Sunday, December 9, 2007

Apple Cake

All week long I've been looking for a recipe for an apple cake to bring to a party on Saturday night. But not just any apple cake. An apple cake that would wow; not one that would just sit on table and look like a regular old cake, without hinting at the
appleness of it. I spent at least a half an hour a day every day googling recipes. I tore through all of our cookbooks. I called my mother. I don't know why I got it into my head that I wanted to make an apple cake, except that there was a New York Times recipe for one from a few weeks ago that I wanted to make, but then decided I didn't like. This is what I made; it's an adaptation of a recipe I found by simply typing in some of the ingredients. It was a hit.

Apple Yogurt Cinnamon Nut Bundt Cake

The layer of walnuts and cinnamon ribboned in the middle and on top of this cake is what makes it special. It's pretty rich, so make sure you get at least 20 thin slices out of it. It takes quite a while to prepare everything, and over an hour to bake.

Equipment needed: a bundt cake pan, a food processor or chopper, a hand-mixer, a spatula, two medium-sized bowls and one large bowl.

2 1/2 cups walnuts (other nuts can be substituted)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature (take out of the fridge 30 minutes before using)
1 1/4 cups low- or no-fat plain yogurt (you could probably use vanilla)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups of chopped apples, kind of cubed coarsely, big enough to bite into and taste! I used Gala apples, but I'm sure plenty of kinds work well.

Preheat 350 degrees

Butter a bundt pan and then flour (shaking out excess flour)

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt

In a small food processor, chop the walnuts, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/2 cup sugar until the nuts are chopped. Add in 1/4 cup melted butter and pulse once or twice to combine, place in a small bowl, set aside.

To make the cake: In a large bowl beat the 1 cup softened butter with 1-1/4 cups sugar at high speed with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes. Add in eggs and beat well. Beat in yogurt and vanilla until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add in the flour mixture, mixing just until blended. The batter will be thick. Add in all but about 1/4 cup of the chopped apples; mix to combine.

Sprinkle one-third of the nut mixture evenly into bottom of the bundt pan. Lay 1/4 cup of the chopped apples over the nut mixture.

Spoon just under half of the batter on top of the nut mixture, spreading out with a spatula. Sprinkle another 1/3 of the nut mixture over the batter, and then spoon another just-less-than-half of the batter over that layer of nuts. Sprinkle the last 1/3 of the nut mixture onto this layer of the batter, and then dollop with the remainging cake batter, spreading it over the nuts with a spoon or spatula. Don't worry if some of the nuts roll up into the batter...this will be on the bottom of the cake.

Bake for about an hour, an hour and 15 minutes, or until cake tests done

Cool cake in the pan on a rack for about 1 hour, then run a thin knife around the inner edges

Place rack on top of the pan, then flip to invert onto rack

Cool completely, wrap, and bring to your party!

You can drizzle a simple icing over the top, but that's not really necessary.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Eating out is usually disappointing from a culinary point of view. Food is rarely prepared or served better than what you can actually do for yourself at home if you put some effort into it. But sometimes, sometimes you come across a place where the food is so good, you want to ask the chef if you can just sit on a stool in the corner to watch him work for a little while.

Tonite we went to a smooth, relatively new restaurant in SoHo called Tailor. It opened up in September to mixed reviews....the chef, Sam Mason, designed a crazy menu combining all different kinds of sweet and savory tastes in the same dish. Mason himself seems like a bit of an egomaniac, and there certainly seems to have been some crazy excesses (wait-staff uniforms made by an English tailor, which the staff had to buy for themselves--outrage), but the food was really really good. And the ambiance was nice as well. Waitstaff were nice, the drinks were interesting and strong. I ordered a Bohemia, which was tequila, becherovka, and naranya agria; D ordered a Crumble, which was brown butter rum, pink clove, and something called scrumpy. We had to switch after the first sip. We had decided to order one appetizer and one entree each, and settled on Peeky Toe Crab with basil, pine nut puree, and topped with a pineapple foam for the starter, and Short Ribs with pureed root vegetable (not sure what it was) and carrots. Both dishes were absolutely delicious, but the short ribs. I don't even know what to say. All I know is that when I cooked short ribs for New Years' Eve last year, I clearly had no idea what I was doing. We'll definitely be trying to get as close to that as we can in the near future. D happened to know some of the management there, and we were treated to an awesome dessert. I had the Caramelized Apple, Cumin Ice Cream, and Preserved Plum; D had some french toast thing with bacon (!) and walnut ice cream or something. Mine was totally better. I loved the cumin ice cream. The downstairs lounge is warm and down-tempo, but the thing I liked best was the decor. There were a few well-placed antique sewing machines and wire fitting mannequins--the "tailor" theme--as well as very tasteful lighting which created the perfect glow. Definitely someplace you'd want to take someone who really appreciates good food for a special occasion.

NYTimes review here: (a not-too-flattering portrait of Mason himself).

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Red Snapper for Seven

We visited our friends who have a house in country along a river in Pennsylvania this weekend. Weekends spent with these particular friends, at this particular house, are magical. There's plenty to do in the area, from little antique stores, a candle factory, and quaint little towns all around, but most of the time, we're just content to sit around the wood burning stove reading or playing board games. This time, we went to a little town about 45 minutes away and found a Buffalo farm where we picked up some cubed Bison for stew and kebabs. Bison meat has about 1/2 the calories of chicken, and is leaner than beef. I can't wait to try some. We also picked up a really nice bottle of Cabernet with hints of fig--a wine I'm always on the look out for--which will go nicely with a bison stew.

On the way to PA from the city, we stopped in Chinatown for some fish. We'd been discussing for a few days how to cook it; perusing recipes online and in D's many fish books, but couldn't quite agree on anything. It all kinda came together on Saturday, and we had a lovely meal with our friends, their engaging artist friend who lives down the road, and another fun couple from the city.

We cooked two whole snappers (about 4 lbs each) in a roasting pan, and tossed a mixture of diced tomatoes, lemon, elephant garlic, parsley, cumin, salt, pepper, and few cut up ancho chiles for about an hour, and served it with seasoned couscous, roasted red and yellow peppers and young potatoes, and of course, plenty of red wine.

Nights in the country end early, especially after feasts like that, and we were all tucked in shortly after 11. We woke to a steady snow this morning that covered the koi pond--and the cars--with several inches. I was excited about the prospect of being snowed in, but D definitely has to be back in the city tonite. Snow makes the city beautiful, but only for an hour or two. Out here, the picture-perfect snow-covered trees and ponds last for days.