Fresh Apricot Upside Down Cake

Fresh apricots are iffy; I'm always afraid to bite into one. So often they're mealy and I'm terribly disappointed! But I hate not taking advantage of them when I see them in the market, so now I invariably bake them in bars, tarts or cakes.
I've been saving this Gourmet recipe for a while and I loved the way it turned out. Not a single thing was needed on top...no ice cream, no whipped cream. Do you love that combination of sticky, gooey caramel on top of upside down cakes as much as I do?

One caveat: use a skillet or baking dish with at least 2 inch sides (higher, if you have one) AND place on a baking sheet covered with foil. Mine overflowed and made a mess in the oven and the smell of burning food permeated the house. What was I thinking? 
Once again, lesson learned: read directions thoroughly and then heed them!
Still, when I cut a slice....well worth the mess I had to clean up!

Fresh Apricot Upside-Down Cake
Gourmet  | July 2003 


For the topping:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
10 or 11 small (2- to 2 1/4-inch) fresh apricots (1 1/4 lb), halved lengthwise and pitted

For the cake:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Special equipment: a 10-inch well-seasoned cast-iron or heavy nonstick skillet (at least 2 inches deep)

Preheat oven to 375°F. 

Make topping:

Heat butter in skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter, then cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all of sugar will be melted).
A personal note here: you can leave the sugar mixture in the skillet and add the apricot halves as indicated or take a spatula and scrape the mixture into a lightly buttered baking dish with higher sides and add the apricots then.
Remove skillet from heat and arrange apricot halves, cut sides down, close together on top of brown sugar. 

Make cake batter:
 Sift together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt into a small bowl. Beat the butter, sugar, and extracts in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 3 to 4 minutes with a handheld. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then beat until mixture is creamy and doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes. 

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and beat just until combined. Gently spoon batter over apricots and spread evenly. 
Bake cake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. 

Wearing oven mitts, immediately invert a large plate over skillet and, keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert cake onto plate. Carefully lift skillet off cake and, if necessary, replace any fruit that is stuck to bottom of skillet. Cool to warm or room temperature. 


Ramen Salad Redux

Do you remember that broccoli slaw/ramen noodle salad that was all the rage years ago? I confess, I always loved it, but didn't serve it anymore because everyone else did! Now nobody serves it. Probably because they all thought the same thing.
Recently I found a new riff on my old favorite. This one includes mango, avocado, edamame and a lovely vinaigrette, not using the ramen noodle packet for flavoring. But the noodles and almonds are browned and crisped up in the oven for that lovely crunch. 

Ramen Salad Redux
From Gimme Some Oven

1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix
2 (3-ounce) packages of ramen noodles, crumbled (you will not use the seasoning packet)
1 cup shelled and cooked edamame
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 mango, peeled, pitted, diced, sliced or julienned 
1/2 cup thinly-sliced almonds
1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions 

Asian Honey Vinaigrette:
2/3 cup vegetable oil 
1/3 cup honey (or agave, to make this vegan)
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
pinch of salt and black pepper


Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread the crumbled ramen noodles and sliced almonds out on a baking sheet, and stir a bit to combine. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the almonds and noodles are slightly toasted and golden. Remove baking sheet, and give the mixture a good stir to toss. Then return it to the oven and toast for an additional 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Add ingredients (including the vinaigrette) together in a large bowl, and toss until combined. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. If refrigerating, I usually don't add the noodles and almonds until right before serving.


Meyer Lemon Semifreddo

Of course, nothing is more refreshing in the summer than a lemon dessert and if it's icy cold, all the better. This semifreddo is divinely light, so lemony and so perfect to serve at the end of a warm summer day....add your favorite berries, it'll be a hit with everyone. Fun to have it topped with those toasted almonds too, which not only makes a pretty presentation, but your mouth will enjoy that lovely crunch along with the cold smoothness of the semifreddo. 

Meyer Lemon Semifreddo
Recipe found at Epicurious

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 3/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
7 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated Meyer lemon peel or regular lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups mixed fresh berries (such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and quartered hulled strawberries)

Line 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang. Sprinkle almonds evenly over bottom of pan. 

Whisk 1 1/4 cups sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in large metal bowl. Set bowl over large saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until yolk mixture is thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 170°F. (This will take a LOT of elbow grease!) Then take the bowl off the water and beat with an electric hand mixer for about 6 minutes, nor until the mixture has doubled in volume and is cooled.  

Beat whipping cream in large bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the two mixtures together and pour it into the prepared loaf pan and smooth top. Tap loaf pan lightly on work surface to remove air pockets. Fold plastic wrap overhang over top to cover. 
Freeze at least 8 hours or overnight. 
Unfold plastic wrap from top of semifreddo and invert dessert onto platter; remove plastic wrap. Dip heavy large knife into hot water; cut the semifreddo crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Transfer to plates; spoon berries alongside and serve.


Buttermilk Walnut Snack Cake

Here's the thing: I'm not overly fond of walnuts. In an apple or pear salad, yes. But usually, when I see a recipe calling for walnuts, I change it to pecans. Not as bitter. My mother, on the other hand, loved walnuts, so it isn't because I didn't eat them as a child, I  just don't prefer them. Frankly, for the most part, I don't think kids like nuts in their baked goods anyway, at least mine didn't.
But, and there's always a "but", I'm not sure I'd like this cake if it was made with pecans. Believe me, I surprised myself by even wanting to make it, but it was that penuche icing that was the siren's call. (My dad would have loved it.) And the walnuts are great with that sweet icing. Easy cake to make for summer picnics, I think you'll like it.
1. I made it in a 9 by 9 pan, which made it thicker and took about 15 minutes longer to bake. You'll get way more servings if you make it in a 9 by 13 pan. (And probably more frosting per slice!)
2. The penuche frosting sets up after a time, but it'll run down the sides when you slather it on. This is not a bad thing.....see photo at the bottom. Yum.  You could add more confectioners sugar to make it firmer for traveling.
3. I toasted the walnuts.

Buttermilk Walnut Snack Cake with Penuche Frosting
From Noble Pig

For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large  eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk 
1 cup  chopped walnuts

For the frosting:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light colored corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt, whisking until mixed.
Place butter and sugars in a mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until just combined. Add flour alternately with buttermilk, ending with flour. Mix until just combined, do not overmix. Fold in walnuts and pour into prepared cake pan.
Bake for 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middles comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
For the frosting, place brown sugar, 1/4 cup milk, butter, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil while stirring. Simmer for 2 minutes. Place mixture into a bowl with confectioners' sugar, remaining 2 Tablespoons of milk and vanilla. Beat for 2-3 minutes until slightly cooled and thick. Spread evenly over cake and sprinkle with walnuts.
Let frosting set before cutting the cake into squares.


Fusilli with Meyer Lemon Cream Sauce

Such a scrumptious dish and you probably have all the ingredients in your fridge and pantry. The recipe is almost too simple to post! And I'm certain we all throw this kind of pasta dish together frequently.
Nonetheless: this lemon pasta is a quick dinner for summer, easy to make and full of Meyer lemon flavor. The touch of garlic is perfect and it's nice and cheesy. 

(Another of my favorite easy pastas is Ina's Summer Pasta!)

Fusilli with Meyer Lemon Cream Sauce
From The Corner Kitchen

1 pound fusilli pasta
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic
2 cups heavy cream
Zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt & fresh ground pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a high-rimmed sauté pan or a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and cook for about a minute. Pour in the cream and cook until it's about one-third of the way reduced. It should thicken slightly. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Remove the sauce from the heat.

Toss with pasta with the sauce. Divide between plates or top with additional Parmesan cheese and Meyer lemon zest.


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