Last night’s dinner (fourth week of Feb 2008)

Also cross-posted on my MySpace blog.

Yesterday was my sister’s birthday, so I made her a dish that has become one of her favorites. It’s similar to a dish I had at a pasta restaurant last time I was in Portland, I think the dish was called “carbonara”. Simply put, it’s pasta with peas, bacon and black pepper in a white sauce. The bacon is any bacon I have that’s already cooked, drained, and cut into small bits. It doesn’t take very much, just enough to flavor the sauce and provide a little something to chew on. To make the white sauce, I usually make a pretty thick roux with unsalted butter and flour, then I stir in some whole milk and just a little bit of heavy cream (if there’s any in the house) and bring it to a simmer before pouring it on some already-cooked pasta. For the peas I use frozen green peas that have been heated up in a separate pan. Just mix that all together and add some cracked black pepper and you’re done!

My sister liked it so much she thanked me profusely last night and sent me an e-mail today saying how good it was. 🙂

We also had some nice steaks that my brother cooked, and some salad at the beginning of the meal.

For dessert, my sister said she wanted something “appley and cinnamony”, so I made her an apple upside down cake that I’ve made before, and which turns out . . . well, very appley and very cinnamony. The recipe is below.

So, all in all, it was a good meal and my sister said she had a really nice birthday. Yay!!

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This is adapted from the “upside-down toffee apple brownies” recipe in the book Blissful Brownies.

Bake time: 35-40 minutes at 350 C, 9-inch square or similar sized pan

Ingredients:

  • Topping
    • generous 1/3 c dark brown sugar
    • 1/2 stick or 1/4 c unsalted butter
    • 1 apple, cored and thinly sliced (I’ve had good luck with Braeburns and Fujis, but you can use pretty much anything depending on the taste and texture you want)
  • Cake
    • 1 stick or 1/2 c unsalted butter
    • 3/4 c dark brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 c all-purpose flour (you can also use oat flour here, but the cake will be much crumblier if you use that)
    • 1 c 1-minute instant oatmeal
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp allspice
    • 1/4 tsp ginger
    • 1/4 tsp cloves
    • 2 apples coarsely grated (if you don’t peel them, the cake will be noticeably chewier, but also have more apple flavor; apple variety is the same as mentioned above)
    • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (can be hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, whatever)

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease your pan.

For the topping, heat the sugar and butter in a small pan over medium or medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is melted. Pour into pan bottom and arrange apples on top.

For the cake, mix butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. It can be mixed just until blended, or can be beaten until fluffy. If beaten until fluffy, cake will be fluffier. Mix in eggs, then mix in grated apples.

In second mixing bowl, mix together all remaining ingredients. Mix together wet and dry ingredients (it will be a relatively stiff dough at this point) and pour into cake pan over apples and molten sugar. Smooth down cake dough and place in oven.

Cook until firm and golden brown. Cake is moist enough that a knife inserted into the cake will always come out moist, so check for firmness instead.

Once done, take out of oven and let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes. Turn out only plate or platter, slice and serve.

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And now for a couple of random notes:

– I didn’t actually do this, but I did think about making some D’Vine Joy Rooibos tea to go with the apple cake. D’Vine Joy is a really good cinnamon and spice rooibos tea available from The Carnelian Rose Tea Company. There are other tea companies that have tried to make similar blends, but there’s nothing like D’Vine Joy.

– Speaking of bacon, I found the site Grateful Palate recently, they have a bacon-of-the-month club!?  I’d be almost tempted to sign up, except that it’s a lot more expensive than I’m willing to pay. But still . . . interesting concept.

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