Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Baking Again..........

It is certainly good to be home!  I've been traveling for the last few weeks...living out of a suitcase...eating nasty food that I am NOT used to eating.  Don't worry...I didn't go completely crazy and eat at Taco Bell or anything like that but I usually do not eat out at all.   In general, I find restraunt food over salted yet under seasoned (unless you count all the msg thats hidden in marinades, sauces and dressings), too high in both calories and fat, under-inspired and over-priced.  But then again, I'm probably much more critical than most diners.

Of note, we did find this cool little diner off the beaten path in Franfort Indiana.  Shaggy's Diner...tres retro in an old store front, exposed brick walls, stone chess set (game in progress) at a table in the front window and guitar, chair and mike in the other front window niche.  Local art all over the walls of course.  The food was simple fare but very tasty.  The prices were definately retro...great deals.  I'd go again if only for the ambiance but the food was actually good.  Why do I feel like Guy Fieri all of a sudden?  Lord, I hope my mouth isn't that big.....

Greyhound Tavern in Fort Thomas, Kentucky...save your money.  Highly over-rated.  Old decor, old menu, old customers, old...old...old.  I was waiting for the aging servers with the lipstick lines all the way to the nostrils to come marching out of the kitchen bearing trays of iceberg wedges frosted with thousand island dressing and those nasty little jello salad squares with mini marshmallows and canned pineapple nesting on wads of wilted leaf lettuce.  It had the feel of a church pot-luck where everyone made the recipes on the Campbell's soup can labels and the vanilla wafer boxes.  And the service was abysmal at best...if I were that unhappy being a 65 year old waitress, I believe I'd hang up my orthopedic panty hose and QUIT!

In Columbus, Ohio we did enjoy a walk through the "Victorian sector" and dinner at Moody's...a trendy (and VERY BUSY) Italian resturant that had just the right mix of traditional and trendy cuisine.  We started with a cheese board sampler that came on a paper lined board with little accoutremonts such as salted honey and white truffle oil.  The bread was a little ordinary and would have been much better served warm but the olive oil and aged balsamic in which to dip it was stupendous...fruity and bold at the same time. 

I had the most amazing salad of baby arugula, sunchokes, marcona almonds, dried cranberries and shaved pecorino with a lemon olive oil vinaigrette.  We also shared a pot of mixed olives (there were 12 of us ok...I didn't eat this all by myself).  My pescitarian daughter and her boyfriend shared a roasted shrimp and pesto flatbread.  My oldest daughter and her boyfriend shared the enourmous stuffed veal meatballs with marinara and capellini.  My mother and I shared the most amazing flatbread pizza of caramelized onions, tellegio and crisped panchetta that was topped with paper thin strips of crisped potates and baby arugula. 

Afterwards we had to walk off dinner and check out the shops.  My oldest daughter, who lives in Columbus proclaimed that we MUST try the ice cream shop.  I can't remember the name...I'll have to ask her because if you are ever in Columbus you MUST go there!  I don't even LIKE ice cream and I was amazed.  I had a cup of Roasted Cherry Goat Cheese Ice Cream and it was truely one of the best tasting things I've ever eaten.  I paid for all that dairy later but for once it was worth it!

Other than those few eating establishments, the rest were a parade of chain joints....Cheesecake factory (which I personally find highly over rated), the ever present (and gut wrenching) Cracker Barrell to which I was dragged kicking and screaming, Ruby Tuesdays etc etc.  I had to come home and do a juice detox for 3 days.....

I did cook a couple of meals while at my brother's house but only because they live so far out in the boonies that there are no restaraunts.  I NEVER mind doing the cooking but my traveling companion (mom) feels that vacation means a vacation from cooking and gets downright offended if anyone suggests eating at home!  I have left her in Indiana...stuck off in BFE at my brother's place for the entire month of July.  I'll go back and retrieve after the wedding in Kentucky (my best friend's son) that I am helping to cater.

My poor kitchen!  I had to make SOMETHING today and I had some fresh medjool dates that were...well...they had become DRIED medjool dates.  I decided to cook them down in some orange juice and turn that into a date puree.  I knew I wanted to make some sort of bar so I just decided to wing it....my Whole Wheat Date Yogurt Bars are the result.  Sweet dates, tangy greek yogurt over a crust of oats, whole wheat flour, butter and a few other tasty ingredients become a wonderful dense and delicious bar cookie.

Whole Wheat Date Yogurt Bars

1 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup organic rolled oats
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted organic butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups pitted medjool dates
1 cup orange juice
2 T orange zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup plain Greek Yogurt (fat free is fine)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 cup unbleached cane sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large cage free organic egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.  Combine both flours, oats, almond meal, wheat germ, brown sugar and salt in container of food processor.  Add cubes of cold butter and pulse mixture until combined.  Mixture will hold together when pressed or squeezed.

2.  Grease and flour an 9x9x2 inch baking pan.  Set aside 1/3 of crust mixture and press remaining crust into pan.  Set aside while filling are prepared.

3.  Place pitted dated and orange juice in a small sauce pan and simmer over medium heat until dates are tender and most of the juice is gone.  Remove from heat and scrape into food processor.  Add orange zest and lemon juice; pulse until smooth.  Spread this mixture over the prepared crust.

4.  In a small bowl, combine greek yogurt, flour, sugar, vanilla and beaten egg.  Spread this mixture evenly over date mixture.  Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over the yogurt.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Cool before cutting.

Servings will depend on how large you cut the bars.  Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

These bars are chewy in the middle with a nice firm bottom crust and the yummy, tangy yogurt topped with buttery crumbs.

(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Muscle Muffins

Lately everyone is on the protein bandwagon.  I've tasted a few protein bars and muffins and may I just say....YUCK!  Seriously, they don't really expect people to eat that stuff do they?  I don't know...but a little cake of compressed, sweetened sawdust with a couple of flakes of oatmeal and a half dozen chocolate chips does NOT a good snack make...I don't care how much protein is in it!

I spent a couple of days googling protein muffin recipes and I was NOT impressed.  As all serious foodies are apt to do...I read the recipes and I KNOW they either don't work like the recipe says or they work but they taste like crap!  Also...there is too much emphasis on artificial sweeteners and rancid oils.  Nahhhh...I'll pass. 

Maybe I mentioned this before and maybe not but I'm on this campaign to get some muscles (and get rid of some other stuff...).  As an erstwhile vegan and general lazy person when it comes to eating (not cooking for others though), my biggest problem is skipping meals.  I know...those who read my blog on a regular basis are scatching their heads right now saying....HUH??? Most of these tantalizing desserts that you see never cross my lips other than one bite to determine if they are right.  Listen...I'm at that gym 6 days a week shaking my groove thang in Latin Fushion, Zumba and even BELLY DANCING classes, lifting weights and running on that infernal treadmill like a hampster on one of those wretched wheels.  It AIN'T PRETTY!!  Remember the movie, "White Men Can't Jump"??  Let me just tell you, middle aged white women cannot roll their hips like Shakira while simultaneously engaging in a complicated series of hand gestures and foot patterns.  It looks vaguely obscene and I hope to God that I never see myself as a SPOOF on youtube.  BUT...I try!

That being said, I am trying to get more protein into my diet for building lean muscle tissue.  It's not that I was deficient before but I think my carb to lean protein ratio was out of whack.  The result...legs that look like a chicken drumstick...which is indeed...VERY bad Ju Ju.  Plain fat free Greek Yogurt (Fage' is my favorite) is a great source of protein.  I have also mentioned before that I use this awesome vegan protein powder (Life's Basics unsweetened Vanilla) that is wheat free, soy free, dairy free, egg free, gluten free, sugar free, non- gmo and very low carb.  A serving yields a whopping 22g of protein from all vegan sources....brown rice, pea, hemp and chia seed. 

Since I never found an acceptable protein muffin recipe, I set out to create my own.  I've attempted this before with disaterous results by the way.  Protein powders are hard to bake with.  The last time I tried some muffins, they didn't rise at all and my dog sniffed the air and hid in my bedroom till the smell cleared out.  But I finally hit the right combination of ingredients the day before yesterday and made a killer tasting, good looking, healthful protein muffin.   Do you think rewarding myself with 4 muffins and an Iced Mochachinno would be overkill?

Blueberry Banana Protein Muffins

  • 1 cup cake flour (I know...but if you don't...they are going to be hockey pucks)

  • 3/4 cup oat flour

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla protein powder of choice

  • 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

  • 4 tablespoons Inulin fiber boost (Fiber35 acai fiber will work also)

  • 1/2 cup raw evaporated coconut tree sap sugar (may sub succanat)

  • 2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 6 ounces fat free Fage' plain Greek style yogurt

  • 4 large egg whites

  • 1/3 cup low fat (1%) buttermilk

  • 2 large ripe bananas

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

  • 1 pint fresh blueberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease muffin wells with coconut oil.  Papers are not good for low fat muffins...half the muffin sticks to the paper. 

  2. Use a large bowl to combine all dry ingredients including raw coconut tree sap sugar (or succanat).  Mix well.

  3. Place all remaining ingredients except blueberries in the blender.  Blend until smooth and not pieces of banana remain.  Make a well in dry ingredients.  Pour wet ingredients over dry all at once.  Stir until no dry spots remain.  Fold in blueberries. 

  4. Using 1/4 cup measure or ice cream scoop, fill muffin tins 2/3 full.  This recipe makes 15 -16 muffins.  If desired, sprinkle tops with demerera sugar before baking.  Bake on center rack in preheated oven until muffins are golden brown and puffed up.  A pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack.  Wrap and freeze if not using right away.
Each muffin has 150 calories, 2.5g fat, 5g dietary fiber, 8g protein, 105mg sodium, 0 cholesterol and 20g carbohydrates.

Net effective carbs will be lower due to high fiber content.

(nutritonal values may not be exact because I'm not a scientist but they are good enough for government work!)

BTW...those lovely, juicy orange segments are Florida grown...sweet and loaded with potassium, fiber, vitamin C and flavenoids!

(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Crazy For Rhubarb

With all the attention on feta cheese and creating contest recipes the last few days, I've been slow about getting the pictures and recipe posted for my Three Fruit Pie with Vegan Coconut Rhubarb Ice Cream.
Why three fruits?  Well, that's simple...because I didn't have enough rhubarb for both a whole pie AND a batch of ice cream so I improvised.

I must say though, I got some of the finest looking rhubarb I had ever seen a few weeks ago from the organic co-op that I belong to.  BTW...if you are interested and live near Cape Coral or Fort Myers check out their website at http://freshorganicsswfl.com/index.htm   The color of this rhubarb was so rich it was literally ruby jewel-toned and very crisp (when raw). 

Without a doubt, this MUST become a rhubarb pie and of course one can't enjoy a stellar pie like homemade rhubarb without ice cream. Since I don't eat dairy (except for the aforementioned addictions to feta and greek yogurt), the choice to make this a vegan ice cream was a no-brainer.
I suggest making the ice cream base a day ahead and refrigerating it.  This gives the finished ice cream a velvety texture with less ice crystals.

Rhubarb is tart.  In fact, it will pucker your lips up like a draw string bag if you try eating it without sugar.  I realize my posts of late make it look like we live on sugar around here but in fact we do not (honest!).  However, sometimes I make quite ordinary meals (grilled veggies, salads, and grilled meats for hubs) on a daily basis and don't feel that they are all worthy of posting.  LOL...season, brush with oil and slap on grill...especially when its this blazing HOT outside!  I know no one is interested in the mundane sustenence of a back-slidden vegan, her carbohydrate addicted mother and a husband that will eat anything that doesn't eat him first!  Hence, you mostly see the "special" treats.  This duo definately falls into that category.

Three Fruit Pie with Vegan Coconut Rhubarb Ice Cream

Prepare Ice Cream base a day in advance and refrigerate overnight.

  • 2 cups sliced fresh (or frozen) rhubarb

  • 1 cup organic raw cane sugar

  • 1/2 cup raw coconut tree syrup (may sub agave, maple syrup or honey if not vegan)

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 2 cans full fat organic coconut milk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup dessicted organic freeze dried unsweetened coconut

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook rhubarb in sugar, syrup and water until tender.  Allow the mixture to simmer until thick and rhubarb is completely soft.  Cool to room temperature.

  2. In a large bowl, combine rhubarb mixture with coconut milk, vanilla extract and dessicated coconut.  Whisk until well blended.  There will be small bits of rhubarb in the mixture.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Note:  If the mixture is not sweet enough for your taste you may add as much as 1/2 a cup more of syrup of choice and mix well.

  3. Pour mixture into container of ice cream maker and process according to manufacturers directions.  Once ice cream has thickened fully, turn out into a container with lid and store in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.
For Sweet "Buttery" Vegan Pie Crust:

  • 2 3/4 - 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (for two crust pie)

  • 1 stick Earth Balance buttery vegan margarine (it is not hydrogenated)

  • 1/2 cup chilled palm kernel shortening

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3 tablespoons organic raw cane sugar

  • 1 cup ice cold water (you won't use it all)

  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

  1. Place flour, both fats, salt and sugar in food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Do not overmix!  *it is important that fats be cold so they don't heat up too much from the processor motor.

  2. Add vinegar to ice water.  With motor of processor running, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture begins to form a ball.  You will NOT use all the water.  Depending on the humidity, you may only use 4 or 5 tablespoons.  Remember, you can always add but you can't take away so less is better.  Once dough begins to ball up in processor, take it out and quickly knead into a ball (2 or 3 squeezes).  Divide into two portions (one slightly larger for bottom crust) and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling.
Three Fruit Pie Filling

  • 4 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb, 1/2" slice

  • 3 large fuji apples, peeled and diced

  • 2 cups quartered strawberries

  • 6 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour

  • 1 cup raw coconut sugar (can sub demerera, succanat or cane sugar)

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon vegan earth balance buttery margarine, cold

  • sugar for top of pie
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  1. In a very large bowl, combine all ingredients except earth balance.  Toss fruits very well with flour sugar mixture.  Let stand at room temp while you roll out pie crust.

  2. Flour work surface and rolling pin.  Roll out larger piece of dough to size needed for your pie plate.  Fold dough over rolling pin and transfer to dish.  Gently press so that dough is firmly against the pie dish and fills the bottom.  Turn fruit mixture out into crust.  It will be a big mound.  Cut cold margarine into little cubes and distribute evenly over filling.  Roll out second piece of dough and use to top filling.  Flute edges and cut vents in the top of the crust.  Brush lightly with water and sprinkle with demerera sugar.

  3. Place pie on a foil lined baking sheet and into preheated 400 degree oven.  Bake for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350 and bake additional 55 minutes.  If crust edges become too brown, cover with a foil collar or pie guard.  Cool pie on wire rack for at least 45 minutes so filling will "set" a bit before cutting.  Serve warm with Vegan Coconut Rhubarb Ice Cream.


(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Feta is betta....

Good evening everyone!  Let me just start by saying a big THANKS to Denise, Lazaro and Nancy for choosing my recipe in the "Quickies" challenge.  It is really an honor since ALL of the bloggers are such talented cooks.  Thanks again!

Without a doubt, one of the biggest surprises I've had in the kitchen in a long time was finding out that feta cheese actually tastes GOOD as a dessert.  Mind you, I love me some feta.  In fact, were it not for feta cheese and Greek yogurt I'd be a stalwart vegan but alas...I go weak in the knees for a hunk of cheese that smells vaguely like sweat socks.  However, I am fairly certain that the biblical reference of "manna from Heaven" was in reference to feta cheese!

I did not distinguish the type of feta that I used in the brownie recipe...sorry!  Reading Biren's post (Roti n Rice) about the difference between Bulgarian and Greek feta reminded me that some people do not really know there is a distinction.  Greek feta, which is my personal preference is sharp, salty, crumbly and drier than the milder, creamier Bulgarian.  Feta can be made from cow, goat or sheep's milk.  French feta is often made from sheep's milk, Bulgarian from goat or a combo.  Greek is most commonly cow's milk (whether domestic or imported) however, I have gotten goat milk Greek style feta in specialty markets.  Gee...can anyone tell that I'm obsessed with feta cheese? 

The brownies incedentally were made with Greek feta as was the "bonus recipe" that came about because I had left over ingredients from the contest recipes. 

I was more ambivalent about the Individual Feta Cheesecakes because the feta would feature so prominently (being that there was not two pounds of excellent quality chocolate sitting underneath it).  The process for making the batter was identical to what went on top of the brownies but I've jazzed the cheesecakes up with a pecan crust and a drizzle of ginger infused agave nectar.  See what you think.......

Individual Feta Cheesecakes with Ginger Infused Agave Syrup

  • 6 ounces room temperature cream cheese
  • 3 ounces feta cheese
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 3/4 cup *Florida Crystals organic cane sugar plus extra sugar for ramekins
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons organic all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup blue agave nectar
  • 1/2 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
  • fruit of choice to garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter the bottoms and sides of 4 (six ounce) ramekins.  Place about a teaspoon of coarse natural sugar crystals in each and twirl until sugar coats the insides.  Divide the chopped pecans evenly between the four ramekins.  Gently shake to flatten the nuts into an even layer. 
  2. Place all remaining ingredients except agave and ginger in blender.  Blend until thick and smooth.  Optional add ins could be added AFTER blending (example: zest, mini chocolate chips, or whatever you might normally add into a cheesecake).  Divide mixture evenly between the four ramekins.  Place ramekins in a 4 quart glass casserole dish and set on the middle shelf in oven.  Carefully pour hot water into casserole dish to a depth of 1- 1/2 inches or about half the depth of ramekins.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes until set.  They will be mostly firm but you may see a very small amount of "giggle" near the center which is fine.
  3. Remove cheesecakes from water bath and cool in wire rack.  I recommend chilling for several hours before unmoulding.  When ready to unmold, carefully dip the dish into a bowl of hot water for a few seconds.  Run a butter knife around the edges to loosen.  Invert on serving dish.
  4. Prepare Gingered Agave Syrup:  Pour agave nectar into a small sauce pan.  Slice ginger and add to syrup.  Heat syrup over low heat until hot but not boiling.  Remove from heat and strain out ginger.  Chill syrup until ready to serve.  Syrup may be made while cheesecakes are cooling or ahead of time. Decorate with fruits of choice and drizzle with ginger infused agave syrup. 
Makes four servings and they are fantastic!

Dense, sharp and incredibly RICH!

(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Second Contest Entry - Avocado Fudge Brownies with Feta Cheesecake Swirl

No...you did NOT read that title wrong!  I really DID make an avocado brownie that's marbled with feta cheesecake.  This is my second entry for Denise and Lazaro's challenge.  (See details at http://lazarocooks.blogspot.com/ or http://quickiesonthedinnertable.yolasite.com/ 

While you are there, be sure to check out Denise's book......

Before everyone becomes convinced that I have taken leave of my senses (again), let me explain the reasoning behind the avocado brownie.  I have played around for years with different ingredients and methods in the quest to create truely scrumptuous vegan baked goods that are just as good if not better than their dairy/egg laden counterparts.

I must admit, I've made some real messes along the way.  But I've made some breakthroughs as well.  One of those was my Vegan Avocado Fudge Cupcake which we sold at Central Florida Veg Fest two years in a row...by the HUNDREDS.  The avocado serves a dual purpose here...both as an egg replacement/emulsifier and a healthy fat source.  It works amazingly well too.  Granted the brownies are not vegan but I thought...why not give it a whirl and see what happens.

The results were astounding.  My ridiculously rich recipe for Fleur De Sel Caramel Triple Chocolate Brownies uses a Deen-like amount of butter.  I replaced one of the eggs and half of the butter with pureed avocado and the result is a dense, moist, fudge-like brownie that probably breaks the law in some states.  To encorporate the feta, I made a feta cheesecake batter to swirl into the brownies.  There is so much anti-oxident rich dark chocolate in these brownies that they actually look BLACK!  The feta cheesecake swirl is a nice contrast.

Avocado Fudge Brownies with Feta Cheesecake Swirl

  • 10 ounces dark (70% cacao) chocolate, chips or broken chunks

  • 1/2 stick unsalted organic butter

  • 1 ripe Haas avocado, pitted and peeled

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

  • 1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder

  • 3 large organic eggs (1 for cheesecake swirl)

  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown organic sugar

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour (organic preferred)

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

  • 4 ounces room temperature cream cheese

  • 3 ounces feta cheese

  • 1/3 cup organic cane sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8x8 baking pan; set aside.

  1. Place chocolate chunks and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water.  Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Stir until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat.

  2. While chocolate melts, combine avocado, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla, salt, buttermilk, espresso powder, 2 of the whole eggs and the brown sugar in blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add avocado mixture to semi cooled chocolate gradually until encorporated.

  3. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with baking powder and cocoa.  Pour chocolate avocado mixture into flour mixture and stir until no dry spots remain.  Coat nuts in 1 of the remaining tablespoons of flour.  Fold into batter.  Do not overmix.  Batter will be very thick and fudge like.  Smooth batter into prepared pan.

  4. Prepare the Feta Cheesecake Swirl:  Place remaining egg, vanilla extract, softened cream cheese and feta in blender.  Add granulated sugar and last tablespoon of flour.  Process until thick and smooth.  If you need a couple drops of buttermilk to facilitate blending that is ok but try blending without it first.  This mixture should be thick but pourable.

  5. Using a butter knife, cut through the brownie batter in a swirl pattern.  The batter is thick enough to stay put.  Pour Feta Cheesecake mixture into the indentions in brownie.  If additional swirling is necessary, just drag knife through until desired swirling is achieved.

  6. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.  The center may still seem wet when pricked with a cake tester and that is fine.  Do not overbake.  Cool brownies completely before removing from pan.  Cut into desired shapes.  Number of servings will vary depending on how they are cut. 

Check out the beautiful swirled tops...

Very dark and moist...but they cut beautifully.

a little creative plating with a ripe, juicy strawberry, a dusting of cocoa and powdered sugar and some bon bon candles.  I stood one brownie on it's side for visual impact and also to show the color and texture. 

Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Contest Entry Number One - Avocado & Green Onion Corn Cakes with Feta-ziki Sauce

As most of my "circle" of blogger buddies know, we have a wonderful opportunity to participate in a contest co-sponsored by Denise at http://quickiesonthedinnertable.yolasite.com/ and Lazaro at http://lazarocooks.blogspot.com/

Cover of Denise's lovely book which is one of the contest prizes.

First I'd like to say thanks to both Denise and Lazaro for inspiring us to culinary creativity (something at which both are infinately accomplished themselves).  I couldn't have asked for two better ingredients since BOTH are absolute favorites of mine. 

It was difficult to choose between a sweet or savory dish and ultimately, I couldn't.  So I made both. 
With this first entry my "southern roots" are definately showing!  My grandmother made the hands down BEST cornmeal cakes on this earth in her day.  We always called them "granny's hoe-cakes".  Before anyone gets excited...I said HOE...no HO!!  The unusual origins of this particular southern delicacy are said to have originated with slaves and field hands who mixed inexpensive coarse corn meal with water (and sometimes meat drippings if they were lucky enough to have any) and cooked the resulting "pancakes" on the blades of their hoes which were heated over the camp fire.  It was cheap, portable and filled an empty belly.

Cornmeal cakes are also referred to as "Johnny Cakes" (though I have no clue why on this one), "cornmeal fritters" and "fried cornbread."  There may be other names but those are the ones most commonly used where I grew up. 

By the way, I love fried bread!  What's not to love?  Of course, I don't fry often and I don't use bacon grease or lard as was my grandmother's fat of choice.  The recipe I've created takes the Hoe cake to a whole new height of fried bread delciousness.  I did use a white self-rising cornmeal blend (Three Rivers is the only brand our family EVER used) just because I find it easier and better than guessing or experimenting with meal/flour ratios.  This is NOT one of those "add water and stir" things though.  You can use any brand of self-rising cornmeal blend that you like.

Avocado and Green Onion Corn Cakes with Feta-ziki Sauce

A lovely, rustic pale green cornmeal cake served with a fresh spin on Tzatziki Sauce

For the Corn Cakes:
  • 1 ripe Haas avocado, peeled and seeded
  • 1 whole organic egg
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (organic preferred)
  • 2 cups white self-rising cornmeal blend (any brand)
  • 1 cup sliced green onion tops
  • olive oil for frying
  1. Place peeled avocado in the blender with the egg and buttermilk.  Blend until smooth.
  2. Measure self rising cornmeal blend into a 2 quart bowl.  Pour avocado-buttermilk mixture into cornmeal all at once.  Stir until no dry spots can be seen.  Fold in green onion tops.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet (I prefer cast iron).  Use 1/4 cup scooop (or eyeball it) to measure batter into hot pan.  Flatten batter so that cakes are about 4 inches in circumference.  Space cakes about 2 inches apart to facilitate turning.  Cook until golden brown on first side; about 5 minutes over medium high heat.  Flip carefully and cook until second side is golden brown and crispy.  Cool on paper towel lined platter.
Makes 8 large cakes

For Feta-ziki:
  • 1 cup Greek style plain yogurt (I used fat free but you can use what you like)
  • 1/2 cup shredded English cucumber, peel on and squeezed dry
  • 1 clove grated fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced dill
  • 3 ounces finely crumbled feta cheese
  • black pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir well.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Top Avocado Green Onion Corn Cakes with generous dollops of Feta-ziki and enjoy!

Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

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Fort Myers, Florida, United States