Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chocolate Cake To Go

The three month long family birthday season has come to an end. I didn't make Monkey Boy's 13th birthday cake--I left that to the good folks at New Seasons given that it had to serve 50 people at his bar mitzvah party. The Dark Lord got a classic chocolate layer cake which was notable in that it was devoured in under 10 minutes by a herd of teenage boys, some of whom had never, or so they told me, had a home baked cake before. I this possible? How sad. I've already promised one of them that I'd bake his birthday cake next year.

The Princess turned six last week and we celebrated with a beach trip. Relatives from both sides of the family joined us at Neskowin where the weather simply refused to cooperate. In short stretch of time the weather went from cool and misty to downright wet and rainy. Our potato chips grew soggy, sand stuck to everything, and we were all shivering by the time we packed it in and headed to my parents' hotel room.

But here's what went right: the birthday cake. I knew I couldn't schlep an iced, layered cake to the beach with any success but the birthday girl had asked from something of a chocolate-orange variety. What to do? Happily, Nigella saved the day with the Pantry Shelf Chocolate-Orange cake.

This cake is admittedly sturdy, but it's also delicious. There's an entire jar of marmalade stirred into the batter making for a cake that's slightly tart and chewy. I added a bit of extra sugar knowing that a 6 year old has slightly different tastes than us old folks, but it still wasn't too sweet.

I suppose one could frost this cake but it's not necessary. A simple dusting of powdered sugar did the trick this time around.

You'll find the recipe here. I hope you give it a try because it's very tasty.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's for Breakfast

I have this weird relationship with eggs. I think I can't stand them and if you put a plate of scrambled eggs or an omelette in front of me, chances are good I'll have to walk away. On the other hand, there have been a few well loved but rather bizarre egg dishes in my life proving that I don't hate eggs, I just can't deal with them in their simplest forms.

My dad used to poach eggs in milk and serve them over shredded wheat with lots of butter, salt, and pepper. This used to horrify my husband, but now he's a convert as there's nothing better on a cold morning.

In college I frequently made and ate a dish I called SPEGS (slimy potato egg stuff) which involved cracking an egg or two over home fries with cheese and onions and was absolutely delicious as long as the egg wasn't too cooked, hence the slimy part. I know...weird.

When I was pregnant with my second child, a neighbor kept us well supplied with fresh eggs. I mostly avoided them until it occurred to me to hard boil them and make them into into tacos topped with liberal dollops of Mrs. Renfro's green salsa. This I never converted my husband to--he remains horrified to this day. However I once ate a classic dish of hard boiled eggs wrapped in tortillas in Yucatan so I wasn't not completely off base though I imagine no self-respecting Yucateco would have touched my crazy pregnant version.

Lately, in my ongoing attempt to eat more protein, I'm hitting the eggs again. Eggs can give me the same problem that nearly all meats do. I'm not really opposed to eating either, but the smell of them cooking tends to leave me too nauseated to think about eating. Aren't I just about the craziest person ever?

Anyway, the trick for me is to hide the eggs as much as possible. Lately I've been making a big mess in a skillet that has so much happening it's hard to even notice the eggs. I think the original inspiration for this dish came from Joe Esparza who, in the early days of his very successful restaurant, would make migas for me and it was an astounding breakfast. There's a great post here that goes into the nuances of various torn tortilla dishes should you care to dig deeper. We just tend to call the dish tortilla eggs.

My quickie version is rarely the same from one time to the next though corn tortillas, eggs, chiles, and cheese are all required components. Sometimes I like it on the mild side but lately smoky ground chipotle is making me very happy. Late summer additions have included diced zucchini and corn kernels. Though no real recipe is required for a seat-of-your-pants dish like this, my best approximation is here.

This dish has so much going on that the eggs pretty well get lost for me but the explosion of flavors and textures is spectacular. I'm sure you'll find a way to make tortilla eggs your own.