Birthday Season = Cake Season

When it comes to birthdays, a homemade cake is non-negotiable. With my brother and sister-in-law’s days of birth arriving in rapid succession, I spent some quality time with the hand mixer. I let my sister in law choose her flavor (red velvet), as my brother has had the same favorite cake since…forever. Interesting fun fact about my brother’s cake, it’s an orange cake from a family cookbook we’ve had sine the 1970s (my dad gave it to my mum back back back in the day.) I had to convert everything into standard measurement, but as usual, it was worth it. I remember my mum making this cake all throughout my childhood, and I love baking it today.

Orange Cream Gâteau from the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, 1978 Edition
*note: I’m doubling the recipe, because I found that it was not enough for 2 9-inch cakes
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 oranges
For Buttercream:
1 cup butter
2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream fat and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together, then grate the rind from the orange, and fold in with the dry ingredient. [Combine the wet and dry ingredients–this step is missing in the original recipe!] Divide mixture evenly between 2 well greased [9-inch baking rounds]. Bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Turn out and cool on a wire tray.

Make the buttercream: Beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add the sifted confectioner’s sugar a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the juice from the orange before all of the sugar has been incorporated.
Sandwich the cake together with the buttercream. Coat the sides and top, swirling decoratively.

I chose to decorate with some yellow sprinkles and chocolate pieces, all in the letter “I” for my brother!

My sister in law is a chocoholic, so I was pretty surprised when she requested red velvet cake. I used a New York Times recipe I’d just seen, and it came out pretty perfect. They paired the cake with an Ermine icing, but I just went with regular buttercream. The yellow sprinkles look a little weird here…

red velvet cake

  • ½ cup /113 grams butter, at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons to prepare pans
  • 3 tablespoons/22 grams cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 ½ cups/300 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons/10 milliliters vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon/6 grams salt
  • 1 teaspoon/5 grams baking soda
  • 2 ½ cups/320 grams flour, sifted
  • 1 cup/236 milliliters whole buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon/15 milliliters vinegar
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by buttering lightly and sprinkling with 1 tablespoon sifted cocoa powder, tapping pans to coat and discarding extra cocoa.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, make a paste of the remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa and the food coloring. Blend into butter mixture.
  4. Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Alternating in 2 batches each, add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture. In the last batch of buttermilk, mix in the vinegar before adding to the batter. Mix until blended.
  5. Divide batter among 3 pans and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack completely. (Can also be made in 2 cake pans.)
  6. To assemble, remove 1 cake from its pan and place flat side down on a serving platter. Drop about 1 cup of icing onto cake and, using a flat spatula, spread evenly over top. Remove the second cake from its pan. Place flat side down on top of first layer. Use remaining frosting to cover top and sides of cake.

A First Timer’s Pasta Night

Some pretty exciting things have happened to those closest to me, so I wanted to celebrate by using our brand-new hand crank pasta maker. Embarrassingly enough, this was my first time making pasta, and after one egg-yolk eggsplosion (apparently when you make a well in the flour, it’s got to go deep), it was actually relatively smooth sailing. As per the Frankie’s Spuntino book, I kneaded the dough for 8 minutes straight (whew!), then let it rest before rolling it out.

pasta maker

We cranked and cranked, and produced some pretty decent (albeit very thin) noodles.

noodles

After some time unfurling the noodles, I whipped them up with a favorite River Caférecipe of peas, prosciutto and lots of butter and Parmesan.

peas

Now, to resist the urge for homemade pasta every weeknight.

Lunch at Momofuku CCDC

As a longtime East Village resident, I’m no stranger to David Chang’s Momofuku empire. I’ve had rotisserie duck lunches at Ssam bar many a time, ramen at noodle bar, LOTS of corn cookies at Milk Bar and drinks at Booker & Dax and Ma Pêche. In my DC hiatus, I haven’t visited newly minted Fuku and Nishi, but I did get to try David Chang’s new Momofuku empire here in Washington.

The shrimp Louie is a must get (we actually ordered two).The thin slices of jalapeño cut through the richness of the Russian dressing.

shrimp Louie

I’d only had the Momofuku pork buns before, but the mushroom version certainly delivered a lovely hit of umami.

Momofuku pork

We also ordered the shrimp buns–a thick patty coated with a spicy-creamy sauce in their fluffy buns. I actually preferred the mushroom, strangely enough, but the shrimp was terrific as well.

shrimp buns

The chilled spicy noodles were studded with Szechuan sausage and crunchy candied cashews. I found them a tad over-oily, but the noodles were springy and satisfying nonetheless.

chilled spicy noodles

A repeat visit will be necessary, for sure, before I move back to the home of the Momo empire!

Momofuku CCDC
1090 I Street
Washington, DC 20001

Tewari Bros, Mumbai

I’m not sure if I’ve admitted this on here yet, but Indian food isn’t really my thing. If i have admitted it before, let’s pretend that this is a totally new admission and you’re both shocked and intrigued. “But why?” you think, “how can a food writer who thinks all day–almost entirely–about eating reject the culinary stylings of her ancestors?” Firstly, don’t put me in a box, but secondly, it’s complicated. (I’m aware that sounded like a breakup.)

In moderation, I enjoy Indian food–I love smoky-charred chicken tikkas, and silky puréed spinach resplendent with chunks of springy paneer. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that “Indian food” is a ridiculous term which doesn’t begin to explore the regional delicacies; from Caribbean flavors and Seafood in Kerala to entirely vegetarian dishes in other parts of South India, to the myriad other food eaten in this massive country. But, my reasons for holding the cuisine of my people at arms length are twofold:

  1. I’m not a fan of cumin, cardamom, fennel seed, or fenugreek. Sorry, but it’s true. These pungent spices are essential in the preparation of Indian food throughout the country.
  2. Visiting India, you can, and most likely will, OD on the cuisine. I’m extremely lucky to visit my family in Bombay (Mumbai) every year, but after days of the intense local flavors, you can experience some mouth and stomach fatigue (not to mention a latent threat of gastrointestinal challenges…)

With that said, each trip I make to India, my father is determined to stoke my love of food and introduce me to new dishes and restaurants. Bombay has a terrific food scene, not just limited to Indian cuisine, and we frequently try new places and some of our old favorites.

A few weeks back, after some light shopping, my father insisted steered my mother and me towards an unfamiliar South Bombay eatery: Tewari Brothers. In addition to selling many sweetmeats, mithai, Tewari specializes in chaat, Indian snacks. I peered around, and spotted (in no particular order), an ever-praying man on a prayer podium, sparkly good luck treats, crispy bhel being fried right outside. As usual, in India, a kaleidoscope of sights and smells.

sights and smells

We ordered a few different treats because, well, it was snacktime.

The first, Raj Kachori consisted of a large crisp puri which is a fried orb of wheat dough. Inside the shell was a spiced lentil mixture, a kachori (a fluffy pancake of gram flour), yogurt sauce, tamarind chutney and crunchy sev, a crunchy fried noodle-shaped topping.

Raj Kachori

A mouthful it was, but the mix of slightly chewy lentils, crispy sev and puri, and the ambrosial kachori made for an explosion of textures that my teeth scarcely knew what to do with. The flavors were also explosive, particularly the tangy tamarind chutney (one of my favorites) and the nutty sev and puri, all coated with cooling yogurt.

A deep fried spinach leaf coated with tamarind chutney, yogurt, and sev was perfectly crisp yet not oily at all and a green chutney-filled puri (below) came with an earthy sauce and melted jaggery (cane sugar) which turned into a deep, dark molasses. Incredible:

Never will a trip to Bombay omit Tewari again.

Tewari Bros

3, Purshottam Building, MP Marg, Opera House,Charni Road
Mumbai
022 23614238

A Retrospective of Bites

Well, we’re here in 2016, and before I post about my trip to India and other general musings on life, snacks, kale, Gisele and Tom’s (non) eating habits, and the like, I thought it best to review some of the tastiest things I ate in 2015. Without further ado and in no particular order…

1. Rice Salad at Thip Khao (Washington, DC)

Rice Salad

I’ve rhapsodized about this before–the crunchy slivers of pig’s ear, and the freshness of herbs, and spiciness that provided a gentle burn throughout. Truly so fantastic.

2. Pizza at Di Fara (New York)

PizzaExcuse the atrocious picture BUT, few things will drag one to the depths of Midwood, Brooklyn–this expertly made pizza will do it. The sauce (with tomatoes imported from Italy, of course) is probably the most incredible part of it, not to mention the owner who is in his 80s (above) and still touches almost every pie.

3. Beef & Bone Marrow Pie at Chi Spacca (Los Angeles)

Beef

I kept hearing about this pie from my brother, and once I finally tried it, every expectation was fulfilled. It’s unctuous and flaky and super-savory all at once. Go get it, if you can.

4. Corn Arepas with an Egg (Medellín, Colombia)

Corn ArepasI vividly remember saying, aloud, at the breakfast table “these are a revelation.” The sweet, slightly charred corn flavor and the rich egg yolk are just next level delicious.

5. Fried Chicken “Coq Au Vin” at Convivial (Washington, DC)

Fried ChickenSo, the picture doesn’t adequately display how fantastically tasty this dish was, but believe me it was. The rich winey sauce coated the fried chicken, it was so sinful and…now I’m ravenous.

6. Suckling Pig with Orange Sauce at Belcanto (Lisbon, Portugal)

Suckling Pig

The orange sauce (with a clove of roasted black garlic) and slightly ever so charred cabbage were perfect counterpoints to the crispy, caramelized pork. But, I also must mention that the potato chips seen in the top right corner were inside an edible bag. So yes, I just bit into the whole thing. Magical.

7. Smothered Shrimp and Grits at Narobia’s Grits and Gravy (Savannah, GA)

Smothered ShrimpI wish I could say we stumbled across this down home Savannah spot, but the truth is I’d been dying to try it for a few months, and the moment I knew we’d be heading to this Southern town, I insisted on going there. The smoky, smothered shrimp were so unbelievably fresh and sweet over luscious, creamy grits.

8. Red Wine Braised Artichokes and Parmesan Custard at Vernick Food & Drink (Philadelphia)

Red Wine Braised Artichokes

Every year, I make at least one trip to Philly, and each time I’m wowed by the food. This dish, one of many at Vernick Food & Drink was so ideal to spoon up on a cold winter evening. Parmesan and red wine go together so well, of course, and I loved the interesting combination here.

9. Khmer Pancake at Ithaca Farmer’s Market (Ithaca, NY)

Khmer Pancake

Back for my college reunion, I made sure to re-live the massive amounts of eating I did in my four years. On weekends at Ithaca’s famed Farmers Market, I almost always ordered a Khmer pancake at the Cambodian stall. Filled with pork, sliced vegetables and vermicelli noodles, it’s absolutely one of my favorite bites this year, and perhaps ever.

10. Pork Sausage with Coconut-Chile Sauce and Lychees at Rose’s Luxury(Washington, DC)

Pork Sausage

I’ve been wanting to try the notoriously impossible-to-get-into DC restaurant Rose’s Luxury for a year or two at this point, and on a rainy December night we got lucky. This dish was transcendental. Stirring all the ingredients together, you got the pungent red onion, ever so slightly spongy lychees, coconut froth, and meaty thai sausage. Want to make it? Here’s the recipe.

[Rose’s Luxury Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit]