berry, lime and cardamom spring cake

berry lime cardamom cake

There are things that I have learned that I do as a blogger that normal people don't. For example, baking yourself a cake and then trying to figure out if it's more birthday, spring or Easter appropriate for the blog. You see April is my birthday month (though my birthday falls at the very end of the month) and this year it falls on one of the solar eclipses (perhaps it might mean something), Easter too tends to bounce around the calendar every year, so I fell into the blogging dilemma of when to make the cake and when to share it on the blog. The only thing I was surely certain of, was making it! Last year I made myself chocolate butter cookies but this year I wanted a big fat cake full of berries, I should rephrase that, I mean't to say LOADED with berries! 

a dozen eggs

I love angel food cakes because they are so airy and light yet so soft and spongy. I zested a couple of green limes into the batter and tossed in some ground green cardamom. Instead of a frosting, I slapped the cake layers with an extra generous amount of lightly sweetened Greek yogurt and stuffed the cake with fresh strawberries and blueberries.

cornflour

This is not a very sweet cake but when you taste the yogurt and the cake together, the yogurt brings out the sweetness of the cake and the fresh flavors of the lime, cardamom and berries. I'm very happy with this cake, it's a little less guilt-free and makes deliciously light dessert. Needless to say, to balance things out, I cut myself a huge fat chunk and ate  devoured it! So here's to happy spring, birthdays, Easter and celebrations of all sorts and for that matter any reason.

lime zest and meringue 

I adapted the angel food cake recipe from Great Cakes by Carole Walter.

Note: When sifting flour, I recommend taking out a leveled cup of the flour, then sifting it and remeasuring the sifted flour. You can store the extra bit that's left behind. Also, with the strawberries and blueberries, you can use less and I indeed did have fruit left behind after I put the cake together. Feel free to play around with the amounts of the berries. You might notice, that I've used cornstarch/cornflour here to make my own cake flour and yes, this kitchen hack indeed does work!

berry lime cardamom spring cake

These are some of the delicious and beautiful spring recipes and blogs that I'm definitely gearing up to try out from my fellow bloggers;
  • Sini of My Blue and White Kitchen made her version of Finnish Raspberry Meade that looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous.  I might need a few pitchers, just saying!
  • I came across a new blog called Kiss My Spatula and I've fallen in love with the rich and colorful photography. 
  • The talented duo, Alex and Sonja at A Couple Cooks made these Ricotta Scrambled Egg and Asparagus Tacos that looks perfect for a spring brunch.
  • One of my favorite inspirational bloggers, Linda of The Tart Tart made some amazing Black Sesame Macarons that I really, really want to taste!
  • Imen has a Rhubarb and Rosemary Syllabub with Poitin up on the Farmette. It's no secret that I love farms and I'm adore the photographs she shares of her family farm on Instagram because it reminds me of M's parents' farm in Virginia. 
lime berry cardamom cake

berry, lime and cardamom spring cake 

yields: 6-8 servings / one 10 inch diameter angel food cake

ingredients 

32 ounces plain non-fat/ low-fat greek yogurt
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) sifted flour 
2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
1 1/2 cups fine sugar
1 1/2 cups (15 3/4 ounces) 12 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
3 limes
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom, freshly ground
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) confectioners sugar
32 ounces strawberries, rinsed, drained, hulled and sliced in half 
6 ounces blueberries, rinsed and drained

1. Place the greek yogurt in a colander or sieve pre lined with a piece of clean cheese cloth or a kitchen towel over a large bowl. Allow the yogurt to drain in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 hours and discard any whey the collects in the bowl. Reserve the yogurt until ready to use.
2. Place a wire rack in the lower-third of the oven and preheat to 375F.  Take a 10 inch diameter angel food pan, trace and cut out a circle of parchment paper to line the base of the pan. There is no need to grease the pan. Keep the prepared pan aside until ready.
3. Sift the pre-sifted flour, cornflour and 1/2 cup of the sugar three times on to a sheet of parchment paper and keep aside.
4. Place the egg whites and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes or until the eggs get frothy. Stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract. Whisk until the mixture begins to form soft peaks (ripples should form in the foam at this stage). At this stage, add the freshly grated zest of two limes and the ground cardamom and whisk for another minute .  Add 1 cup of the sugar, two tablespoons at a time from the side of the bowl and continue to whisk for about 2 minutes in total time. Remove the bowl from the mixer and transfer any of the white meringue mixture and lime zest bits that might have collected onto the whisk, back into the bowl. 
5. Sift 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients from step 2 onto the egg whites and using a large wire whisk and carefully fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. Do not overmix or stir the batter as it will deflate. 
6. Using a rubber spatula, carefully transfer and push the batter into the prepared cake pan. Gently press the cake batter with a clean tablespoon and flatten the top surface. Finally, run a knife along the edges of the pan in a circle to remove any trapped air bubbles and once again smoothen the surface with the tablespoon. 
7. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the center of the cake is soft and springy to touch and becomes golden brown. Avoid over baking the cake or it will deflate. Spray a wire rack with a little non stick spray and then once the cake is done, immediately invert the cake onto the wire rack. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan. Once the cake has cooled, run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan and around the inner tube to loosen it. Transfer the cake on to a cake rack and remove the pan. Peel and discard the parchment paper from the top of the cake and discard. 
8. To prepare the yogurt "frosting", place the drained yogurt in a large mixing bowl, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and the confectioners sugar. Whisk the yogurt until the sugar is completely blended. 
9. To assemble the cake: Slice the cake in half using a sharp serrated bread knife. Remove the upper layer and keep aside. Spread a generous 1/2 cup of the yogurt on the lower half and place the sliced strawberries with the bottom surface onto the yogurt. Scatter some of the blueberries in the space between the yogurt. Layer the berries with another generous 1/2 cup of the yogurt and place and align the upper half of the angel cake on top. Layer the top of the cake with a generous amount 1/2 cup of the yogurt and fill the hollow center of the cake with the rest of the yogurt. Layer the top of the cake with some of the strawberries and blueberries and fill the hollow center with the rest of the fruit as desired. Just before serving the cake zest the last lime over the cake. Store the cake in the refrigerator. This cake is best eaten the day it is prepared but you can make the angel cake a day in advance and assemble the cake the following day.

lentil and tahini soup

lentil and tahini soup

I'm finally back from Charleston and as always the Holy City always pleases with its charming Southern culture and delicious food. My friends had a beautiful wedding and I had a wonderful time celebrating their special moment with them. I'm always excited for vacations and short getaway trips but I have to be honest, I am always excited to come back and relax in the comfort of my own home. What I love to do the most when I come back home from any trip is to kick back in my pajamas and read a book. 

lentil

While we are on the subject of comfort, I should tell you that soups are one of my favorite comfort foods. This particular soup has quickly become a quick and tasty way for us to enjoy the cold weather  while we stay warm indoors. It's packed with nutritious lentils and flavored with fresh dill. The richness of the soup comes from the lentils and the natural creaminess of the tahini. I keep a jar of tahini on hand in my kitchen at all times. It's my magic ingredient for many dishes because it can take a simple dish and infuse a whole new level of complexity to your meal. Tahini is flavor and awesomeness on wheels and a little bit goes a very long way!

dill

You could probably use any type of lentil in this soup, I've used split mung (moong) lentils that have their outer green skin removed, consequently these lentils appear yellow in color. This soup is best eaten the day it is prepared because the flavors are fresh and bold. You can always up the amount of chili flakes to increase the heat in the soup. As the lentils tend to thicken the soup as time proceeds (even on storage), you can always add additional water to thin it out, just taste and season if necessary. 

lentil tahini soup

lentil and tahini soup

yields:

4 - 6 serving

ingredients

1 1/2 cups (11 5/8 ounces) yellow mung/

moong (split with skin removed) 

lentils 

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves minced

1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

6 cups water**

2 tablespoons tahini

2 limes

1/2 cup fresh dill + 2 tablespoons for garnish, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1. Clean the lentils and remove any visible stones and dirt. Rinse the lentils in cold water, drain and keep aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot on a medium high flame. Add and stir the garlic and chili flakes in the hot oil for 30 seconds. Add 4 cups of water and the washed lentils to the stockpot. Bring the contents of the stockpot to a boil and then immediately reduce the flame to a medium low. Cover the pot with a lid and allow the lentils to cook until tender. This will take about 40-45 minutes. **If the soup gets too thick, you can adjust the consistency of the soup by adding more water. 

3. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and mix in the tahini. Make sure the tahini is completely mixed into the soup. Squeeze the limes and stir in the lime juice, 1/2 cup of chopped dill and salt. Taste and adjust the salt if necessary.

4. Remove the pot from the stove and serve the soup warm garnished with a little of the extra chopped fresh dill. 

cheddar, avocado, lime and shell pasta, a cookbook review: melt

Avocado lime pasta with cheddar

If you love mac n'cheese as much as I do, then I am sure you will absolutely fall in love with Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, a fantastic new cookbook by longtime food bloggers, Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord, that I had the opportunity to review. Accompanying a delectable collection of recipes in this cookbook, is the awe inspiring photography of Matt Armendariz that will leave you, as I will simply put it, very, very hungry! 

It is hard to imagine diversifying something as simple as cheese and macaroni but that is exactly what both Stephanie and Garrett successfully accomplished in their cookbook, they combine both of these  ingredients and whip up a variety of different recipes that go above and beyond what one could imagine. Personally for me, I was thrilled to see Indian cheeses like paneer being mentioned and used in this book and ingredients from other wonderful international cuisines. This book is written with passion and love, so you know it's definitely one you will want to own.

Shell pasta

Sometimes, it can be an absolute headache to find certain ingredients but both Stephanie and Garett have painstakingly, listed several alternate suggestions for cheeses and wine pairings, which is sure to make any cook's life easy. I particularly love that they even have a couple of useful chapters and resources devoted to cooking with cheeses and pasta and a special reference section at the end of the book, to help you get out there and expand your own creativity in the kitchen! 

Avocados and limes

Now here's some fun stuff, Stephanie and Garrett are celebrating the release of their new cookbook with some really great giveaways including a $500 Le Creuset cookware set, visit Melt for more details. 

This is one of my favorite recipes from Melt, it has every fresh flavor and ingredient that I love to cook with. Ripe avocados, fresh limes, spicy jalapeños, and refreshing cilantro leaves with warm, bubbly cheddar are all combined into one rich creamy sauce full of flavor that coats and fills the cup of every piece of shell pasta. Get your copy of Melt, I know you will love it as much as I do!

Cheddar, Avocado and Lime Shell Pasta

beecher's flagship cheddar with avocado, lime and shell pasta

from Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord, courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

yields: 4 to 6 servings

ingredients

1 jalapeño pepper 
zest of 1 lime
2 green onions, green parts only, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 ripe avocados, pits and skin removed, divided
10 ounces conchiglie or other medium shell pasta
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces Beecher's flagship cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
lime wedges for garnish

1. Remove the stem from the jalapeño and cut the jalapeño in half. Remove the ribs and seeds-or keep them, depending on how much heat you like. Toss the jalapeño into the bowl of a food processor with the lime zest and lime juice. Add green onions, garlic, and flesh of the 2 avocados. Blitz together into a very smooth paste. 
2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside. 
3. To prepare the mornay sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to steam and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, turn off the heat. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium flame. Add the flour and stir with a flat-edge wooden paddle just until the roux begins to take on a light brown color, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon-a finger drawn along the back of the spoon should leave clear swath. Remove from heat and stir in the salt and pepper. Add the avocado-onion paste and whisk together until uniform and creamy. The key word here, if you haven't guessed, is smooth. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add the pasta and cilantro the sauce and stir together. Dice the last avocado and toss together with the mac and cheese. Serve immediately with a splash of lime juice.