Sunday, January 31, 2010


Roman and his roommate Christina treated a couple of friends to dinner last night. It was delicious. Roman made mac and cheese in a crock pot using sharp white cheddar, brie, gruyere and smoked gouda. Christina made a herb crusted pork roast, blanched green beans with pumpkin seeds and spinach salad with bosc pears and roasted hazelnuts (yes, the salad I’ve been making, and blogging about a lot lately). I’m so glad Christina found that recipe on Epicurious as well - everyone should know about it.

For dessert I wanted to bring something special since I was treated to such a nice dinner. I decided to make my grandmother’s coconut cake. On visits to Florida, other than seeing my grandmother and making trips back and forth between the ocean and the beach, her coconut cake was one of the things I looked forward to most. Now that I’ve made this cake twice, I’ve decided that it does taste best one or two days after making it. The flavor of the coconut has a chance to develop and the cake gets more moist. Nonetheless, my homemade coconut and pineapple ice cream made it work.

This recipe is not quick and easy, so make it only if you have a lot of time on your hands. And whatever you do, do not use pre-cut sweetened coconut. You gotta use the real deal for this cake. Try to find a scored coconut at the grocery so you don’t have to be so violent with the hammer.

Coconut Cake:

Cake: 2 cups cake flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 8 tbsp unsalted butter, 3 egg whites, 3/4 cup milk, 1 teas. vanilla

Cream butter until soft, add sugar until well mixed. Sift flour, add baking powder. Add flour to butter & sugar mixture alternate with milk and vanilla. Beat egg whites until they are lightly peaked. Fold egg whites into flour mixture and grease and flour 2 eight inch cake pan. Divide batter. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Frosting: 1 1/2 cup sugar, 5 tbsp water, 2 eggs whites, 1 tsp white corn syrup, 1 tsp vanilla

Cook all ingredients (except vanilla) in top of double boiler, beating with electric beater until stiff speaks form. Add vanilla, continue beating until stiff. Frost bottom layer, add around fresh coconut. Top cake with second layer, frost and cover sides and tops with remaining shredded coconut.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blogs I Follow: Love & Olive Oil

Although I don't think I could ever come close to how adorable this blog is, it is certainly a source of inspiration. Love & Olive Oil posts great recipes and recently Lindsay shared her secrets on cupcake decoration.

I recommend subscribing to this one, but if you don't want to commit, at least read about her decorating tips to make your desserts look pretty.

(photo courtesy of Love & Olive Oil)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Production Tradition: Baked Ziti

My friend Dan is directing a short horror flick called "NIGHT OF THE PUNKS" this weekend. For the last two shorts he has directed, I've made baked ziti for the cast and crew to eat. It might just be a couple steps up from ordering pizza (the ingredients are mostly the same), but it is homemade and it makes a big difference. I use the recipe that my Mom used to use for swim team pasta dinners. It is from The New McCall's Cook Book. I have the 1973 edition and it is a must have. You'll have to shop for it on Ebay or in used book stores is sadly out of print.

Here is the recipe, in case you can't get a hold of McCall's:

Baked Ziti Casserole

Sauce: 1/4 cup olive oil; 1 cup finely chopped onion; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1 can (2lb, 3 oz) Italian tomatoes, 1 can (6oz) tomato paste, 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley; 1 Tablespoon salt; 1 Tablespoon sugar; 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves; 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 1 package (1lb) ziti macaroni

Cheese layer: 2 carton (15 oz. size) ricotta cheese; 1 package (8oz) mozzarella cheese, diced; 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese; 2 eggs; 1 tablespoon chopped parsley; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1. Make Sauce: In hot oil in 6-quart kettle, saute onion and garlic until golden-brown - about 10 minutes. Add undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, 1-1/2 cups water, 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 tablespoon salt, the sugar, oregano, basil and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; mix well, mashing tomatoes with fork.
2. Bring to boiling; reduce heat; simmer, covered and stirring for 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook ziti as package label directs.
4. Make Cheese Layer: In large bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, 1/3 cup Parmesan, the eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Beat with wooden spoon until blended.
5. Spoon a little sauce into a 5 quart casserole. Layer a third of ziti, cheese mixture, and remaining sauce. Sprinkle sauce with 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Repeat twice.
6. Bake uncovered, 45 minutes, or until bubbling in center.
Make 8 to 10 servings.
Note: If desired, make the casserole ahead and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator while preheating oven. Bake 60 minutes or until heated through.