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Archive for September, 2010

When it comes to breakfast treats – pastries, breads, cakes, rolls – I’ve never been a fan of the ultra-sweet. Partly this is because I don’t like the cloying, sugary taste and inevitable energy crash that follows. But I also like to feel like I’m getting at least some nutritional value — maybe some oatmeal or bran baked in, or healthy nuts on top.

This blueberry cornmeal cake is a perfect balance of what I like in a morning coffee accompaniment. It’s hearty and super-moist with slightly sweet cake – almost like a cornbread, except made more flavorful by ricotta cheese, yogurt and honey baked in! — and bursts of tangy, fresh blueberries throughout.

The recipe, adapted by Bon Appetit from the Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe in Santa Monica, is like a sister to the to-die-for Orange Polenta Cake I wrote about last year and is one of my top five favorite desserts.

Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

1 1/3 cups flour

2/3 cups yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon honey

1 1/4 sticks butter at room temp

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/3 cup plain yogurt

3 cups fresh blueberries

(1) Preheat oven to 325 and butter/flour 10-inch diameter springform pan.

(2) Whisk flour, cornmeal and baking powder/soda in small bowl.  Whisk oil, eggs, vanilla, and honey in another.

(3) Use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar (reserve one tablespoon) until creamy. Then slowly add wet mixture and blend. Followed by dry mixture to blend. Add ricotta and yogurt and beat on low speed just to blend.

(4) Pour half the batter into pan. Scatter 1 1/2 cups blueberries over to cover.  Then pour remaining batter over and sprinkle remaining blueberries on top.  Sprinkle with reserved sugar.

(5) Bake until golden brown — about 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on oven. Cool completely before cutting.

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Crusty French bread, spicy/salty pork meatballs and tangy, crisp grated carrot and diakon — the essential ingredients for an incredible bánh mì, or popular type of Vietnamese sandwich.  This recipe caught my attention back in January, but I waited until this summer to give it a try so I could take advantage of all that my local farmers’ market has to offer.   Since so much Vietnamese cooking features natural herbs and root vegetables, fresh produce is essential. (e.g. the ground pork in this case came from a small, family-owned farm in Virginia that showed me a photo of the pig before I bought it!)

The meatballs are oven-roasted and incredibly tasty, defined by savory garlic, spicy hot chili paste and a dash of salty fish sauce.  And as a cool and crunchy counterpoint, the grated carrot, diakon and cucumber are lightly pickled in rice vinegar, sesame oil and sugar. Top it all off with a handful of fresh cilantro sprigs.

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