DARKLY DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BUNDT CAKE

One could be forgiven for keeping one of the key ingredients of this cake a secret.  Those who grow zucchini know that overnight a zucchini can morph to a monstrous size. Every morning I walk out to the garden and gingerly lift the prickly zucchini leaves checking the daily crop. And every morning I am rewarded with these tender-never-stop-growing vegetable. Zucchini fritters. Zucchini gratin. Zucchini on the barbecue. Zucchini muffins and loaf cakes. Zucchini shared with friends and neighbours. The infamous zucchini is definitely the vegetable that keeps on giving.

This bundt cake is a gorgeous combination of chocolate and zucchini. A marriage made in baking heaven.   A bundt  cake rich with bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder.    A bundt cake that takes chocolate and zucchini and presents to you a cake that is gloriously  tender and wonderfully moist. This is a classic with a crumb that is fine yet firm. It cuts beautifully and stays fresh and tender for a couple of days (if it can last that long). One could serve it with a scoop of coffee ice cream or a little whipped cream delicately flavoured with cinnamon. Or, proudly alone on a dessert plate showered with a drift of cocoa.

The recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bundt cake awaits you at MRS.BUTTERFINGERS

This so very timely recipe is from the pages of ZOE BAKES CAKES by Zoe Francois.    A cook book that contains everything you need to know about cakes!

COLD WEATHER COMFORT FOOD …. FRENCH STYLE BOEUF BOURGINGNON … beef bourgingnon

 

A little over ten years ago a popular French cookbook  was published in English. I KNOW HOW TO COOK by Ginette Mathiot’s has been the best-selling cookbook in France for three generations.  The book first published in l932 has been regularly revised and updated.   This book has been an essential fixture on the counters of French kitchens for over 75 years.  You could call it the definitive cookbook for French home cooking.

You’ll find the all the French basics, but what I appreciated was the unusual;  recipes for Barley Sugar,  Ash Leaf beer, Cuissot de Sanglier (hindquarter of wild boar)   and Becasse Rotie Sauce Crème (Roast woodcock in cream sauce).  It makes terrific bedside reading.

The recipes are brief and concise.  But here’s the codicil.    The author requires one to have enough general knowledge to navigate the recipes.     For example;  some of the cake recipes don’t give exact pan sizes. So be aware.  Be brave.     You won’t be disappointed.

When the cold winds of November have you longing for something hearty and deeply satisfying this so very French recipe from I KNOW HOW TO COOK  is absolutely perfect.

BOEUF BOURGUIGNON (Beef Bourguignon)

Preparation time: 20 minutes.  Cooking time: 2 ½ hours.   Serves 6

1 tablespoon oil,   3 oz. pearl onions or shallots.   3 ½ ounces small bacon cubes,   1 pound 8 ½ oz. stewing beef, cut into pieces,   Scant  ¼ cup flour.   1 ¼ cups any stock, hot.   1 ¼ cups red wine.   1 bouquet garni.   Salt and pepper.   3 ½ oz. mushrooms, peeled and chopped.

In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat the oil and pan-fry the onions and bacon cubes until browned.  Remove them, add the meat and brown it on all sides.  Sprinkle with the flour, stir until browned.  Scrap up the brown bits in the bottom of the pan  then add the hot stock.  Mix well to combine.   Add the bacon cubes, onions, wine and bouquet garni, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer gently on low heat for 2 hours, then add the mushrooms (see chef’s note below) and cook for 30 minutes more.  Bon Appetit

Chef’s Note:  The recipe is according to the book.   I suggest when you add the hot stock you scrap up the brown bits in the pan.  Before I added the mushrooms I sautéed them in a little olive oil and butter.  Delicious

CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAPPING . . .HOW TO WRAP A BOOK WITH A BOOK!

 

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I adore giving books as gifts – especially at Christmas.  Come Boxing Day there is nothing more delightful than snuggling under a cosy blanket, a cup of tea by your side, and reading your Christmas gift book.

Through the year I keep a sharp eye out for unusual and interesting books.  I check used book stores for vintage books and books out of print.

I also collect books that are destined for the recycling bin,  out-of-date reference books, old atlases, worn art books – all are grist for my work with altered books.  I save the pages I am not using and use them as gift wrap.   You can use the pages as gift wrap, as I have done here , or you can cover boxes and the lids with pages for a more permanent gift box.

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Look for over-size books.  It makes gift wrapping easier.  For the final touch be bold and make a paper bow.

My slow Christmas continues as I take time  each day to wrap a few presents.   It has turned very cold here (cold for coastal area).  I’ve taken my basket of paper and ribbons to sit by the warming fireplace.  There’s just the smallest sprinkle of snow covering the green grass.  Perhaps we’ll have that rare thing – a white Christmas.

HUMMINGBIRD CAKE – It will have you humming with happiness.

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The other day I was searching my cookbook library and came across a Vogue cookbook from the nineteen eighties. Leafing through the pages I spotted the title of this cake.  HUMMINGBIRD CAKE.  How intriguing.  Apparently this cake originated in the deep South and was extremely popular at barbeques and other fine affairs.

The method of making the cake is easy.  Just two bowls.  One for the dry ingredients and one for the wet.  No mixer required.  You can even make the icing in a food processor.  The ingredients are  ones found in most pantry’s.

So – why the wonderful exotic name?   I served it to fellow food maven, Dellis.  Two forkfuls and all I heard was “hmmmm”.  No further explanation required.  This is a fabulous cake.  The combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger gives it a rather Christmasy flavour.  I think it would be the perfect ending for your holiday meal.  It’s quick to make. It will keep several days in your refrigerator so you can eliminate any last-minute preparations.  I absolute guarantee you this is a reputation making cake.  Just click on HUMMINGBIRD CAKE and sing “jingle bells”.  Before you’ve finished your song your cake will be in the oven.  Well – practically!

BRAISED PORK BELLY WITH CARAMELIZED APPLES … Brasato di Pancia di

The first time I was introduced to braised pork belly  it was made by our good friend and exceptional chef Andy Chan.  The dish was pork belly in taro root.  The meat was so luscious, so tender it literally melted  in your mouth.  Truly heaven on a plate.  This recipe from Mark McEwan’s most recent cookbook, FABBRICA,  evoked the same wonderful feelings.

You’ll find this recipes on my food blog

GREEN BEANS WITH BASIL … Provence style

The markets and gardens are filled with armfuls of vibrant  basil.

Military  rows of fresh green beans.

Tender green beans and basil.

A Provenςal marriage made in heaven.

 

Serve this as a side vegetable dish or as a first course.  It should be offered warm to best enhance the pungency of the herb.  I adapted this recipe from Patricia Wells THE PROVENCE COOKBOOK.

 

1/4 cup coarse sea salt

1 pound green beans, trimmed either both ends or just the head

1  cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed,  cut into a chiffonnade

1 generous tb spoon extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt

A generous amount of freshly ground black pepper

A sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Prepare a large b owl of ice water.

Fill a pasta pot (fitted with a colander) with about 5 quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat.    Add the coarse sea salt and the b eans, and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Immediately remove the colander from the water, allow the water to drain, and plunge the colander with the beans into the ice water so they cool down as quickly as possible.  (The beans will cool in 1 to 2 minutes.  If you leave them longer, they will become soggy and begin to lose flavour.)

Drain the beans and wrap them in a thick towel to dry.  (The beans can be cooked up to 4 hours in advance.  Keep them wrapped in the towel and refrigerate, if desired.)

At serving time splash the olive oil into a large saute pan over medium heat.  When the oil is warm add the basil and the beans, tossing to coat the beans and warm the mixture, l to 2 minutes.  Season to taste.  Serve warm.  Enjoy your taste of Province  tonight.  Bon Appétit!!

COOK BOOKS TO CHECK OUT

November 24th,  2010

Every so often a cookbook comes along that is so beautiful, so interesting, you can’t resist it.  Guy Mirabella’s EAT ATE is such a book.  The photography is a delight  and the format is very different and very engrossing.  I haven’t cooked anything out of this book.  I’ve been too busy simply devouring page after page  of unexpected pleasures.  I am looking forward  to make the pizza with roasted pumpkin.

This is a list of new cookbooks I think are worth checking out.     Your local library probably has most of them.  If you don’t have a library card this would be good reason to obtain one.

Everyday Food from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living

Ad Hoc at Home   (Thomas Keller)

Fine Cooking Volume Two

Professional Cooking  (Wayne -Gisslen)

Welcome to the Table  (House Beautiful)

Cooking Know-How (Weinstein & Scarbrough)

One Pot French (Jean-Pierre Challet with Jennifer Decorte)

Falling Cloudberries  A world of Family Recipes (Tessa Kiros)

I Know How To Cook (Ginette Mathiot)

TWO NEW COOKBOOKS

I devour cookbooks the way some people crave chocolate.  I read them through cover to cover,  marking recipes I find interesting with sticky notes.  If at the end of reading the cookbook bristles with notes then I know I  have found another wonderful cookbook.

 

 

I’m a big fan of Patricia Wells.  Her SALAD AS A MEAL  is the definitive guide to creating delicious and hearty salads for any occasion.  It has more than 150 recipes and gorgeous colour photographs.   It’s how we want to eat today.

 


My friend Angela, introduced me to MENNONITE GIRLS CAN COOK.  You will love reading and cooking from this book.  What’s not to love about a cookbook that has a recipe for Butter  Soup and Pluckets(pull-a-part bread), Pfeffernuesse (peppernut cookies) and Tee Gebaeck (Linzer cookies).   This cookbook is all about cooking from the heart.  It is straight forward and honest.  You will smudge the pages with butter and cinnamon, and your family will love you for it.    Get out your apron and start cooking memories.

You’ll love their blog too.  Go to mennonitegirlscancook.blogspot.com/

A COOKBOOK TO CURL UP AND READ DURING THE HOLIDAYS

THE ESSENTIAL NEW YORK TIMES  COOK  BOOK

I opened  this book early this morning.  I had made my French presse coffee, plumped the pillows,  and as part of my morning ritual started reading .  My coffee grew cold as I became completely engrossed in this highly personal, fascinating and beautiful record of  America’s culinary past.  The New York Times has published recipes for 150 .  This is the cookbook for those who grew up in the kitchen with Craig Claiborne, for curious cooks who want to serve a nineteenth-century recipe to their friend, and for the new cook who needs a book that spells out all the basics.  This cookbook will serve as a lifelong companion in your kitchen.

MARCELLA HAZAN VERSUS KRAFT CAULIFLOWER DINNER – NO CONTEST!

Marcella Hazan’s recipe for CAULIFLOWER WITH CHEESE SAUCE is the single most visited recipe on my blog.    The recipe combines the “comfort” of a distinguished cheese sauce and the healthy aspect of a roasted vegetable.

The cauliflower when roasted  enveloped in a velvety cheese sauce is tender, sweet and slightly caramelized.    The cheese sauce is rich, comforting and lighted crowned a golden brown.  It is difficult NOT to have second helpings of this delicious dish.  Why not!!

Can Kraft dinner put this all in a box?    I don’t think so.

I’ve  been a big fan of Marcella Hazan for years.  There are a great many Italian cookbooks out there but  the cookbooks I would  recommend  with confidence  to the home cook  are those of Marcella Hazan.  These are down-to-earth Italian recipes.  I prefer them to the scores of American-Italian cook books on the market today.

According to Marcella Hazan she discovered this recipe while visiting a vineyard with her husband.  The vintner’s wife had made this casserole for the buffet table.  It was so good Marcella returned three times for it, and then asked the vintner’s wife for the recipe.   I promise you this.  It will be hard not to have seconds of this gorgeous dish.

CAULIFLOWER WITH CHEESE SAUCE  Marcella Hazan Style

One good-sized head of cauliflower cut into  medium size pieces.  (Not too small and not too big, just the size to pop into your hungry mouth.)  Place these in one layer in a gratin dish.

Make a white sauce and add cheese:

Melt two ounces  of butter or hard margarine.   Add 5 tablespoons flour and whisk over medium heat for a few minutes to cook the flour.

Pour in one cup of warm milk and whisk until sauce thickens.  Add a dash of   Worcestershire sauce, a dash of hot sauce and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper. (taste to see if you have enough salt)

Add a generous two cups of  medium cheddar cheese and whisk until smooth and thick.  (You want the sauce to be on thick side as the cauliflower releases moisture as it bakes.  If you think it should be thicker whisk in a little more flour and little more cheese.)

Pour the cheese sauce  over the cauliflower and grate a generous half cup of Parmesan Reggiano or Pecorino cheese over the top.  Sprinkle with panko crumbs.

Bake in a 375 degree oven until the cheese is bubbly and brown and the cauliflower is tender.

Remember, this is all about the cheese.  When in doubt add more cheese!!