Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Holiday Fare~Two Recipes

These dishes aren't everyday fare but they are favorites that we enjoy on special occasions. We brought both to Easter lunch with friends last month and both recipes were requested--I didn't forget, but just got a little sidetracked.

This is our favorite salad and on most days the main ingredients can be found in our fridge and pantry; we enjoy living in a land of inexpensive and delicious feta cheese and tomatoes! I posted this recipe a couple years ago but I'm re-posting it as I've made a few corrections/modifications. It is adapted from Women's Weekly Cooking Class, Middle Eastern.

Tomato, Feta, and Green Onion Salad

1 lb. feta cheese (you could use less)
about 6 tomatoes, depending on size
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (or more if you've got a potful in your garden)
about 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
3 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
Coarse sea salt to taste

1. Cut tomatoes into wedges, remove seeds, and chop tomatoes finely.
2. Whisk oil and juice in small bowl until combined; add onions and mint. Mix well.
3. Combine the mint mixture with the tomatoes and let marinate for about 1 hour, but I've also made this without time to marinade and it is still delicious.
4. Crumble the cheese in (about) 1/2 inch chunks on a plate or platter.
5. Spoon tomato mixture over the crumbled cheese and sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and sesame seeds. Salt to taste.

Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting and Glazed Nut Topping

This is a good carrot cake recipe but it is the frosting which makes this cake so delicious. I vividly remember when carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting came into vogue in the 1970s: My mom made one and I found the cream cheese frosting irresistible--so irresistible that I put my finger on the frosted cake for "just a taste" so many times that I created a margin of un-frosted cake around the circumference of the pan. Yes, I was found out. This frosting is even better as it starts with browned butter. Think toffee/cream cheese frosting. I didn't lick the cake this time, but I do confess to eating a few teaspoons from the mixing bowl.

Carrot Cake
Adapted from Sam's Famous Carrot Cake recipe:
3 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple w/juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two layer 8 or 9 inch layer cake pans. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a larger bowl or mixer combine eggs, buttermilk, oil, sugar, and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture and mix well. Add carrots and walnuts, whisking/mixing just until blended. Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees until golden and toothpick comes out clean--about 35 minutes (but Tayta's not sure. The original recipe had it one larger pan baking for one hour.) Cool the cakes about 20 minutes on a cooling rack and then remove from the pans.

Brown Butter Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Melt the butter in a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 20-30 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from he bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom. Discard the solids.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Note bene: once when Tayta made this we had to add a little more powdered sugar so that the frosting was firm enough. Make sure your butter is "just firm" all the way through and not liquidy before beating it with the cream cheese.

Nut Topping
1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and cook, stirring, until the nuts brown slightly, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet. Arrange in a ring around the frosted cake as shown in the picture above. Credit goes to Tayta for the creation of this beautiful and delicious cake.

The frosting recipe is from the Oct/Nov 2010 issue of Fine Cooking (I was a sucker for those cooking magazines at the grocery store check-out while we were in the States last fall). The topping recipe was adapted from a recipe in the same issue.


Anonymous said...

just discovered you and enjoyed, thank you

Shannon said...

Can't wait to try this, Melissa! You are so industrious. Thanks for sharing your findings with your friends. Praying for your move....