The Gleeful Gourmand: April 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"The Gleeful Gourmand, She'll Blow Your Hair Off!"

I have to give thanks to my friend Joe Rashbaum who came up with the tagline above after something I posted on Facebook. Last night's dinner was good, but it wasn't spectacular. However, Liam, though he be a finnicky eater most of the time, ate a lot of his food, and tried everything on his plate. We commended him for a job well done, and went about cleaning up the kitchen. A few minutes later he came up to me and declared,

"Mommy, that meal was so good, it blew my hair off!"

I could not stop myself from laughing, but thanked him profusely for his compliment. The kid does know how to give great compliments. Most of the time their spot-on, like telling people he likes their shoes, their shirts, their dresses, etc. He knows how to work a room, that's for sure.

He often declares "This is the best meal, EVER!" but that's usually in regards to something like pizza or spaghetti or something. What was the incredible meal I served last night that elicited such a compliment? Here it is:

• Grilled chicken marinated for about 5 hours, and then basted with Stubbs Chicken Marinade
• Green beans boiled and then sauteed in a bit of butter and lemon
• Couscous done in chicken broth, and mixed with diced shallots, salt, pepper, and currants

Perfectly adequate for a week-time meal? Yes. Good enough to blow your hair off? Subjective. Still, I'll take the compliments whenever I can, especially when they're so colorful. I am not complaining!

So, as I said on my Facebook post - Y'all come on down to Chez Robinson. We've got food so good it'll blow your hair off!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Decadent Strawberry Cake

Most of you who read this blog know how much I love sweets, and in particular, chocolate. Like raving, will do anything to have it type of love (except for milk chocolate, which is just so-so in my book, or white chocolate, which isn't really chocolate at all). It may surprise you to know, then, that my favorite dessert of all time has nothing  at all to do with chocolate. It's my mother's Strawberry Cake. It is quite simply one of the easiest cakes to make known to man. But don't be tricked into thinking that because it's easy it doesn't taste exceptionally good, because it does.

My mom has been making it since I can remember (especially as the crowning end to most of our Easter feasts) and her mother was the one who started making it first. That's a fine pedigree as far as desserts go. So what makes it so great? It's an angel food cake with whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. Anybody can do that, right? Your local grocery store could do that for you with a plastic-wrapped angel food cake and a tub of cool whip. But it wouldn't be the same. And it certainly wouldn't have the wow factor when you go to present it. What makes this cake so great is its freshness. Making your own whipped cream is essential. And nothing goes better with whipped cream then fresh, ripe strawberries.

The process: Removing the top layer of the cake, creating a well, filling the well with cream and berries.

The cake is light and airy and bursting with sweetness. It's like biting into a cloud! Well, a cloud studded with strawberries. With the first bite, it summons spring, and makes me want to go strawberry picking - just so I can have more. It's a cake straight from Heaven. Here's the recipe:

1 Box of Angel Food Cake
2 or 3 cups of Heavy Whipping Cream
3 Tbsp. Confectioner's Sugar
2 cups of fresh strawberries, washed and hulled

• Make the Angel Food Cake to the specifications on the back of the box. Let cool, inverted, completely. When cooled, using a bread knife, slice the top off about 1 inch from the very top, no less. Lay the top very careful to the side (a clean countertop or paper towel would be fine).

• Using a serrated knife, gently make a well around the circumference of the cake. Do not go through the bottom of the cake. Pull out some of the cake leaving the sides and center sides of the cake (look at the picture above, it explains it better than I can).

• In a cold bowl, whip chilled Heavy Whipping Cream until soft peaks form.

• Quarter one cup of strawberries. Fold into about one cup of whipping cream. Spoon mixture into the well. Replace top of the cake carefully.

• Frost the cake with the remaining whipped cream, and place halved strawberries on top to suit your fancy.

Glorious Strawberries

My grandmother also loved to make a variation on this cake using chocolate whipped cream and slivered toasted almonds. That's always been a favorite combination of mine, but since we have nut allergies in our house, I thought it would be fun to try chocolate whipped cream with halved raspberries in the well, and raspberries on the top of the cake.

To get chocolate whipped cream the way my grandmother made it, you simply add about 1 1/2 Tbsp. of cocoa powder, and maybe a little bit more confectioners sugar, and maybe even a dash of vanilla extract. Enjoy!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter at The Gleeful Gourmand

I love Easter, possibly even more than I love Christmas as far as holidays go. There's just something about how the whole world seems to decorate for it with trees budding and flowers starting to show their splashy colors. The world seems fresh and new again, and the food of the season reflects that. This year we're trying a few recipes we've had great success with, and also some new ones as well. Here's what our menu lineup for Easter Sunday dinner looks like. Hopefully you'll find some inspiration:

Main Entrée: Crispy Rack of Lamb with Honey and Mascarpone Sauce. Buck made this last summer when his mom was in town for her birthday. It's truly delicious, and puts a new fresh spin on the typical lamb dish served with mint jelly (For the record, I've always hated mint jelly, and have preferred to use a fig jam or fig sauce). It takes a bit of time as far as prep work, and you'll absolutely need a meat thermometer to make sure it's at the correct temperature, but it's ridiculously delicious. You can find the recipe: here.

Sides: We're still wondering if we're going to have some sort of roasted potatoes, or perhaps another vegetable to go along with these sides, but for now we'll be making a refreshing Tomato Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, and Hot Cheese Drop Biscuits, which are possibly the world's easiest biscuits to make. These two actually complement each other really well because they both use buttermilk. Recipes down below.

Dessert: My mom's annual Strawberry Cake. It wouldn't be Easter without it. Light, airy and full of fresh strawberries. I'll be taking some pictures and posting the recipe later because this dessert is actually perfect for any spring or summer get-together.

Happy Easter, and happy eating!

Tomato Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
Coarse Kosher salt and pepper to taste

• Whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

6 large tomatoes, cored, and cut into 3/4 inch wedges
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
2 green onions, thinly sliced diagonally
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley
Blue cheese crumbles (if desired, I don't use them)

• Place tomatoes and shallots in large bowl. Add oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Sprinkle with green onions and parsley. Serves 6.

Hot Cheese Drop Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup buttermilk

• Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; cut in cheese and shortening with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
• Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 450˚ for 9 minutes or until golden. Serves 2 dozen.