Herb Pie from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem

It’s that time again on the blog, when I wax all lyrical about the Yotam Ottolenghi/Sami Tamimi collaboration.  Instead of repeating myself I’ll point you herehere and here.  And is that me talking about then in the Globe?

Yeah, I’m kind of a fan.  You may have heard about their latest book, Jerusalem, which came out about a year ago.  There’s been plenty of press on it (including that recent Globe article), and with good reason–it’s amazing.  I have a lot of cookbooks, and there are very few I cook from nearly every week, but Jerusalem is one.  I always have to do a quick scan around the house for it because it never makes it back on the bookshelf–it’s in the sunroom, or the TV room, or the living room as often as it is in the kitchen, because I’m daydreaming and planning what I’ll be making next.  The hummus recipe‘s exceptionally smooth puree, the chocolate babka utterly decadent, the mejadra (lentils and rice) fragrant with coriander, the helbeh (a fenugreek cake) a surprising delight…

I could go on.  But I’ll limit myself for the moment to herb pie.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Assembly 1

This tart is right up my alley.  I love savory middle-eastern pies–bureks from Bosnia and the Balkans, Greek spanakopita and variations thereon, you get the idea.  So what makes this one special?  The  generous handfuls of parsley, cilantro, arugula, and chard.  Herbs are the heart and soul of the tart, not just an accent.  That’s for the cheese to do.  Olive oil binds the phyllo together rather than butter (which is easier to work with, as you don’t have to guesstimate at how much butter to melt, leaving your leaves of phyllo to dry out while you melt more butter).   And the magic of lemon zest.  All this makes for a lighter, fresher finished product that disappears quickly.  Too fast, apparently, for me to remember to take pictures.  For that (and another take on this recipe), check out Sparrows and Spatula’s post here.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Assembly 2

As you scan the ingredients, you’ll note that the recipe calls for anari cheese, which is not even carried by the fancy-schmancy Whole Foods cheese department.  Ricotta can be used as a substitute (and like anari is a cheese made from whey, so it is a very close substitute from what I can tell).  The second time, I tried ricotta salata, and both attempts were delicious.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Assembly 3, ready for the oven.

When assembling the pie, you are instructed to layer the oiled leaves of phyllo together and then place them all at once in the pan:  once for the bottom crust, once from the top.  Maybe it’s nothing revelatory in the grand scheme of things, but for me it certainly was–I’ve always made spanakopita by buttering each phyllo leaf and then haphazardly transferring the delicate sheet to a pan.  So much easier to build up the layer on the countertop and then place it the baking dish.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Cooling!

Because I have so many cookbooks, and so many things I want to try, I don’t normally repeat a recipe only weeks after trying it for the first time.  This is the exception– and there’s more phyllo squirreled away in the freezer for the next time.

Finally–a moment for the blogosphere.  If you want to see other great things that are being made from this cookbook, check out the Tasting Jerusalem blog group here (featured in the New York Times article linked to above).  This is also my first contribution to the Let’s Lunch group–thanks to Cheryl (author of A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family, a great book I read when it came out) for inviting me along!

Herb Pie from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem
Cuisine: middle eastern
Author: adapted from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem, also available [url href=”http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/20/herb-pie-recipe-vegetarian-ottolenghi”%5Dhere%5B/url%5D
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pastry
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 lbs. Swiss chard, stems and leaves finely shredded but kept separate
  • 3-4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions (green onion), chopped
  • 1 3/4 ounces of arugula
  • 1 ounce flat-leaf parsley, chopped (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
  • 1 ounce fresh mint, chopped (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
  • 2/3 ounce dill, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 ounces of anari or ricotta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 1/2 ounces aged cheddar, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 9 ounces filo pastry
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Pour the olive oil into a deep frying-pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 8 minutes without browning. Add the chard stems and the celery and continue cooking for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chard leaves, increase the heat to medium-high and stir as you cook for 4 minutes, until the leaves wilt. Add the scallion/green onion, arugula and herbs and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and transfer to a colander to cool.
  2. Once the mixture is cool, squeeze out as much water as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the three cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt, pepper and sugar and mix well.
  3. Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and brush it with some olive oil. Cover with another sheet and continue in the same manner until you have 5 layers of filo brushed with oil, all covering an area large enough to line the sides and bottom of a 8 1/2-inch pie dish, plus extra to hang over the rim. Line the pie dish with the pastry, fill with the herb mix and fold the excess pastry over the edge of the filling, trimming the pastry as necessary to create a 3/4 inch border.
  4. Make another set of 5 layers of filo brushed with oil and place them over the pie. Scrunch the pastry a little to create a wavy, uneven top and trim the edges so it just covers the pie. Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes, or until the filo turns a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.
Notes

Check out the other Let’s Lunch creations!

Annabelle‘s Chocolate Pie at Glass of Fancy

Anne Marie‘s Apple Pie Sandwiches at Sandwich Surprise

Betty Ann‘s Calamansi Pie at Asian In America

Grace‘s Easy Apple Pie with Lard Crust at HapaMama

Jill‘s Guava and Cream Cheese Empanadas at Eating My Words

Lisa G‘s Sweet Ricotta Noodle Pie at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Lisa K‘s Great-Grandmama’s Chocolate Pie at The Little Good Ride

Linda‘s Biscoff Banana & Pear Galette at Spicebox Travels

Lucy‘s Sweet Potato Custard Pie at A Cook and Her Books 

Mai‘s Caramel Apple Pie Sundae at Cooking in the Fruit Bowl

Margaret‘s Cushaw (Squash) Pie at Tea and Scones, Too

Nancie‘s Edna Lewis’s Tyler Pie at Nancie McDermott

Naomi‘s Huckleberry Pie Ice-Cream at The Gastro Gnome

Rebecca‘s Summer-Fall Hand Pies at GrongarBlog

 

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Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup

I used to love dumping that pre-grated parmesan cheese in a can all over my pasta when I was little.  In fact, although it’s incomprehensible to me now, for a time it was the only thing I’d allow on my pasta–it being a well-known fact that tomato sauce was “yucky” except on pizza.  (Yes, and I complain about my kids being picky).  At some weeknight church dinner or another I finally decided it was going to be a difficult road going through life hating marinara sauce.  So I figured I’d better just learn to like it and just decided to start eating it.  But I didn’t give up liberal additions of the canned powder on top (often enough whacking the base to unclump it and get more out).

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (2 of 6)

That’s probably why I so clearly remember an episode of the Frugal Gourmet where the ingredient du jour was “true”  Parmigiano Reggiano, and I imagine I was shocked to learn that that it came cut like a slice of pie from a giant wheel of cheese that had been sitting in a cave.   (I don’t know how I thought it got in the can or where I thought it came from, or why in fact cheese was shelf-stable, but I digress).  Of course I was intrigued, but as often happened when watching cooking shows from Boston, Chicago, or Seattle, despaired of ever finding the real thing at our local grocery store.  But I didn’t forget–and this probably explains why a few years later me and my sisters were inordinately excited by the Italian restaurant 2 hours away at the fancy Oklahoma City mall (one that even had a Gap!)  The Pepperoni Grill was known for its peppercorn bread with a log of parmesan cheese baked into the center–we always got an extra loaf that probably barely made it home.

(Lest anyone think I was some tween foodie, around the same time I was also frequenting the “Cougar Den,” the place to get lunch at my junior high–an 80-year-old converted athletics room, walls painted royal blue and lined with vending machines.  And why, even if my kids one day charge me with hypocrisy, I am NOT a supporter of such machines in schools.  And yes, somehow a place called the “Cougar Den” has a different ring to it these days).

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (1 of 6)

Fast forward a few (ahem) years, and I’m a lot less picky but still enamored of parmesan cheese.  Of course, even though I only buy the “real deal” I still wince at the price– which is why I loved the idea of this soup from one of my favorite cookbooks, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (who I’ve talked about before here and here–or check out Molly’s recent post here).

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (6 of 6)

By using the rinds of parmesan cheese, I can stretch my food dollar a bit more and get a great meal in the process.  So no, the word “rind” did not stray into the title of this post uninvited–it’s entirely intentional.  And when you stop to think about it, there’s no reason that the heels shouldn’t impart that same distinctive, savory flavor of the cheese that it protects within its walls.   And no reason you shouldn’t take advantage of it.  I’ve been tossing rinds in the freezer as I go, and when I have enough, they’re ready to infuse a warm pot of broth, no thawing or forethought required.

You could add them to anything where parmesan flavor would be welcome, but I love them in this hearty soup.  Much as I love vegetables, the rinds’ flavor ensures that you don’t feel like you’re sucking down a liquid salad–just as you might add a ham hock or pancetta to add some body, use your parmesan ends–and make your soup frugal and vegetarian to boot.

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (5 of 6)

The other star ingredient here is caraway seeds–a classic Central European partner to cabbage, but perhaps a bit unusual when setting up a menage with Italian cheese.  But the caraway is the fresh smell of digging in the dark earth after spring rain, while the parmesan is sunshine and sophistication and nuance.  And they each in their own way perfectly bring out the Savoy cabbage that is the backbone of this soup.

If you don’t want to wait until you’ve collected enough rinds, you can make this soup just with parmesan cheese.  Just please don’t throw the ends out in the interim.  And do remember the next time you buy a wedge of that fancy cheese, that since you’re using the rind, it’s not quite so much a splurge–and there’s no reason to be tempted by that stuff in a shaker can.

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Note:  shred the cabbage by cutting in half, then removing the inner core and then by slicing each half as thin as you can–it will “shred” itself.  You’ll want to make sure to reserve a few leaves for garnish–not only does it provide a lovely pop of color, but the fresh leaves add some textural interest.

  • 3T olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2t caraway seed
  • one medium head of Savoy Cabbage, shredded, with outer leaves reserved for garnish.
  • one potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 dried hot pepper
  • 4 c chicken or vegetable stock and 2c water
  • 3 ounces parmesan rind (3-4 ends)
  • Parmesan cheese and caraway, for garnish

Heat the oil in a deep soup pot over medium low and add the onion.  Saute gently until soft, about 5-10 minutes.  Add the caraway seed and garlic and stir, then cook two minutes more.  Add the cabbage and potatoes and cook a few minutes more, until the cabbage starts to color.  Add the hot pepper, the parmesan rind, and the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, or until the potato is soft.  Add more water or stock if needed.

When ready, use an immersion blender to break up the soup.  You don’t want to puree it, but rather convert into something thick and stew-like.  Adjust for salt and pepper.  Ladle into soup bowls.  Shred the cabbage leaves reserved for garnish, and sprinkle a few shredded pieces into each bowl.  Grate parmesan over the leaves and scatter a few caraway seeds over each bowl.

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (4 of 6)

Lavender Honey Cake

You’ve heard me go on about Ottolenghi (the man, the places, the cookbooks) before haven’t you?  (And if you don’t remember, just look here and here).

I still pride myself on having discovered the cafe (back when I lived in London) before it was (quite so) famous.

Actually I was taking a knitting class on the same block, I was hungry, and it was the first decent-looking place I happened upon, but as my dad likes to joke, “don’t confuse me with the facts.”  Let’s say instead it was my innate, effortless hipness, my internal up-and-coming-trend honing device, my legendary finger-on-the-pulse-of-the-next-big thing.

And now, despite a few kitchen mis-steps, I’m going to present you with my “version” of the Ottolenghi Lavender Honey Cake.

If you’ve seen the book, you know these are supposed to be mini bundt cakes.  I actually have mini-bundt cake molds (don’t ask!) which I’ve never used (don’t ask, again!) so obviously I should make this right?  And wouldn’t mini-bundt cakes drizzled in icing be just too cute?  Yes, this is all very true, but…unfortunately the recipe doesn’t spccify what size a mini-bundt pan should be.  Whatever size it is, it’s much bigger than whatever I’ve got, so in went the batter into a standard 9-inch cake pan.  (And my mini-bundts still have yet to take their maiden voyage to the oven).

Secondly, despite having made sure to purchase sour cream that day for this recipe, I realized, only as the batter was slowly glug-glugging into the cake pan, that the nice vat of sour cream was still minding its own business, unopened, in the fridge.

It probably wasn’t too late, exactly, as I could have scraped the batter back into the bowl and stirred it in, but I didn’t.  Into the oven it went instead, not without some trepidation and buoyed by tightly crossed fingers.  (That’s a high-tech baking technique by the way).

And it turned out just fine!  A whisper of cratering in the center–surely due to an imbalance of baking soda to acid, having left out the sour cream–that really just allowed for a lovely pooling of the sugary-sweet glaze.  (Kitchen science note:  an excess of baking soda or indeed baking powder can cause your cake to rise too much and too quickly.  Eventually structurally unable to support itself, the domed cake can collapse in at the center, or most disappointingly, crater.  Despite my reckless abandon, I probably avoided this sad fate thanks to the recipe’s use of honey, which like sour cream, is acidic and therefore reacts well with baking soda).

The cake had that lovely floral aroma of lavender and the moistness of honey–a moistness that it retained for a few days (when the last bit of it finally made its way into our bellies).  It was elegant without being too fancy or fussy, and came together easily.  Baking with honey is a lovely way to change up your routine and I hope to try it more and more.

Even with my little lapses, this was a great cake.  I’ve included the full recipe below.  But if you like, you can “leave out” the sour cream and just say you “intentionally” made a lower fat version.

P.S.  If you want more from Mr. Yotam Ottolenghi (and why wouldn’t you?) check out his column for the Guardian here!

Lavender Honey Cake (adapted from Ottolenghi:  the Cookbook)

Cake

  •  1 cup (2 sticks/225g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (115g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) honey (lavender honey if you have it)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2c (245g) all purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t chopped dried lavender, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup (110mL) sour cream

Glaze

  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice (one lemon should provide enough)
  • 2 teaspoons of honey
  • 3/4 cup (100g) powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Butter a 9-inch cake tin, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter that, and flour, tipping out any excess.

Cream the butter, sugar, and honey together until light and fluffy.  Beat the eggs lightly together and slowly incorporate into the butter base.

Mix the dry ingredients together (all remaining ingredients but the sour cream) and stir well.  Fold 1/3 of the flour mixture gently into the butter base, then about 1/3 of the sour cream.  Repeat twice more until all ingredients are just incorporated.

Turn the batter into your prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Note that honey browns very quickly in the oven, so if you notice this happening, you can tent your cake with foil for the duration.  When you cake is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about ten minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool.

When cool, transfer to a plate and make the icing:  whisk the lemon juice and honey together, then whisk in the powdered sugar (ideally you’d sift the powdered sugar in to remove any lumps).  Drizzle over your cake, allowing the icing to trickle down the sides.  Sprinkle with additional lavender.  Allow frosting to set, and serve.

Update 10/29 Thanks to Hope for pointing out that I had forgotten to specify the quantity of flour!

More love for Mr. Yotam in the blogosphere:

Carolyn of Umami Girl’s Ottolenghi lentils

Heavenly Housewife’s cooking class with Ottolenghi and a recipe for grilled eggplant.

Sweet Artichoke’s Caramel and Macadamia Nut Cheesecake from the same book.

Weekend guests

Our good friends Cate and Eric came up from NY for the weekend.  I immediately thought this would be the perfect occasion to use the turkey stock I had made from Christmas as well as try out some new recipes.  (Despite what they say about how you should never cook something for guests you haven’t made before, I generally see guests as an occasion to try something a little more interesting than normal.  Granted, it’s not as if soup is particularly risky).

At Christmas I decided to make the roast turkey stock (“jus roti”) as described in Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist Cooks at Home.  While this is a pretty compact volume, it was the first time I had ever heard of Mark Bittman (I sort of appropriated it from my husband/then fiance).  I made a lot of recipes out of it during the summer after law school and quickly became a Bittman devotee.  (My favorite thing about Bittman is the way he presents a recipe as a “base” and then explains how you can just tweak it for a totally different result.  I think it really teaches you a lot about cooking and can help you to become more confident in the kitchen).  The idea is you roast the leftover bones and meat from the turkey for a few hours which caramelizes, and then you simmer for an hour to make stock.  I have to say I was a bit uncertain–I feared it would taste burnt rather than “rich” and “complex.”  Because making turkey stock is pretty rare, I decided to try to make a relatively simple recipe.  It started as a hodgepodge of a few recipes, but basically I ended up adding some turkey thigh pieces, fennel, onion, celery, and carrot, and white wine and pasta.  I sauteed the vegetables and the turkey meat and “deglazed” with wine before adding the stock.  (The stock was frozen from Christmas; it was not hanging around in the fridge all that time!)

I am happy to say it turned out really well.  My husband commented on how much the homemade stock really adds, and I agreed.  I have made stock before when we lived in London (a friend of mine commented that the freezer was a morgue after spotting the stash of frozen chicken backs) but I don’t remember it being so markedly better than good quality stock.  Perhaps it was the pre-roasting that Bittman suggests, or perhaps those just didn’t turn out so well (too much water?  who knows).

For dessert, I made a featured recipe from this month’s issue highlighting the Ottolenghi cookbook.  Ottolenghi is an amazing, super-cool, super-elegant “deli” in London that I really miss–I hesitate to say deli because it has such a sophisticated vibe, but you do order by weight and all the foods are beautifully piled onto massive platters.  The food display actually is what draws you in (at least, it did for me)–gorgeous stacks of giant meringues drizzled with candy colors, cakes, beautiful Mediterranean salads.  I’ll just direct you to the website, but as you can tell I am seriously tempted to buy their new cookbook, despite the fact that I have plenty.

After that intro, I’ll get to the cake:  supposedly one of their most popular (somehow I never had it there!) and rightly so, their orange polenta cake (click to  link to the recipe).  I would normally not be all that attracted to a citrus cake recipe but you won’t be surprised that I made an exception.  Actually it should be called a orange almond polenta cake, as there are 2 cups of ground almonds in the recipe.  (I was unable to find ground almonds so ran some through the food processor.  I think technically it’s supposed to be better to freshly grind nuts anyway, but I wouldn’t have done it if I could have found ground almonds.  That said, it’s not actually that hard.  The food processor does the work after all).  I didn’t really read the recipe before stating and was a bit dismayed to see I had to make caramel to coat the bottom of the pan as a first step.  I have made caramel once before, for a flan I attempted in high school.   I learned that hot caramel is REALLY hot and had some pretty nasty blisters as a souvenir of the experience.  This cake recipe has you melt the sugar in water (which I distinctly recall was not used in my flan recipe, I wonder if that was the problem–I just remember the molten caramel seemed to be jumping out of the saucepan to attack me, but that was a longer time ago than I care to remember).  Once it is a rich amber color you are to quickly pour into the cake pan and swirl to cover the base.  I didn’t do the best job on that last step, but I came away uninjured which is good enough for me.  You then place the sliced skinned oranges on the caramel, and then add the cake batter (which is almost like a paste).  The cake slipped right out of the pan after cooking and here’s the end result.  A great dessert to enjoy with some great friends!

You can see the batter to the left of the cake pan.

Oranges arranged on caramel. You can catch a glimpse of the thick batter-paste to the left.

ready for its close-up.

Orange Polenta Cake: ready for its close-up.

 

Orange Polenta Cake (from Ottolenghi the Cookbook, published in Gourmet)

Serves 6 to 8
 
Caramel Orange Layer
  • 1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 2 navel oranges 

Cake

  • 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup superfine granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons orange-flower water
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups ground almonds (7 oz)
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon water

Make Caramel Orange Layer

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper and side with a strip of parchment.  Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber.

Remove from heat and add butter, swirling pan until incorporated, then carefully but quickly pour caramel into cake pan, tilting it to coat evenly.  Grate zest from oranges and reserve for cake. Cut remaining peel, including white pith, from both oranges with a paring knife. Cut oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Remove any seeds and arrange slices in 1 layer over caramel.

Make Cake

Beat butter with sugar using an electric mixer until just combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in orange-flower water and reserved zest.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer at low speed, mix almonds, polenta, and flour mixture into egg mixture until just combined.  Spread batter evenly over oranges (preferably with an offset spatula). Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Invert cake onto a cake plate and discard parchment.

Glaze Cake

Heat marmalade with water in a small saucepan until melted. Strain through a sieve into a small bowl. Brush top of cake with some of glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note:  Cake, without glaze, can be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well, at room temperature. Glaze before serving.

Weekend guests and Orange Polenta Cake

Our good friends Cate and Eric came up from NY for the weekend.  I immediately thought this would be the perfect occasion to use the turkey stock I had made from Christmas as well as try out some new recipes.  (Despite what they say about how you should never cook something for guests you haven’t made before, I generally see guests as an occasion to try something a little more interesting than normal.  Granted, it’s not as if soup is particularly risky).

At Christmas I decided to make the roast turkey stock (“jus roti”) as described in Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist Cooks at Home.  While this is a pretty compact volume, it was the first time I had ever heard of Mark Bittman (I sort of appropriated it from my husband/then fiance).  I made a lot of recipes out of it during the summer after law school and quickly became a Bittman devotee.  (My favorite thing about Bittman is the way he presents a recipe as a “base” and then explains how you can just tweak it for a totally different result.  I think it really teaches you a lot about cooking and can help you to become more confident in the kitchen).  The idea is you roast the leftover bones and meat from the turkey for a few hours which caramelizes, and then you simmer for an hour to make stock.  I have to say I was a bit uncertain–I feared it would taste burnt rather than “rich” and “complex.”  Because making turkey stock is pretty rare, I decided to try to make a relatively simple recipe.  It started as a hodgepodge of a few recipes, but basically I ended up adding some turkey thigh pieces, fennel, onion, celery, and carrot, and white wine and pasta.  I sauteed the vegetables and the turkey meat and “deglazed” with wine before adding the stock.  (The stock was frozen from Christmas; it was not hanging around in the fridge all that time!)

I am happy to say it turned out really well.  My husband commented on how much the homemade stock really adds, and I agreed.  I have made stock before when we lived in London (a friend of mine commented that the freezer was a morgue after spotting the stash of frozen chicken backs) but I don’t remember it being so markedly better than good quality stock.  Perhaps it was the pre-roasting that Bittman suggests, or perhaps those just didn’t turn out so well (too much water?  who knows).

For dessert, I made a featured recipe from this month’s issue highlighting the Ottolenghi cookbook.  Ottolenghi is an amazing, super-cool, super-elegant “deli” in London that I really miss–I hesitate to say deli because it has such a sophisticated vibe, but you do order by weight and all the foods are beautifully piled onto massive platters.  The food display actually is what draws you in (at least, it did for me)–gorgeous stacks of giant meringues drizzled with candy colors, cakes, beautiful Mediterranean salads.  I’ll just direct you to the website, but as you can tell I am seriously tempted to buy their new cookbook, despite the fact that I have plenty.

You can see the batter to the left of the cake pan.

Oranges arranged on caramel. You can catch a glimpse of the thick batter-paste to the left.

After that intro, I’ll get to the cake:  supposedly one of their most popular (somehow I never had it there!) and rightly so, their orange polenta cake (click to  link to the recipe).  I would normally not be all that attracted to a citrus cake recipe but you won’t be surprised that I made an exception.  Actually it should be called a orange almond polenta cake, as there are 2 cups of ground almonds in the recipe.  (I was unable to find ground almonds so ran some through the food processor.  I think technically it’s supposed to be better to freshly grind nuts anyway, but I wouldn’t have done it if I could have found ground almonds.  That said, it’s not actually that hard.  The food processor does the work after all).  I didn’t really read the recipe before stating and was a bit dismayed to see I had to make caramel to coat the bottom of the pan as a first step.  I have made caramel once before, for a flan I attempted in high school.   I learned that hot caramel is REALLY hot and had some pretty nasty blisters as a souvenir of the experience.  This cake recipe has you melt the sugar in water (which I distinctly recall was not used in my flan recipe, I wonder if that was the problem–I just remember the molten caramel seemed to be jumping out of the saucepan to attack me, but that was a longer time ago than I care to remember).  Once it is a rich amber color you are to quickly pour into the cake pan and swirl to cover the base.  I didn’t do the best job on that last step, but I came away uninjured which is good enough for me.  You then place the sliced skinned oranges on the caramel, and then add the cake batter (which is almost like a paste).  The cake slipped right out of the pan after cooking and here’s the end result.  A great dessert to enjoy with some great friends!

ready for its close-up.

Orange Polenta Cake
Recipe Type: dessert
Author: adapted from [url href=”Ottolenghi: The Cookbook “] by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi [/url]
Ingredients
  • Caramel Orange Layer
  • 1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 2 navel oranges
  • Cake
  • 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup superfine granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons orange-flower water
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups ground almonds (7 oz)
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • Glaze
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon water
Instructions
Make Caramel Orange Layer
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper and side with a strip of parchment. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber.
  2. Remove from heat and add butter, swirling pan until incorporated, then carefully but quickly pour caramel into cake pan, tilting it to coat evenly. Grate zest from oranges and reserve for cake. Cut remaining peel, including white pith, from both oranges with a paring knife. Cut oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Remove any seeds and arrange slices in 1 layer over caramel.
Make Cake
  1. Beat butter with sugar using an electric mixer until just combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in orange-flower water and reserved zest. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer at low speed, mix almonds, polenta, and flour mixture into egg mixture until just combined. Spread batter evenly over oranges (preferably with an offset spatula). Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Invert cake onto a cake plate and discard parchment.
Glaze Cake
  1. Heat marmalade with water in a small saucepan until melted. Strain through a sieve into a small bowl. Brush top of cake with some of glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  2. Note:
  3. Cake, without glaze, can be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well, at room temperature. Glaze before serving.