Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spinach Grapefruit Salad

Spinach Grapefruit Salad

Another recipe from the Frog Hollow Farm Happy Child CSA weekly flyer. I'm into salads these days, and the weekly fruit stash had a grapefruit and avocado, so it was time to try it!

I had some trouble cutting the citrus, and didn't understand what it meant to "section the grapefruit as you would for a compote," and it turned out I didn't have a blood orange, but, no matter.

For fun I thought I'd practice presenting the salad in such a way that would delight me if it were presented to me at a restaurant. Colorful orange disks go a long way toward that.

I wasn't crazy about the orange vinaigrette though; too olive-oily. Still, I saved it just in case.

A few days later, I tried again, this time with some variation. No grapefruit, a tangerine instead of an orange (which tastes great but doesn't slice well at all), and some toasted pine nuts, because, well, I just like them.

This time, the same orange vinaigrette was much better. Some things really aren't at their best freshly made. Since then, I've made it again with even better results, using an Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar from Trader Joe's, some added salt, and letting it stew for a day or so. YUM!

This salad "recipe" turned into more of a general guideline: a green, a citrus, an avocado is the basis, and various sorts of cheeses or nuts could be added. The orange vinaigrette ties it together, and you're on your way to a dandy snack. And it's completely worth laying it out restaurant-style on a pretty white dish, just for you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mango Mini-Bundt Cake

Mango Mini-Bundt Cake

There's a reason I don't belong to Costco: I always end up "saving" money on stuff I never needed just because it was there.

I ran afoul of this same reckless mentality when Whole Foods had a sale on mangos: $10 for a box of 10. Of course, each individual mango still only cost $1, so you didn't have to buy a box. And you could have gotten the box even if you didn't buy 10 mangos. Yet somehow I came home with 10 mangos. And a box.

Not surprisingly, a week later, I still had a lot of mangos left, and they were getting pretty wrinkly. Usually I throw them away about then, but I couldn't bring myself to throw away that many mangos. Besides, I still had the box.

So I peeled the wrinkly soft mangos and put the flesh into a food processor, thinking I'd bake them into something since they were too ripe for eating. I discovered to my delight that I had caught them at peak sweetness and richness of flavor, and they were all a deep orange color. And not a black stringy one among them. Unbelievable. Perfect!

But I was already psyched to do some mango baking, and had found this recipe for Mango Cake on I was intrigued by the comments that the recipe doesn't rise much -- I've seen this before! I've found that some quick bread formulations just won't bake right in a loaf, but are perfect in a mini-bundt. And, other recipes that work fine in a loaf are too dry for mini-bundts. Clearly, there's something about that extra inside ring of baking surface area.

So I tried the original Mango Cake recipe in the mini-bundt pan and a mini-loaf pan. Sure enough, the loaf didn't rise or become cakey, but the mini-bundt did. Ah-hah! A breakthrough in bundt science!

I still had enough mango puree to make another batch, and this time I started to make the recipe my own. I fixed a few technical issues with the original recipe, like adding vanilla with the wet ingredients, and eliminating some unnecessary folding. I added extra flour, went to town on the lemon zest (Meyer, of course), yet still made sure it was mini-bundt moist.

The result: just about darned perfect!

Or, as perfect as a mango cake can get. Even perfect-ripe mango flavor easily gets lost in the baking, so this cake is very mild. Some lemon or lime glaze would go a long way.

The mango puree and buttermilk make this recipe still very much the original author's, but I see no point in trying to tweak it to rise properly in a loaf. This is a mini-bundt recipe. I can't wait until the next big Mexican mango surplus!