinner essentially every night of the week. As a typical ungrateful teenager, Ally used to not appreciate this as much as she does now, instead being jealous of her friends who got to order pizza for dinner. But we definitely appreciate it now! Ally’s mom has a repertoire of her classic dinners that they ate growing up, that her kids salivate over now. But she also has started experimenting and trying new recipes, now that she doesn’t have four whiny kids to cook for every night.

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Last night we were definitely the grateful beneficiaries of one of her new attempts. Hopefully it becomes a family classic because it was so delicious! The recipe originates with Bon Appetit magazine; she made very slight changes to that recipe. The meatballs are flavorful and juicy, and the pesto is an interesting change, with the minty flavor and a sharp bite of garlic. This dinner is also a nice option for a dinner party as it can be scaled up easily, it can be pre-assembled up until the point of rolling out and baking the meatballs, and it looks pretty!

Lamb Meatballs with Minty Pesto

(Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine)
Ingredients: 
  • Meatballs
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
    • 1 lb ground lamb
  • Pesto
    • 1 cup fresh parsley
    • 1 cup fresh mint
    • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 3 tbsp raisins
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Greek yogurt for serving
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Whisk the egg together with all of the other meatball ingredients, except the lamb. Once combined, work the lamb in with your hands.
  3. Meanwhile, combine all of the pesto ingredients in a food processor. Blitz until herbs are finely chopped and the sauce is well-combined. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
  4. Using your hands, roll the meat into golf-ball-sized meatballs. [This should yield ~20 small meatballs.] Place the meatballs on a foil-lined cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until browned.
  6. Serve meatballs with pesto and a dollop of greek yogurt. Rice or couscous is a nice side to go with these meatballs.
Serves 3-4

Easy Bagel Chips

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One of the greatest things about having a baby (other than, you know, the birth of a new human) is the fact that everyone brings you food. We’ve had some great meals and treats over the past 10 days courtesy of our wonderful friends and family. The only bad thing… sometimes we can’t quite finish everything! Ally’s aunt brought us a big box of bagels earlier this week, and the last few were starting to get stale. What to do…? Make bagel chips!

This is just about the easiest thing we’ve ever done and instead of wasting the last two bagels, we now have a bag of bagel chips for snacking! The possibilities are essentially endless. These two bagels we used were everything bagels, so we kept the seasoning savory. If you had a leftover sweet bagel, you could season with cinnamon or something else.

Easy Bagel Chips

Ingredients:
  • 2 stale bagels
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • Herbs and/or spices – we used:
    • 1/2 tsp granulated onion
    • 1 tsp granulated garlic
    • Sprinkle of salt
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Slice the bagels into similarly sized pieces.
  3. Toss with the oil and then spread onto a foil-lined cookie sheet. Ensure the chips are in a single layer.
  4. Sprinkle with seasonings.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes until crisp.

Southern Baklava

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Selim’s father is one of our most loyal blog readers. He’s been telling us for years that we should try a twist on the traditional baklava that we usually make. Our baklava recipe is a fairly traditional Turkish one and incorporates tips from him. But he’s been suggesting that we try to make a Southern twist on baklava using pecans instead of more traditional nuts like walnuts or pistachios. We’ve thought this was a great idea, but just never have gotten around to doing it.

Lo and behold, we had our baby last week (she’s pretty awesome), and Selim’s father is in town from Texas to visit and meet her this week. Texans seem to love pecans, hence how we got to this point! Since he’s here, we decided to put him to work and today he and Selim gave Southern Baklava a whirl. The main difference, outside of the substitution of pecans, is the addition of cinnamon and maple syrup.

Southern Baklava

Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted, clarified butter
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 cups pecans
  • ~40 sheets of filo dough (usually 2 packages)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. (If you have clarified butter, melt the appropriate amount. If you only have regular butter, melt it in a saucepan and then skim off the foam and slowly pour the liquid into a bowl making sure to not transfer solid milk fats which are at the bottom.)
  3. Prepare the syrup: combine cold water, 2 cups of sugar, the maple syrup, and whole cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, then lower heat to barely a simmer. Continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the cinnamon sticks open up and the syrup thickens.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice and allow to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, combine pecans and 2 tbsp sugar in food processor. Process until “medium” ground – don’t let it get too fine.
  6. Now brush the inside of a large cookie sheet with clarified butter.
  7. Place a sheet of filo dough in the pan. Brush with more clarified butter. Continue in this pattern until you’ve placed half of the sheets (~20) of filo dough in the pan.
  8. Now spread the pecan-sugar mixture onto the top layer of filo dough. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and then drizzle with more clarified butter.
  9. Return to the pattern of layering dough and clarified butter until you use all of the rest of the filo dough sheets. Brush the top layer and the edges with clarified butter.
  10. Take a very sharp knife and dip it into hot water. Slice down halfway through the height of the dough into the size and shape of baklava pieces you want at the end.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes in the center of the oven.
  12. Lower heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
  13. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  14. Slice all the way through, along the lines you previously made.
  15. Pour the syrup over top, along the cut lines.
  16. For best results, let sit for a day before eating. This is hard to do and it’s still delicious if you eat it immediately. The longer the syrup soaks in, the better though!

Corn Cacio e Pepe

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Happy Mac n Cheese Day! When we realized that was today, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity! We love mac n cheese around here – from the classic Kraft blue box to the most upscale restaurant variation. The dish we made tonight falls somewhere in the middle. The pasta did come from a box – sorry, way too hot and pregnant to make my own pasta tonight – but cacio e pepe always seems a little fancier than American mac n cheese, just by virtue of its non-English name! In reality, Cacio e pepe is just as simple and homey to Italians as our American mac n cheese is to us, but we can always pretend to be fancy! (PS: you can check out our other mac n cheese creations too on this important day of celebration – Summer Mac n Cheese and Goat Mac). This recipe is courtesy of Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, one of Selim’s favorite blogs, who now has a column in our favorite magazine, Bon Appetit! This variation adds corn for a sweet, summery update. If you check out our previous attempt at a classic Cacio e Pepe, we followed some very specific instructions to make our cacio e pepe not fall victim to clumpiness, which worked beautifully. Deb’s recipe is simpler, without additional fat of butter and/or oil, so we decided to try her way this time. It’s not quite as silky as our other recipe, but definitely wouldn’t call it clumpy! Happy with the result and the saving of a few calories. Our only change from her recipe was to add a little Aleppo pepper, which I really enjoyed.

 

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Corn Cacio e Pepe

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Ingredients: 
  • 16oz medium sized pasta
  • 3 ears corn
  • 8oz Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, grated
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • [Reserved pasta water]
Instructions: 
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the ears of corn for ~5 minutes and then remove to the side. Once cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off of the cob.
  2. Return the water to a boil and add salt liberally. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  3. Drain and set the pasta aside in a large bowl. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.
  4. While the pasta and corn are cooking, combine the cheese and peppers in a medium bowl. Mash together with the 1/3 cup cold water until a thick paste forms.
  5. Combine pasta, corn kernels, and cheese paste. Toss together. Slowly add pasta water, stirring continuously until you reach your preferred sauce-like coating consistency.
  6. Serve topped with additional cheese and pepper as desired.
Serves ~4

A Brand New Kitchen!

 

One thing is for sure, 2019 has definitely not be the most prolific year of blogging for us! We already explained our absence in the late fall of last year and winter of this year. (For those who missed it, short version is: the first trimester and half of Ally’s pregnancy involved a lot of nausea and not a lot of eating, which translated into very little cooking and recipe experimenting for us.) Good news is that luckily we got past that and started eating again! But then we bought and eventually moved into our new house… where we’ve been renovating the kitchen for the past 4 or 5 months! (By we I mean that Ally’s uncle and cousin, our general contractors, and their sub-contractors have been renovating our kitchen – we have definitely not been doing it ourselves!) Our kitchen renovations have been extensive, involving knocking down a wall, closing off an exterior door, adding a new window, and completely redo-ing the entire interior! And it is finally pretty much done!

We are SO excited about how it’s come together! We’ve still have a few touches here and there to go, and we’re going to update some appliances from functional to a little bit fancier throughout the rest of the summer – so more pictures to follow! But I’m really excited to share what we have! It’s bold and gorgeous (if we do say so ourselves!) and just what we envisioned!

Highlights: 

Our new 6 burner gas range! Selim has been dying to get back to gas cooking for the past few years of apartment living. (He’s almost as excited about the industrial strength vent hood above it…)

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Our big old farmhouse sink – Selim won the battle of textured vs smooth front and it’s been met with rave reviews from our visitors, much to Ally’s chagrin.

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THE TILE. The entire kitchen was designed around this tile! It’s a “Tulip & Reed” Ottoman motif, and the tiles did come all the way from Turkey!

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Windows / natural light and tons of counter-top and cabinet space. We’ve been living in apartments for the past several years, none of which had any windows in or near the kitchen. We just want to see the sunlight!! Similarly, now that we have a real grown-up house, we wanted tons of counter-top and cabinet space. These are custom-made and both the counters and therefore the cabinets are several inches deeper than standard!

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And just for comparison – here’s what the kitchen used to look like:

 

Summer Mac n Cheese

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There are some dishes that just scream a certain season to me. A big pot of chili or anything involving a gourd in the fall. Hearty, meat-heavy dishes that are roasted or stewed or crockpot-ed in the winter. But summer… Probably the most seasonally iconic dishes are summer ones! There are just so many – burgers on the grill, corn on the cob, popsicles, salads topped with fruit, triangles of juicy watermelon, and a newspaper-covered picnic table with Old Bay seasoned whole crabs piled on top! Right up there at the top of the summer food list is caprese salad. Fresh, cool, and best with ripe summer tomatoes, caprese salad is definitely quintessential summer fare. So today when coming up with this dish, I thought that the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil of a caprese salad would make for an interesting summery twist on Mac n cheese!

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We have a caveat to our post today though. Neither of us actually ate this dish. I made it for our friends who just had a new baby! They swear it was good, so we’ll just have to take their word for it. Relatedly, the base Mac & cheese recipe here (also the base for Goat Mac), is a great option if you want to make something ahead to bring to someone! You can make it up until the last baking part and then whomever you bring it to can bake it for the appropriate length of time later (which you may need to increase by 10 minutes or so from the immediate baking time as below).

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Summer Mac n Cheese

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 5 cups dry small pasta (penne, farfalle, elbows, etc)
  • 16oz mozzarella cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • ~10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Instructions:
  1. Pre-heat the oven 400 degrees.
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until very lightly simmering. Meanwhile, bring a large pot over water to a boil.
  3. Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  4. In another saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. When the butter has melted, begin to slowly whisk in the flour. When the flour is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Meanwhile, place the grape tomatoes in a bowl and toss them with the olive oil, 3 chopped basil leaves, and salt & pepper.
  6. Roast them on a small sheet pan for ~15 minutes, until they are just starting to wrinkle and split. Remove from the oven.
  7. Moving back to the stove, slowly whisk all of the milk into the mixture. (It will initially get incredibly thick, then begin to thin out.)
  8. When all of the milk has been added, return the pot to medium heat and whisk continuously for ~3 minutes.
  9. Now add in the cheese and continue whisking.
  10. When sauce has come together, combine the sauce with the pasta and place in baking dish. Top with the tomatoes and remaining basil.
  11. Bake for just an additional 10 minutes, so it all firms up.
Serves 6-8