Tomato Cake Experiment

Over the summer I read a lot of articles in the Globe and Mail’s Food section, and one day I came across an article claiming that tomatoes are delicious in desserts. Ever since, I have been curious about how a tomato cake would taste, and today at work I had time to bake something new. January is a bit of a slow month for bakeries, and at  Life of Pie we have the opportunity to explore with recipes if we have time. I found the recipe for tomato cake from from cdkitchen.com 

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Ingredients

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons shortening

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 can tomato soup

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 cup raisins

1 cup nuts (I used chopped pecans)

Cream together the sugar, shortening, eggs, baking powder, and flour. Mix baking soda with tomato soup and add to mixture. Mix in spices, raisins and nuts. Pour into a square baking tray and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. My cake was done in 15 minutes, probably because I used a large baking pan.

I iced the cake with a brown sugar icing. I mixed 3 tablespoons of milk, 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 1/2 cups icing sugar. Ice the cake when it has cooled down, and cut into squares.

In all, the cake tasted good. The tomato soup made it quite moist, and the flavours went well together. To be honest though, I think I had built it up in my mind and was expecting something ridiculously delicious. This recipe uses a can of tomato soup, so perhaps the outcome would be different using fresh tomatoes. I also think the cake could have used some salt – when cooking, my stepdad always tells me how much tomatoes need salt – and I was surprised that the recipe I found did not call for any. The cake was a teensy bit bland, and perhaps a 1/4-1/2 tsp of salt is all it would have needed to have more flavour. I also would have liked the cake better without raisins.

The verdict: this will not be the last time I bake with tomatoes – there is a lot more exploring to be done! Perhaps next, some tomato ice cream? In the mean time, if you happen to be in Ottawa and happen to be near old Ottawa south, stop by Life of Pie for a slice of tomato cake!

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Pork and Cabbage Dumplings

This recipe was made using the cookbook called Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen. It was my first attempt at making dumplings, and they turned out quite well. Thanks to my brother James, and my sister-in-law Caroline for the Christmas gift!

Finished dumplings

The nice thing about this recipe is that it makes a lot (about 32 dumplings), and they can be eaten as a snack, as a starter, or as part of the main course. You can even make soup broth and make dumpling soup! But, I’m getting ahead of myself; the broth is part of a different recipe. You can also freeze the dumplings, uncooked.

I started with the dumpling dough: 

Ingredients

2 cups flour

3/4 cup water, boiled

Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Knead the dough with your hands (folding it on top of itself, and then pushing with the palm of your hand) for about two minutes. By this point the dough is smooth and a little sticky. Place the dough in a zip-lock bag (it fits inside a sandwich-size) and set aside for 15 minutes, while making the filling. If making the dumplings later, keep dough in the fridge, and when about to use, allow it to reach room temperature.

Next, I made the filling:

Ingredients

2 cups napa cabbage (I used regular green cabbage), finely chopped

1/2 tsp of salt, plus another 1/2 tsp

1 tbs finely minced fresh ginger

1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped

2/3 pound ground pork

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup chicken stock

1 1/2 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs rice wine or dry sherry (I used port because it was around)

1 tbs canola oil

1 1/2 tbs sesame oil

cabbage

Add cabbage, 1/2 tsp salt, ginger, green onions, and pork to a bowl and lightly mash them together with a wooden spoon. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, chicken stock, soy sauce, port, canola oil, and sesame oil. Add this to the meat and mix together. The mixture should be uniform. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. If you plan on forming the dumplings later, you can keep this in the fridge, and allow it to reach room temperature when ready to use it.

Filling

Next, I assembled the dumplings:

Cut the dough in half and keep one half in the plastic bag. Lightly flour your surface, roll the other half of the dough to make a log about 1 inch thick, and cut into 16 pieces. Hint: cut it in half first, then cut those pieces in half, then those pieces in half. Use your hands to form each piece into a cylinder shape, so that they look like scallops. Then, use a flat, round surface, like the bottom of a big mug, to flatten each piece between two small sheets of plastic wrap. If you have a pita press, use this instead. Make sure to coat the piece of dough in a small amount of flour to prevent sticking. Flatten each piece of dough into a disk.

Next, use a small rolling pin, or a round handle, to roll the edges of each disk outward. You want the centre of the disk to remain thick, and for the edges to be thin. Then, spoon about 1/2-1 tsp filling into the centre of the disk and press the edges together, trying to keep the filling inside. Lightly flatten the dumpling on the counter with the edges facing up, to form the shape of your dumpling. There are a number of other ways to shape dumplings, but this one is called half-moon.

uncooked dumplings

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook dumplings in batches of eight for eight minutes. The dumplings will float within a couple minutes, but remember that the meat still needs to cook. Remove the dumplings with a spoon that has holes in it, to allow excess water to drip off. Serve immediately. If you need extra time, place dumplings in a bowl and cover with a plate to keep them hot.

I served the dumplings with a tangy soy dipping sauce. Just add these ingredients together in a bowl and pour desired amount over dumplings:

Ingredients

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar

2 tsp finely minced garlic

Voila! I think when I make them next time I will flatten the dough even more to allow for more filling per piece of dough.

Greek Chicken with Quinoa Salad

This meal came from two different cookbooks: Chicken with Onion, Chilli, and Greek Yoghurt, from “How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food” by Nigella Lawson, and Couscous Saladfrom”The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking” by Linda Fraser.

First I made the couscous salad, but I substituted couscous with quinoa:

Ingredients

3 tbs olive oil

5 green onions, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 cup quinoa

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 fresh chili, seeded and chopped

2 tbs lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan, then add the green onions, garlic, and cumin. Cook for a minute, then add the vegetable stock.

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Bring stock to a boil, then add the quinoa. Reduce heat to low and let quinoa cook for 15 minutes, partly covered. If using couscous, remove pot from the heat when adding couscous, and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Place couscous, tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, chili, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix together, cover in plastic wrap, and put in the fridge. Hint: press plastic wrap so it touches the salad to avoid excess condensation dripping on the salad. Image

Next, I made the chicken. I realized after that I could have cut the recipe in half, since it makes a lot.

Ingredients

6 skinless chicken breasts

Juice of 2 lemons

6 tbs olive oil

4-5 green onions, chopped

1 green chili, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 cucumber, chopped into cubes

4 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

400g tub Greek yogurt

Start off by smashing the chicken so it is flat, then marinade it in the lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add green onions, chili, garlic, cucumber, coriander, and parsley to Greek yogurt.

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Remove liquid from chicken marinade and set aside. Fry chicken in oil, about 5 minutes on each side. They should look golden brown, but make sure they are cooked all the way through. I had to add on a few minutes of cooking time, probably because I did not smash the chicken flat enough. In the last minute of cooking, add the lemon marinade. Serve the Greek yogurt on top of the chicken.

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Easy, eh? It turned out delicious, too!

Welcome to my Blog!

Hello readers (the very few of you),

2012 was a good year. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I decided that taking a year off would be a good idea; I wanted to explore interests that I had no time to pursue during my studies. The first thing I did post-graduation was sign up for the Basic Pastry course at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa, then part-way through scored a baking job at a pie shop, and spent the fall elbow-deep in butter, flour, and sugar.

2013 began for me in Calgary, AB. My boyfriend and I were exploring a book store when I came across a raw food cookbook that I simply could not put down. So, I bought it, thinking that I would give the recipes a try upon my return to Ottawa.

It occurred to me that it would be fun to post about my adventures, both culinary and post-undergrad. Since cooking and baking has been a huge passion of mine for years (and thus, I have accumulated many cookbooks and cooking tools to play around with), and it was basically the main reason why I took a year off, why not share it with the world?!

I am also in the process of applying for a volunteer expedition to Argentina, where I will be learning all about organic gardening, so when the time comes I will post about that. Subsequently, for the next couple months this blog will be about cooking the food, and when my travels begin, it will be about cultivating the food.

Thanks for reading, and best culinary regards to you all!