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Posts Tagged ‘yogurt’

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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Like lemon?  Then you’ll love these zesty and moist cakes with a sweet lemon glaze. Perfect for a brunch, picnic, or taking to the office to share.  The eggy cake batter includes 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon zest, which gives a hint of tang on the inside.  But it’s the double dose of lemon on the outside that really puts these over the top:  shortly after taking the cakes out out of the oven, you drizzle a sweet lemon syrup on top, allowing the liquid to soak in.  Later, you frost the tops with a creamy lemon glaze.   Adapted from Ina Garten’s Lemon Yogurt Cake recipe here.

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SpanikopitasQuad

It all started during my year in New York City — and a failure to fulfill my yearning for spanikopita, tossed tomatoes and olives with feta, and salted, roasted whole fish at one of my favorite Greek restaurants, Elias’ Corner in Astoria, Queens. Then, having moved out of the Big Apple, I began working for a Greek boss who, just feet from my desk, loves to talk about her passion for Greek food and cooking.  Then, along comes Ina Garten — host of Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa” — who on a recent Saturday morning threw a Greek dinner party for friends at her Hamptons seaside digs.  !   Thus the inspiration for my Big Fat Greek Feast.

SpanikopEaten

Making homemade spanikopita is a somewhat delicate and time-consuming process. But the crispy, spinach-feta-filled pockets are amazingly worth the effort. This was my first time making these filo pastries, and it did take me awhile to get the hang of buttering and layering the paper-thin filo sheets:  it’s a bit of trial and error to learn just the right amount of spinach/cheese filling to drop on the sheet before folding into a neat triangle shape (without tearing the filo!).

Kudos to GT for this authentic recipe.  She encouraged me numerous times to get creative with the filling, adding other cheeses and herbs besides feta and dill that you might have on hand at home.

Spanikopita

1 box filo sheets, defrosted
2 bags frozen chopped spinach
1 large bunch fresh dill, chopped
2 bunches spring onions, chopped
1 ½ lbs Feta cheese
Small container cottage cheese
Any other cheeses you may have left over in the fridge – Romano, parmesan, etc.
4 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Breadcrumbs

(1) Defrost and drain the spinach. Squeeze as much water out as you can.

(2) Combine spinach, dill, spring onions, cheeses, eggs in a large bowl.  Mix in the olive oil and some pepper to taste.  *The mixture should not be too watery, nor should it be too dry. If it seems dry, add olive oil. Add bread crumbs if too wet.

(3) Place one sheet of filo on a flat surface. Brush lightly with butter using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Add another layer of filo on top. Butter, sprinkle, etc. Repeat for 4 sheets, layered.

(4) Cut the filo into strips the long way. For each strip, at the end closest to you, add a dollop of mixture (about 1/3 cup) and gently fold into triangles — like you’d fold a flag.  Butter outside and place on baking sheet.

(5) Bake at 350 until brown.

Lamb

Lamb is another wonderful staple of Greek cuisine.  For these kebabs, I deboned loin chops and marinated the meat in a yogurt-based sauce, with olive oil, fresh rosemary and oregano, garlic and lemon juice. Grill over a hot charcoal fire until medium rare.

Kebabs

Bright, colorful and zesty, Greek salad has always been a summertime favorite.  The vinagrette is so simple: olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano.  Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  We tossed with sliced ripe tomatoes, fresh out of the garden; red and yellow bell peppers; cucumber; red onion; and, kalamata olives.

GreekSalad

The capstone of a Greek feast has to be the tzatziki sauce — creamy, thick, tangy Greek yogurt with dill, garlic, grated cucumber and a hint of lemon juice. I used Ina’s recipe as a guide but added some extra oregano and a little white wine vinegar for taste.  The sauce held together the entire meal, and these grilled pita breads — dusted in olive oil and sea salt — were perfect to mop up the excess and to dip on the side.

PitaCrisps

Now…. if only I had a ocean view and warm salty breeze of the Greek Isles!  Truth be told, this backyard setting worked just fine.  Greek craving fulfilled!

GreekTable

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