"I've discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it."
- William Faulkner




Monday, May 11, 2009

may days

It seems like it’s been forever since my last post! I know all three to five of you have been pacing wanting to know what’s been going on in my life.

As most do, this post revolves mainly around food. What is it about food that really sticks out in people’s minds? Is it because it is delicious? Is it because it’s something everyone has in common? Or does it work hand-in-hand with the instinct to be social that (most) humans have? Either way, I love it.

Last week, Haley invited me to join her for a Cinco de Mayo cooking class at the Viking Cooking School in Greenwood. If you’ve never participated in one, I highly recommend it. The recipes were great, and I finally learned the correct way to operate my ice cream maker, even after I called the company years ago demanding they send me another part that I was unknowingly assembling upside down. Cuisinart guy, if you are out there, I’m sorry I was so stupid.

Anywho, here’s the first Delicious Dish of the week:

Toasted Tortilla Soup with Fresh Cheese (Sopa de Tortilla)
Serves 4 to 6

Soup:
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium fresh Anaheim or poblano chile, seeded, veins removed, chopped
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, un-drained (recommended Muir Glen® fire-roasted)
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1½ limes), or to taste
Salt, to taste

Serve:
4 (6-inch) corn tortillas, preferably stale* (or you could just crumble up some tortilla chips)
2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil, plus extra for oiling pan
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced (optional)
8 ounces Mexican queso fresco (or other fresh cheese such as farmer's cheese), cut into small cubes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

For the Soup: Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat; add 2 tablespoons of the oil and
heat through. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 8 to 10
minutes. Add the garlic, Anaheim or poblano chile, crushed red pepper flakes, and cumin;
cook just until the aroma is released, about 2 minutes more.

Transfer the sautéed onion mixture to a blender or food processor. Add the tomatoes and
process until smooth.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the
pureed tomato mixture and stir until thick and considerably darker, about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth to the tomato mixture; partially cover and simmer over medium-low
heat for about 30 minutes. Add the lime juice, then season to taste with salt and lime juice.

To Serve: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush both sides of each tortilla with oil. Slice the
tortillas in half, then slice the halves crosswise into ¼-inch strips. Spread the tortilla strips in
a single, even layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake, turning halfway through cooking
time, until crisp and golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and
immediately sprinkle with salt Set aside until needed.

Divide half of the crispy tortilla strips among 4 individual soup bowls; ladle in the soup. Top
with diced avocado (if using) and cheese; garnish with the remaining tortilla strips and
cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Muy delicioso.

This weekend, we all headed up north to Starkville to celebrate Mother’s Day with my parents and Harris. It seemed like ages since I’d been home or seen Harris, so we had a great time. Saturday morning, my mom and I went to the Mint clothing and home stores (really fun – I got a mirror), Dirt Cheap (seriously, never again – it was like a third world country in there), Tuesday Morning and Libby Story – my personal fave.

But if I may say so, the most delicious part of the weekend was the Southern-Style Strawberry Cake I made (getting a little cocky, eh?). I decided a cute mom deserved a cute cake, so I went to work on it. The recipe (and photo) came from Joy the Baker, a delightful little blog about baking, food, photography and general lovelies. I believe the recipe actually came from the cookbook Sweets, which I plan to purchase soon.

Here you go:

Southern Style Strawberry Cake
1 (18.5 ounce) box white cake mix (without pudding)
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry jello
1 Tablespoon self rising flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup fresh strawberries, finely diced.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the cake, combine to cake mix, Jello, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition Add the water and strawberries and mix well. Divide the batter evenly into three 8-inch round baking pans that have been oiled and floured (I got my very first cake pans for this project. Fun!). Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the layers pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer the layers from the oven to wire racks. Let them cool, still in their pans, for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the inside edge of each pan, then unmold each layer onto the racks to cool completely.

My additional step: After the cakes cooled, I carefully sliced off the rounded top of one cake to make it completely level and so the top layer would sit flatly on it. I left the top layer rounded because, by George, I worked hard on this cake, and I wanted it to look homemade.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 ounce) block cream cheese, softened
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 (1 pound) boxes powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
pink food coloring
4 sliced strawberries

(*I bought an extra tub of cream cheese icing as I do not like to be hindered by the amount of icing I have. Just a culinary precaution.)

To make the frosting, in a bowl combine the cream cheese and butter. Beat until soft and pliable and no lumps remain. Add one box of the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Beat until incorporated. Add the second box of sugar and mix until incorporated. If you would like a smoother consistency, and a slash of milk. If you would like a thicker consistency, and a bit more powdered sugar until the desired consistency is achieved.

Put the coconut in a small bowl and sprinkle with two or three drops of pink die. Mix with hands to distribute the color and wash hands immediately. Once the cake is frosted*, decorate the top of the cake with the shredded coconut and sliced strawberries.

My additional steps: Put a dollop of icing on the cake stand before you place the cakes on it. This will act as a kind of “glue” to keep the cake stationary when you are icing it.
Your first step in the icing process is to frost the “crumb layer” – basically a super-thin layer of frosting to collect all the crumbs so your outer layer of frosting is beautiful and crumb-free! After you’ve applied the crumb layer, let it dry in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Then, frost away!

Happy Monday!

5 comments:

Courtney and Jason G. said...

yum!

and, i love your hair!

mary-kathryn said...

i am dying to do another cooking school class....

Faith(ful) Reader said...

Those are some very helpful hints you gave us...'though I've missed reading your blog, this one was worth the wait. Love the Tuesday Morning, don't you?

Anonymous said...

um, you must not be eating the strawberry cake cause you look SKINNY!!!! you really look fabulous! I know i haven't seen you in, like, 3 years, but still!

laura mc

Anonymous said...

awwwww, Mary, I loved the cake!!! Good cooking must skip generations. MOM

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