Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mojito Cake

Our mint is gone. GONE! The management company that takes care of our rental decided than when they mowed the lawn, they would mow down our mint and chives too. Until the mowing incident, I had been making mojitos pretty regularly. I even had a special muddler stick, not that you really need one. The stick end of a wooden spoon would work just fine.
But this summer I also made a cake out of all those lovely mojito flavors. I squeezed some limes, and brewed some mint simple syrup and baked some sponge cakes. And I made Italian meringue butter-cream frosting. Oh my it was good. And I practiced my frosting skills before the big wedding cake. More on that another time.
Birthday cake
The cake was a simple sponge cake made with lime instead of lemon zest and a bit of rum mixed in.
Whip the egg whites, which gives the cake most of its structure. Then mix the yolks with sugar, zest, and rum. Fold in the dry ingredients, then fold in the whites. It's not a particularly exciting recipe, actually comes right out of the Joy of Cooking.
egg whites
Flour mixture
Combine gently!
Bake the cakes
What makes this cake so good is the filling. Mint lime curd. It is sooo good. As I mentioned earlier, this cake was a sort of preparation for a wedding cake. A wedding cake that used up many many egg whites while tossing aside the yolks. I wanted to find a home for those ooey gooey yolks, and curds are a great way of doing that.
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
zest and juice of 5 limes
A handful of ripped mint
Heat it over a double boiler until it thickens. Then strain out the mint leaves, and cool. The texture won't be right until it has chilled.
The final result tastes a lot like key lime pie, zingy and creamy, and delicious when eaten out of the jar with a spoon. Mmmm.
Lime mint curd and syrup
To assemble the final product, brush one cake with a combination of rum and mint simple syrup, emphasis on the rum. Then slather on the curd. Add the second cake and douse it with more rum and mint. Finally, frost.
Lime mint curd spread
crumb coat
Birthday cake
Although the cake and the curd went beautifully together, the frosting was too rich for such a light and ethereal cake. A seven-minute frosting might have been better.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fish Tacos

Do you know how to fillet a fish? I'm not very good at it. In fact, after ruining a few fish, I decided to do what my mom does: just cook the whole thing and let diners get the bones out. Actually, she has this move that I have yet to learn where she fillets the fish when it's half cooked, right in the pan. Flop! And there's half the fish all neatly separated. Then she pulls out the spine with all the "arĂȘtes" attached.
So when I bought some whole catfish at the grocery store, I thought I would try her strategy. When I say whole, I mean, the spine was still in there attached.
So I melted some butter, squeezed in some lemon and threw the whole fish right in the pan. I did not take any pictures because my attempt at filleting was not pretty, and my fingers were very buttery. I do have a pictures of the fish left over from my torturous attempts.
leftover catfish with ginger
Notice the sheer quantity of fish I was not able to remove cleanly. All the better to make some kind of salad, I thought. But then I thought about the fish tacos I had eaten in the Purdue Union at La Salsa Restaurant. Mighty tasty with a zesty lime cilantro sauce, cabbage slaw, and avocado. Their fish tacos are made with whole big pieces of fish, but I thought my leftovers would work well too.
First, I grated some ginger. Maybe a teaspoon's worth to cook up with the left over fish.
Fish & ginger
Then, I made a mayonnaise. It's really easy if you have a food processor. I used the small bowl insert because I was only using one egg.
First, process the egg with whatever flavorings you want and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. I used horseradish and lots of fresh basil from our garden. Then, slowly add about a cup of oil. Here, I used olive oil - not the extra virgin stuff because it tastes too fruity. Then, season with salt and pepper. Tada! Home-made mayo.
Basil horseradish mayo
Then I prepared some fixin's. I didn't have any avocado on hand, but if you actually plan to make then, then I highly recommend avocado. So good. I just chopped some cucumbers and peppers and shredded some carrot. The carrot was very nice. Cold, crunchy, juicy. The peppers and cucumber came in handy to finish the last of the mayo when there was no more fish to make tacos with.
Veggies for tacos
And then... assemble!

ugly fish taco Pretty fish taco

Nick did a good job at making his look good. They were absolutely delicious, but in the future, I would replace the peppers with avocado. Mmmm avocado.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Random update

I've had such good intentions to post here - I've been taking pictures left and right. I'm going to try to post all my food pictures and accompanying recipes in the coming week. Some were fantastic, others less exciting, and some I had forgotten I ever made. But they all deserve a spot in the limelight. I'll start with my most recent recipe, Champagne raspberry sorbet. Yum.
This recipe requires an ice-cream maker. The recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz' The Perfect Scoop.

two scoops
In a pot over medium heat, bring to a boil 1 1/4 cups of bubbly (real Champagne is too expensive for this application, IMO), 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup water.

When it boils, add 2 cups raspberries - I used frozen, but fresh will work too, I'm sure.

Cover, turn off heat and let steep a while, about 10 minutes, but longer is OK.

Strain out seeds with a wire mesh strainer or a food mill, if you have one.

Let mixture chill. Then put through ice-cream maker. This will take longer than regular, creamy ice cream, so be prepared to watch an entire episode of Modern Family. Fun!
two scoops

Once the mixture actually looks like sorbet, put it in a container and stick in the freezer for an hour or two. You can sneak a scoop ahead (I did) but it will be a bit melt-y, and won't have the right texture.

Here's what it looks like the next day.

raspberry champagne sorbet