Recipe Review: Old-Fashioned Blueberry Coffee Cake

Blueberries are almost out of season now, and this blueberry coffee cake is a great way to use the last bounty of the summer.  It has a moist crumb, ribbon of cinnamon sugar, luscious blueberries, and a golden pecan crumble topping.  The recipe comes from pastry chef Eric Wolitzky at The Bakery at Cakes & Ale in Decatur, GA, which was chosen as one of the ten best new restaurants of 2012 by Bon Appetit magazine in the September issue.  Also included in the issue are chef Wolitzky’s take on American classics such as Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze.

I also like another blueberry cake published in Bon Appetit in May 2010, from Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe in Santa Monica, CA.  Their Blueberry Cornmeal Cake has a cornmeal crumb and is incredibly moist due to ricotta cheese and yogurt in the batter.  Try both and compare for yourself!

Link to Old-Fashioned Blueberry Coffee Cake recipe here.

Link to Blueberry Cornmeal Cake recipe here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Chocolate Malt Layer Cake

This is my third Momofuku Milk Bar layer cake (the others being Carrot Layer Cake and Chocolate Chip Layer Cake), and this one was a little complicated.  There were sub-sub-recipes that had to be made before sub-recipes.  Some Charred Marshmallows caught on fire underneath the broiler, setting off the smoke detector.  However, the payoff is a moist, intensely chocolate cake with a hint of malt flavor, layered with gooey marshmallows, crunchy malted milk crumbs, and malted chocolate fudge sauce.  As a bonus, two of the components (Fudge Sauce and Chocolate Cake scraps) are then ready to make the Momofuku Red Velvet Ice Cream, plus you have a 1/4 recipe of Fudge Sauce left over to serve over ice cream or with Brownie Pie.

The Malted Milk Crumb recipe as written in the cookbook is a bit confusing.  It says to take Milk Crumbs and toss them with ovaltine malt powder and white chocolate.  However, the Milk Crumb recipe also has a step at the end where the baked milk crumbs are tossed with milk powder and white chocolate.  I think what the Malted Milk Crumb recipe should have said was to make the milk crumb through step 4, then toss with the ovaltine malt powder and white chocolate.  Indeed, this is how it was written when this recipe was published in Bon Appetit.  This recipe is scalable, and I only made a half recipe, because that is all that is necessary for the Chocolate Malt Cake.  However, the Malted Milk Crumb is brilliant, good enough to snack on its own, and I regret not making the full recipe!

For the Charred Marshmallows, the book recommends using a kitchen blowtorch.  I used the broiler, and like I mentioned before had a sheet pan of marshmallows engulfed in flames in only a couple of minutes.  During the re-do, I paid more attention to the marshmallows.  I definitely should have separated the marshmallows more on the sheet pan before charring, because they melted and stuck together, making it difficult to layer them on the cake.

The Red Velvet Ice Cream was the only disappointment so far for me from the book.  It just tasted a little off for me.

Link to recipe here.

Link to Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Grilled Turmeric and Lemongrass Chicken

Wow, this was a great dish.  Bon Appetit July 2012 featured several Malaysian grilling recipes from Zac Pelaccio, chef/owner of New York’s Fatty Crab and Fatty ‘Cue.  Chef Pelaccio spent a year in Malaysia and brought back many Southeast Asian flavors to go along with his more classical training.  The Bon Appetit feature included four recipes for grilling, and I tried the chicken recipe and paired it with the grilled vegetable recipe.  A marinade is made by blending together  turmeric, coconut milk, jalepeno, shallots, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, and tamarind concentrate (which is sold at Ranch 99 in California.)    I used boneless, skin-on chicken thighs, but the recipe calls for chicken wings.  After the chicken is marinated overnight, the marinade is heated in a saucepan and divided in half, with half being used to baste the chicken during grilling and the other half used as a dipping sauce at the table.  This is an interesting technique I have not come across before.  Bon Appetit mentions layers of flavor, and this analysis is spot on.  The marinade infuses the meat with a ton of flavor.  The crispiness of the skin from grilling leads to more flavor via the maillard reaction.  The marinade as dipping sauce adds yet more flavor with the delicious combination of coconut milk, heat from jalepenos, spice from turmeric and ginger, sweetness from tamarind, and brightness of the lemongrass.  Definitely worth doing and adding to the repertoire!

The grilled vegetable recipe, Grilled Vegetable and Rice Salad with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette, nicely complements the chicken and was good, but not at the heights of the chicken recipe.  A mix of grilled vegetables (corn, okra, zucchini, eggplant) are dressed with a vinaigrette made from pureed Anaheim peppers, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar, which gives the vegetables a bit of Southeast Asian flavor.

Link to grilled chicken recipe here.

Link to grilled vegetable recipe here.

Recipe Review: Apricot Crumble Parfait

Delicious ice cream dessert from Bon Appetit June 2012.  There are two easy components.  First is an apricot compote where chopped dried apricots are rehydrated over low heat in a simple syrup.  Second is a crumble made from flour, oats, light brown sugar, butter, salt, and cinnamon that is baked at 350 for about 15 minutes.  These two components are cooled and then layered with vanilla ice cream.  The whole dessert can be frozen 30 minutes to set, or just eaten right after assembly.  Fresh stone fruits like nectarines or peaches would be a good substitution for the apricot compote.  Nice and easy summer dessert!

Link to recipe here.

Subscribe to Bon Appetit here.

Recipe Review: Grilled Flatiron Steaks with Tomatoes and Tapenade

This recipe is from Bon Appetit June 2012 and Chef Jeff Cerciello’s Farmshop restaurant in Santa Monica, CA.  Flank, hangar, or skirt steak is marinated in a spicy citrus wet rub and then cooked on the grill (or grill pan if preparing indoors).  The steak definitely needs to be seasoned well with salt to enhance the flavors of the marinade.  An important step in preparing any steak is to let the meat rest after grilling, which allows the meat to cool enough such that the juices in the steak distribute evenly within the meat instead of spilling all over the plate (see a detailed explanation from The Food Lab).  A key component of this dish is the olive and caper tapenade, which contrasts nicely with the steak and the tomato salad.  The steak is paired with watercress and a fresh tomato salad, best made with heirloom tomatoes instead of supermarket beefsteak tomatoes.  There was a recent article in the New York Times about how engineering the perfect-colored supermarket tomato has had the unintended consequence of sapping the tomato of flavor since the critical gene mutation is important for both color and flavor.  No wonder those beautiful supermarket tomatoes taste so bland!  Overall, the dish turned out pretty well, and it’s a pretty easy summer dinner.  Note: Leftover marinade works well with chicken.

Link to recipe here.

Subscribe to Bon Appetit here.

Recipe Review: Fish Fillets with Tomatoes, Squash, and Basil

Cooking in parchment paper helps to seal in steam and moisture and concentrate flavor.  There are several recipes from the June 2012 Bon Appetit magazine that highlight this technique.  In this fish recipe, fish fillet like cod or halibut (I used tilapia) is layered on top of a bed of shallots, tomatoes, summer squash, and basil.  A little bit of white wine and olive oil combine with the fish and vegetables to make a nice, light sauce.  Baking time in a 400 F oven is 10-15 minutes.   This dish was mildly flavored, but healthy and easy to do on a weeknight.

Link to recipe here.

Subscribe to Bon Appetit here.

Recipe Review: Tsukune (Grilled Chicken Meatballs with Tare)

Japanese yakatori shops are famed for their grilled meats served on skewers.  Bon Appetit May 2012 recently ran a feature on preparing tsukune, or chicken meatballs, at home.  Ground chicken, miso paste, sesame oil, and scallions are the simple mixture that is loaded onto bamboo skewers.

Tare is a basting sauce made with soy sauce, sugar, and in this case, chicken broth.  The chicken broth replaces the roast chicken drippings that are usually used to prepare tare, as in David Chang’s Momofuku tare recipe.  While it obviously does not provide the same depth of flavor, the chicken broth is a convenient substitute. After initially grilling the meats, the basting sauce is then applied and caramelizes nicely on the barbecued meat.

Link to recipe here.

Subscribe to Bon Appetit here.

Recipe Review: Paccheri and Cheese with Peas and Mint

This is another updated comfort food recipe from Bon Appetit March 2012. This time the classic Mac and Cheese is updated with a parmesan-fontina bechamel sauce, arugula, peas, and mint.  Bechamel, or white sauce, is one of the French mother sauces.  First, a roux is made by cooking butter and flour.  Then, milk is added and the mixture is stirred until thickened, about 20-30 minutes.  Parmesan cheese, fontina cheese, and egg are added to the bechamel sauce, which is then tossed with cooked pasta, arugula, parsley, peas, and mint.  A layer of ricotta and lemon zest is added, and everything is baked for about 45 minutes.  I made a couple of modifications, using rigatoni instead of the larger paccheri, baking in a large casserole dish instead of a springform pan, and adding some ham slices.  The total time from start to finish was about two hours.  I thought the dish turned out OK.  I liked the texture of the browned pasta at the top.  However, in terms of flavor the mild cheese sauce dominated, and none of the other flavors really popped.

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Hoisin-Glazed Meatloaf Sandwich

The March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit had a section of recipes of modern takes on comfort food.  Meatloaf is one of the classic American comfort foods, and this recipe updates it with a Vietnamese bahn mi-like flavor profile.  There is a hoisin glaze made with hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and garlic.  The meatloaf is made from ground beef, ground pork, bread, eggs, ginger, garlic, scallions, celery, bacon, five-spice powder, and some of the hoisin glaze.  The meatloaf is baked for one and a half hours, then slices are crisped in a frying pan, served on toast, and topped with a carrot and daikon pickle salad with cilantro.  There is a substantial amount of prep work, and the whole recipe takes about three hours.  The results are very tasty and definitely earn the title of comfort food. Makes for great leftovers as well.

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Relish and Tomato Sauce

If all vegetarian dishes had this much flavor, there would be a lot more vegetarians 😉  This dish is from Bon Appetit January 2012.  A head of cauliflower is cut into “steaks,” sauteed until golden brown, and then roasted in the oven at 400F until tender.  Some of the raw cauliflower florets are combined with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice in a flavor-packed relish.  The third component is a tomato sauce made with tomatoes and garlic roasted at the same time as the cauliflower, then blended together.

Harold McGee has written a great book that explains the science of cooking entitled On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.  Roasting leads to browning or caramelization, where amino acids react with sugars when heated, generating hundreds of complex flavor compounds in a process called the Maillard reaction.  The transformation of cauliflower in this dish is highlighted by the complex, tender, caramelized, roasted cauliflower steaks contrasting with the crunchy raw cauliflower florets in the relish.

Link to recipe here.

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