Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lil Seven-up Pound Cake

This weekend was the long weekend.  And yes I relaxed, clean house, did some fall shopping with money I didn't have.  Though what would a long weekend be without something warm and sweet? Oh I don't know, probably healthier.  On the rare occasion that I get inspired to bake something, I never hold back, so you will hardly ever see any healthy substitutions.  I have no intentions of ever baking with Splenda or using fat free milk.  That's just all shades of wrong.

 I decided on a 7-up pound cake.  I've had my mouth set on this for a while.  It's not really something I have seen around these Northeastern parts unless you go to a soul food kitchen or Caribbean restaurant.  7-up is my favorite lemon-lime soda, even though it seems to have disappeared from the spotlight for some years.  I almost wondered if I would have a hard time finding it.  But Super-Walmart never fails.  Now if I could just find some Tahitian Treat around here.... (those who know this pop are smiling). Pound cakes are the easiest, no-fuss cakes to make.  No icing required. So I'm going to share my recipe with you and I hope you enjoy!

Missy's Seven-up Pound Cake
3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 sticks of butter (room temp)
1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)
1Tbsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp lemon extract
7oz 7-up (room temp)

1) Preheat oven to 300F and grease and dust a 9 or 10" bundt pan with flour.
2) Cream butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Mix in one egg at a time.
3) Stir in extracts.
4) Add in flour and 7-up a little at a time, alternating mix-ins until all has been incorporated.
5) Pour batter into prepped pan and cook for 70min or until knife comes out clean.
6) When cake is done, place on cooling rack and wait at least 30min before turning it out. (I know it's so hard when it's smelling so good, but you really must wait or you will have a crumbled cake.  And don't let your guests influence you, haha...stay the course!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Preparing for the Worst

Hello all! It has been over a month since my last post. September was, in short, hell. I was working 6 days a week and ridiculous hours, but I learned a lot.  And now on to clinic time...the rosy 9-5 life, or 9-noon life in my case.  Vacation in comparison.  During September I had a hard time adjusting to the 6am-8pm schedule so dinner was often missed, or consisted of a piece of cheese, cereal, a few crackers.  NOT my idea of a meal.  Though I tell you, sometimes a bowl of cocoa crispies is what you need after a long shift.  The snap crackle pop chocolaty goodness will put you just right.  But after a couple weeks of missed dinners followed by bad breakfasts and an addiction to Luna bars, I decided enough of this food hell.  So I did the only thing I could do. I prepared for the worst...the worst being a cube of cheddar and tuna salad.  (Shudder)

Cooking bulk for many people is pasta, stews,or casseroles but since I really don't buy or make pasta, I have to go down another route...the curry route.  When I cook a 3 day supply of goodies, it's usually Indian.  I actually started doing this a while ago for my boyfriend...who just happens to be Indian and terribly afraid of the kitchen.  I was tired of hearing about his sad food life so I said hunny, you buy the ingredients and I'll make the food.  After a day, yes a full day, of cooking he left with tupperwares full of dal, green chili mint chicken curry, and chicken saag.  Let's just say he was more that satisfied.

Indian food for many is a struggle.  There are complex flavors, and even more complex recipes.  But Indian can be very simple depending on the dish.  When I was in India last summer I spent a good amount of time in my boyfriend's grandmother's kitchen and that woman made things look so simple.  I only wish I had taken video or pictures, it was really a privilege.

I think going to the library is really your go to source for exploring new cooking styles. The one thing I hate the most is purchasing a cookbook that has terrible recipes, and you wonder just how that thing got published.  The library is a safe bet.  If you find you like those recipes, then splurge, but I believe all cookbooks need a trial run.  Especially Indian cookbooks, because many times you will find the spices included in certain recipes or cooking instructions are just wrong.  I learned this the hard way when I ruined the most tender lamb I had ever cooked with a curdled curry.  One of my Indian friends' mom kindly pointed out that the recipe made absolutely no sense and that I was bound to curdle the yogurt given those instructions. So beware of those 5 dollar bargain cart books a B&N that boast 5000 curries made easy...easily deceptive is more appropriate. When it comes to finding a good Indian cookbook that you can buy without a trial, I only have one name, Madhur Jaffrey.  Jaffrey was an actress turned cooking guru who is really an authority on Indian cooking. Any cookbook by this cooking goddess divine is superb.  You will never go wrong.  And as pointed out by a friend of mine she is married to Sanford Allen, one of the first African-Americans to be a regular member of the New York Philharmonic. (Blindian couples try to find other blindian couples, lol...it's an issue).

So what do you do to make these recipes work? Often the normal New England kitchen (or any western kitchen) does not include many of the spices necessary for Indian dishes.  When my boyfriend's mother realized my passion for cooking, she gifted me a spice dabba, which is basically just a container to house the most often used spices in Indian dishes.  I could not have been more thankful, because my cabinet was so poorly arranged, with lots of ziplock baggies full of spices I had no storage for.  This is a neat way to organize yourself because usually everything you need is right before you.  Check out your local Indian grocery store, because you will definitely find those spices cheaper and a wider selection.

I decided to use recipes from a book I'm loving called Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran executive chef at Michelin rated restaurant Devi in NY.  This book is something amazing.  Suvir (yes we are on a first name basis in my fantasy world) has some of the most amazing recipes I have ever used for Indian cooking.  His other publication American Masala, is one of my absolute favorites, a fusion approach that mixes american favs, like my personal favs fried chicken (don't go sterotyping, everyone loves it, cmon KFC, Popeye's) and black eyed peas, with indian spices.  I have made the Pistachio Cardamom Pound cake from this cookbook many times and found the plate empty before I could even have a slice.  Check him out at www.Suvir.com, he's an impressive guy. I was in love with him long before his appearance on Bravo's Top Chef Masters.  I discovered him in the library, hehe.  I'm telling you, dust of that library card, it will take you places.

Enough chit chat...on to the food! Both recipes are easy to manage, but I would suggest starting with the dal first, using yellow split peas(moong dal) that have been soaked overnight.

Moong Dal
Simple Lentil Dal (w/fresh ginger,green chiles, and cilantro)
Recipe Link: http://www.suvir.com/Lentil_Dal.html

Lahori Chicken Curry w/Whole Spices and Potatoes
Recipe Link: http://leitesculinaria.com/5462/recipes-chicken-curry-whole-spices-and-potatoes.html

Chicken Curry
I would like to dedicate this post to Eunice Sammy, a Kenyan medical student who rotated with me during this gruesome September.  This food was made in part for her, because she didn't like the cold sandwiches they gave us for lunch.  And we devoured it on our break :) Eunice, I will miss you.