Dark Chocolate Chai Pound Cake

One day a few months ago while grocery shopping and perusing the baking aisle I ran across a chocolate cake mix that had chai tea or chai flavoring in the mix.  I got a bit obsessed with the idea of chai and chocolate in a cake. I made this cake combining loose leaf chocolate chai to a good chocolate pound cake recipe I had…all easy and homemade for the Holidays.

 I prefer pound cakes that are dense & moist, cut into thick slabs to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea…sometimes toasted.  No icing, please.

There are thousands of chocolate pound cake recipes on the internet and in cookbooks, but this one is simple & straightforward. The generous addition of finely ground up “Chocolate Chai Loose Leaf” from Firepot Nomadic Teas makes one fine cake. A combination of organic cardamom, coriander, ginger, black pepper and cloves as well as cacao nibs says it all. I used a mortar and pestle for grinding the chai, but an electric coffee grinder works as well.

I dust my cake pans with cocoa powder when I’m making a chocolate cake of any kind. The more dark chocolate goodness, the better.

Thick slices…toaster ready.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder + extra for dusting loaf pan
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons loose leaf chocolate chai (use any loose leaf chai you like)
  • 2 sticks softened butter + extra for greasing baking pan
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 5 loaf pan generously with butter. Dust generously with cocoa powder. Set aside.
  2. Whisk flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Put 3/4 cocoa powder in a glass or metal bowl and while whisking, drizzle in the boiling hot water. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Grind the loose chai using a mortar and pestle or electric grinder until somewhat fine, but not powdery.
  5. Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment beat the 2 sticks butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of mixer as needed.
  6. Add in the vanilla extract and cocoa-water mixture and beat until combined on medium speed.
  7. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Again scrape down sides of bowl as you need to.
  8. Turn mixer to low-speed and add flour-salt mixture just until blended. Remove mixer bowl and using a rubber scraper scrape down sides of bowl and blend in any remaining flour.
  9. Add the ground chocolate chai to the batter and blend well. Scrape batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top.
  10. Bake for about 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool baked cake on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes or so. Remove cake from pan and set on wire rack to continue to cool if you can wait long enough! The aroma of the chocolate and chai combination is fantastic.

Teresa Blackburn    http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com    http://www.foodonfifth.com

Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake + Kitchen Tools #1

Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake all dressed up with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt is an easy, alternate idea for Holiday celebrations that will be much appreciated by those looking for something naturally sweet without using a lot of granulated sugar. Rich, almost caramelized, pears with nutmeg then generously drizzled with maple syrup while hot out of the oven is good for a few days warm or cold.

I like how the maple syrup pools in the pear.

There is nothing quite like freshly grated nutmeg. Do you have one of these graters, or a nutmeg grinder? They are inexpensive and will become one of your most used kitchen tools if you, like me, find the jarred ground nutmeg somewhat pale in aroma and flavor. Whole nutmeg grated is a much used spice at our house. Wouter adds it to his meatballs and always in his wonderful mashed potatoes. Just a hint is often all that is needed. This cake recipe calls for a generous amount and is just the thing paired with real maple syrup.

Notice how I grated the nutmeg onto a sheet of parchment paper? Parchment is another “kitchen tool” that I use every day for measuring flour onto, lining cake pans or sheet pans so I don’t have to scrub them so much….small pieces are good for using like this instead of another dish to wash! Can you tell washing dishes is not my favorite thing?

Melon ballers in various sizes are great for coring apples and pears, making melon balls of course….or butter balls.  It was so easy to core the pears to create a bowl to hold all that tasty maple syrup using this small melon baller.

See that wee paring knife? It is my go-to knife for so many jobs in the kitchen…I finally bought a good one that has a thin blade that sharpens well. It was not the cheapest nor the costliest, but it fits my hand just perfect and came from E. Dehillerin in Paris. I picked it up at our local Willliams-Sonoma.

So that’s four kitchen tools….nutmeg grater or grinder, parchment paper, melon baller and paring knife….basics…not trendy…forever useful, especially for these days of seasonal baking.

Warm, aromatic cake drizzled with Vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt. Yum.

Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 ripe, but firm pears, halved, cored and peeled
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup 2 percent milk
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup, divided + extra for serving
  • 2 large eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 cups vanilla greek yogurt, whipped for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9″ round x 2″ deep cake pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the melted butter to a cast iron or other heavy skillet. Set over medium heat. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the butter.
  3. Place pear halves in a circle in the bottom of the pan, cut side up. Sprinkle cut sides with 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn pears over with cut side down. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Cook pears until most of the liquid has evaporated and cut sides are beginning to lightly caramelize, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Place pears, cut sides down, in the prepared 9″ round cake pan.
  6. Quickly whisk together remaining 1/4 ground nutmeg, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  7. Whisk in milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup, eggs and remaining melted butter just until smooth. Pour mixture over pears and bake until golden brown, for about 20-25 minutes. Test with a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake. Remove from oven and using a skewer make a few random holes over the entire cake surface. Drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup. Let cake cool on a wire rack while syrup soaks in for about 15 minutes. Carefully invert onto a serving plate.
  8. Cut cake into 8 wedges with each person getting a pear half, drizzle with another bit of maple syrup and add a dollop of vanilla greek yogurt.  (This cake keeps well for a few days and is deliciously seasoonal either warm or cold.)

(This recipe is adapted from a recipe by Ruth Cousineau from Gourmet Magazine February 2008 that I clipped and saved. I tweaked a few things to make it easier to make. Thanks Ruth for the inspiration.)

Teresa Blackburn    http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com   www.foodonfifth.com

 

Orange, Garlic and Thyme Roasted Turkey Breasts

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“An empty stomach is not a good political advisor.” Albert Einstein

Eating well takes a bit of time and thought. Usually, for me, more thought than time. These “Orange, Garlic and Thyme Roasted Turkey Breasts” are easy and quick to prepare and cook.  Lots of juicy oranges full of vitamin c, plump garlic cloves, a bit of olive oil, thyme leaves and a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper…basics that I keep on hand all the time…made this dish all the more easy.

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These are organic turkey breasts which are a bit more expensive, but there is definitely enough for leftovers for lunch sandwiches or a pot of soup the next day. Two meals out of one.

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I thinly sliced garlic cloves,  rubbed the skin with olive oil and added a generous dusting of dried thyme leave to both sides all nestled into a roasting pan with freshly squeezed orange halves left in the pan for more flavor.

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Roasted and sliced orange roasted turkey breasts, along with a salad and crusty baguette (from Dozens Bakery if you live in Nashville) and a glass of your favorite wine is a good dinner to ease into fall.  This could be good for Thanksgiving Dinner for a small gathering of family and friends. Just double or triple the recipe.

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Serve sliced with all the juices and cooked oranges.

Orange, Garlic and Thyme Roasted Turkey Breasts

  • Servings: 2-4
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Ingredients:

  • 2 organic turkey breasts
  • olive oil
  • a few small oranges like Little Cuties,  or tangerines will work
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • a generous tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Wash turkey breasts and pat dry. Rub skin all over with olive oil. Place skin side up in a roasting pan.
  2. Squeeze the juice from about 3 oranges into pan. Cut another 2 or 3 in half and snuggle around turkey breasts to bake along side.
  3. Generously scatter dried thyme leaves over each breast. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Add thinly sliced garlic cloves over top of each breast. Roast for about 1 hour, at 350 degrees,  or until a meat thermometer inserted into the breast reads 160-165 degrees.
  5. Serve in a deep dish or pan sliced with all the juices and cooked oranges.

Note: double or triple this recipe for a larger group…this is a great buffet entree for the Holidays.

Teresa Blackburn     teresablackburnfoodstyling.com   www.foodonfifth.com

 

Goodbye Summer Italian-Style Bread and Tomato Stew

It is officially fall, but we are lucky enough to still find some good tomatoes at some of our man Farmer’s Market locations. Our days are very warm and even though the calendar shows us one thing….it’s still late summer here in Nashville. We are all looking forward to cooler days while still enjoying our garden flowers and meals outdoors. Here is my recipe for “Bread and Tomato Stew” or “Pappa Al Pomodoro”. Simple to make, rustic in appearance and an homage to the last of our local tomatoes.

 Cherokee Purple tomatoes. They are my favorite tomato and I’m a little sad to see the end of them, but always looking forward to next summer’s bounty.

Good rustic, crusty bread from Dozen Bakery Nashville, local homegrown Cherokee Purple tomatoes, basil from my garden are the basic ingredients.

Tomatoes cooked down with leeks, onions and garlic, olive oil, wine and water ready for the bread cubes to be added. The bread soaks up the juice and all the flavors meld. A generous grating of good parmesan cheese and a glass of chilled wine are all you need….and love.

Bread and Tomato Stew Italian Style

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped leeks, white parts only
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 6 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 to 3 lbs good tomatoes, cored and chopped (peel if skins are tough)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups cubed day old rustic bread
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a chunk of good Parmesan Cheese and a grater for serving

Directions:

  1. Saute leeks, red onion and garlic in olive oil until softened over medium heat.
  2. Turn heat to medium high and add wine. Reduce by half.
  3. Turn heat down to medium and add chopped tomatoes and half the basil leaves and the water. Bring mixture to a low boil then turn down to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir every now and then.
  4. Add in cubed bread, tossing to coat with tomato mixture and cook for 15 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
  5. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and cook for 5 minutes adding in the remaining half of the basil in just before moving off heat. Stir to combine all ingredients. The finished dish should be somewhat soupy but stew-like. Add more liquid if desired. I always make this “fork edible”.
  6. Serve with a generous grating of Parmesan and a nice chilled Italian White wine.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.    www.foodonfifth

Maple Syrup and Sea Salt Roasted Pears

Our pear tree produced its fruit earlier than usual this summer. The pears smallish and hard. Not good for eating out-of-hand, but good for cooking. Over the years I have made many yummy desserts using the bounty of this tree. It is rather a small tree. Some years very laden with fruit, others not. Truly I wasn’t really ready to deal with them this summer. I was so busy working on photo shoots that I did not even notice for a while. The birds and squirrels ate their fair share. That’s okay with me. We got our share as well.

This, of all my pear recipes, is the most simple and perhaps one of my favorites. Cut in half and cored, drizzled with maple syrup and sea salt and slow-roasted until fork-tender.

Served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Pear perfect.

Slow Roasted Pears with Maple Syrup and Sea Salt

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • Small somewhat hard pears, cut in half & cored, peeled or not
  • real maple syrup
  • flaky sea salt such as Maldon
  • Ice cream to serve

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place prepped pears on a parchment lined sheet pan cut side up.
  3. Drizzle generously with maple syrup. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until pears are fork tender. Remove from oven.
  5. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

Note: If you have any leftovers you can freeze to use later in a simple cake.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Andalusian Gazpacho – Nashville Style

I am pretty sure the first time I ever had Gazpacho was in the early 70’s. Rather a cool-food of the moment it seemed to show up everywhere at potlucks and restaurants. Mostly chunky with too many onions taking over, and watery, I was never a fan. Over the years I tried the many versions of this Spanish soup that crossed my culinary path. The only vaguely appealing gazpachos were the blended-until-smooth ones…until recently.

I wish I could say the recipe is original, but it is not. On the other hand, I cannot say where it came from as it was cut from a magazine years ago and I recently found it in a file where I used to put such things before iphones and scanners. So I made this classic Andalusian Gazpacho a couple of weeks ago using Nashville homegrown tomatoes. I want to thank the cook who came up with this recipe and I want to thank them for converting me. Full of summer goodness.

Ingredients stuffed into my food processor…….

…and in a few seconds becoming creamy goodness.

I ate it for days. I froze some for later. August is a hot month calling for cooling foods. There’s a bumper crop of local tomatoes and cucumbers right now in the farmer’s markets. This soup is a good way to use those too-ripe-to-slice tomatoes as well.

Andalusian Gazpacho-Nashville Style

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 very ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped (can use a home-grown as well)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional: shredded cucumber for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put all the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until very smooth.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings. Chill in a glass container with a lid until ready to serve.
  3. To serve drizzle with additional olive oil. Top servings with shredded cucumber if you wish.

Dragon Fruit, Strawberry and Rose’ Popsicles

Frozen cubes of Dragon Fruit and fresh strawberries, a bit of sugar and a generous amount  of Rose’ wine all blended together and frozen in my popsicle molds might just be the best hot summer cooler (adults only) you can find. Sophisticated yet homey. Deliciously cold and yummy.

My first encounters with dragon fruit were in Mexico and Malaysia. You see them everywhere in fresh markets. They are stunningly exotic and beautiful and absolutely delicious. Sometimes they are white inside and sometimes red with tiny black seeds. There are even yellow dragon fruits. The real name is “pitaya or pitahaya” and is the fruit of a cactus. They are indigenous to Central and South America as well as Asia.

Every now and then I see Dragon Fruit in a supermarket or one of our international markets.  Whenever I buy a fresh one, allowing it to ripen, they are never very tasty. I don’t wait long enough or I wait too long and the result is disappointing. I’ll keep trying. These frozen cubes of dragon fruit I found at Publix.

Use very chilled Rose’ and strawberries.

I bought these metal popsicle molds a few years ago via Amazon and have used them often.

Don’t you feel more refreshed just looking at these? Make a few….sit outside on a hot summer evening and enjoy your “Dragon Fruit and Strawberry Rose’ Popsicle”. Stay cool y’all.

Dragon Fruit, Strawberry and Rose' Popsicles

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 cups frozen dragon fruit cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced ripe chilled strawberries
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (taste and adjust liquid before freezing)
  • 1 cup chilled Rose’ wine

Directions:

  1. Put ingredients in a blender and blend until totally smooth. Taste and adjust sugar if need be.
  2. Pour liquid into popsicle molds about 3/4 full and insert sticks.
  3. Freeze all day or overnight. Enjoy.

Teresa Blackburn    www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com