Sunday, October 18, 2009

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake - gluten free! Or not.


So it's mid-October and we are finally getting some "weather" here in Southern California. And by "weather," I mean that it has been overcast all morning, and last week it even rained a little bit for two days!.

If you live, well, anywhere else, I don't know if you can understand how exciting this is for us. It is sunny and hot here almost every day of the year. And while that sounds nice on the face of it (no blizzards! No hurricanes!), after a lifetime of perfect sunshine, you start to get sick of it. You crave days where it's appropriate to wear closed toed shoes, or a sweater. You wish it were cold enough to enjoy a mug of hot cocoa. You long to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a good book while the rain patters outside. You start to get resentful of the cheery weather, and are deeply disappointed by another perfect sunny day in November. You shake your fist at the sky, and grumble about how it's supposed to be autumn, not summer.


So when it actually rains here, people are so excited that get just a little bit hysterical. Every freeway is gnarled up with enormous traffic accidents. People keep their kids home from school and celebrate by putting on thick socks and drinking hot cocoa. There is a mad rush for umbrellas. And it's not uncommon to see people standing outside, just looking at the rain with awestruck wonder. When it rained last week we were so excited about our "weather" that we bundled the baby up and sat out on the patio, just to watch the water fall from the sky. When Nate and I lived in England, I used to walk around in a constant state of elation, because it rained almost every single day.. Every single day felt like a gift to mankind, as though every day were Christmas.

This cake is the perfect complement to the rare and precious Southern California rainy day. It is delicious, rustic, warm and comforting, and infused with the flavors of tart apples, warm sticky caramel, butter, almonds, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It's yummy.


Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

This cake can be made 2 ways: gluten-free, or not. Whatever way you make it, I encourage you to try it with the almond meal and the almond milk. The almonds really bring along a light, nutty flavor that really complements the apples and the caramel.

4 tart green apples, such as granny smith, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vanilla flavored almond milk (you can substitute cow's milk)
1.5 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (I used Pamela's and we LOVE it! I totally recommend. Or substitute 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 cup almond meal)
2 pinches salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy bottomed skillet, melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter. Add 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, and bring to a bubbling boil, whisking vigorously until the sugar and caramel are incorporated and smooth. Add 4 peeled, cored, and sliced green apples, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, stirring ocassionally, until apples are coated in caramel and beginning to soften. Turn off heat and set aside. You can cook the cake in this skillet, or divide the apples between ramkins for individual servings.

1. A a stand mixer, beat 1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature butter with 1/2 cup white sugar until pale in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 2 large eggs one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1.5 cups flour, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1 pinch salt.

3. with mixer on low, Add 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk to stand mixer, followed by flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated. scrape down sides of bowl, mixing in any little bits that may be clinging to the side of the bowl. Pour batter over apples, and spread gently to cover the apple mixture. Top with 1/s cup toasted almonds.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove when cake has puffed and is golden on top. When cake has cooled, run a knife around the edges of the cake pan and invert onto a serving platter. Scrape any apples or caramel that cling to the pan onto the cake. Top with a scoop of vanilla icecream. Enjoy!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rustic Basque Chicken Stew with Tomatoes, Potatoes, and other Yummy Things


Blog, I've missed you. And I am so tired of explanations and excuses, so I'm not going to go into it. Honestly though, I needed a break. The last six months of my life have just been so crazy, so full of crisis, sleeplessness, and borderline hysteria, that now that things have finally begun to settle down I just needed to chill OUT and get my life back together.


Now I'm back! And I have so many yummy autumnal recipes to share with you! And so many cute pictures of this little one! I love him so, even if he has turned my world upside down shook it within an inch of its life.


This recipe is very special to me. It was one of the very first things I learned to cook when I was about 16, and the first taste of it floored me. I had never tasted something so good, and truth be told, I didn't even know food could taste so rich and wonderful. I'm not going to lie to you - my mom is not exactly the most inspired of cooks, and it was normal for us to eat the same thing every night for dinner for YEARS. My sister and I still joke about the "stuff on rice" years, where we ate sauteed chicken and vegetables on rice every single night for about 6 years. That's 2190 consecutive dinners of the same thing. By the 2189th dinner, we were really tired of it. This stew was SO good, and it still is. It's not as mind-blowing to me as it was back then, seeing as how I eat different things for dinner all the time now, but it's still mighty good. BECKS RECOMMENDS. You may cook now.


Basque Chicken Stew With Tomatoes, Potatoes, and Other Yummy Things
adapted from Paul Williams

The secret ingredient in this stew is BACON. Bippity Boppity Bacon! Don't leave it out. It's important. And so tasty.

2 large chicken breasts
1/4 lb bacon
2 medium yellow onions
2 red bell peppers (or 1 red and 1 green)
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 cups small new potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 cup white wine
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
1 pinch cayenne pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush olive oil over 2 chicken breasts, and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in over 15 - 20 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the oven, and let cool.

Dice Chicken.

Cut 2 red bell peppers in half lengthwise, and remove the stem and seeds. Roast in the oven until tough skins are blackened, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

remove skins for peppers, and slice into long strips.

Cut 1/4 lb bacon into small strips. Saute in a heavy bottomed skillet until crispy. Remove from pan, reserving the bacon grease.

Chop two medium onions into long strips. Saute in the reserved bacon fat until softened and translucent.

Place bacon and chicken in a large pot.

Add sliced pepper, sauteed onions, and 2 cups chicken stock.

Add 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes...

...1 cup white wine...

...1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley...

... and 2 cups peeled, roughly chopped new potatoes.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and let simmer 1-2 hours, until potatoes are soft. Tastes even better the second day. Enjoy!