Monday, July 21, 2008

For whom the (wedding) bells toll....

No, no, not for me! But this past weekend was the beautiful wedding of a darling young couple, Dove and Trevor Neal. Dove is the lovely and brilliant daughter of my dear friends, June and Tom (pictured, center), and she and her handsome and charming groom were married on Saturday in a breathtakingly stunning setting overlooking Valcour Island, just down the road from the college where I teach. The groom's family is from British Columbia and the couple met in college in Montreal, so the event spanned two countries, and as the bride's people are mostly from New Orleans, you KNOW there was a kick-ass party after the nuptials that lasted until the nearby residents threatened to call the cops! And the frolicking didn't stop there, oh no. It was my understanding that friends and family flowed in and out of the June and Tom's home for a full ten days before and after the blessed event. So that meant June was chained to the kitchen for most of that time, trying to keep the guests fed and happy. She was in full Martha mode, and I tried to be helpful by emailing her simple recipes that made large quantities of tasty food.

For example, I'm not sure if she tried this one or not, but I finally managed to duplicate that wonderful shrimp and avocado soup that I crave from Leticia's Cosina at the Love Apple Farm in Ghent, NY. They have a recipe section on their website, but it's currently blank. So I sent an email requesting the recipe, but I never heard back. Thus, I struck out on my own, and though I hate to seem immodest, I think I may have come up with a version that's even tastier than the original! It's really a kind of gazpacho with shrimp and avocado in it. It requires no cooking, just some cut and chop (made more humane with the assistance of a food processor), and then a little chilling time. And MAN, is it GOOD! And really, quite healthful with TONS of veggies in the soup. The only fat to speak of is in the avocados, and that's the good kind of fat. This is definitely going to become a summer staple for me!

Gina's Homage to Leticia's Mexican Shrimp and Avocado Soup

1 medium to large onion
1 large stalk celery
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 large Anaheim-type peppers, seeded
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled (to taste)
32 oz. Clamato juice
2 teaspoons salt
up to 1 teaspoon black pepper (start with 1/2 then taste)
1 teaspoon sugar (just a little to counter all that acidity!)
juice of two limes (or to taste)
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (when real tomatoes are ready, I'll use maybe 4 of those instead!)*
1/2 bunch cilantro (try to use mostly leaves), roughly chopped (about a half cup)
1 lb. cooked salad shrimp, thawed
2 large, ripe Haas avocados (the only kind of avocado, in my book), peeled, pitted, and (large) diced

I recommend throwing the onion, celery, cucumber, peppers, and garlic in a food processor and saving yourself a lot of heartache of cutting and chopping. I like a finer chop on these things myself, but your call. Then dump the chopped veggies in a big bowl and stir in the Clamato juice, seasonings, lime juice, tomatoes (with juice), and chopped cilantro. Taste to correct seasonings (you might want to add more lime or cilantro or salt or sugar...again, to taste). Then gently stir in the shrimp and avocado chunks, and refrigerate for at least three hours, though six would be even better, or perhaps best of all, make a day ahead for full flavor development.

Of course, the biggest culinary matter weighing on the mother-of-the-bride's mind was the brunch on Sunday after the wedding. They were hosting 30 or more people, and poor June was beside herself with worry that she wouldn't have enough food! First off, she was in a dither about make-ahead breakfast casseroles, so I auditioned one last weekend that I had recently seen on The Pioneer Woman Cooks!, and it was just excellent. Oh to be sure, like so many of The Pioneer Woman's recipes, it should be served with a cardiologist's business card on the side, but it was DELISH nonetheless!

Sleepin’ in Omelette
The Pioneer Woman Cooks!)

6 onion rolls (I used onion "pockets" that I found at Price Chopper and they worked great)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 sticks butter (I cut this down to one stick and it was still plenty)
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
10 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chopped chives

Generously butter 9 x 13 baking dish (I sprayed mine). Tear onion rolls into chunks. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese, then tear cream cheese into small pieces and place over the top. Cut butter into pats and place over the top. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over the top of the dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, bake at 325 degrees, covered, for 45 minutes. Then remove foil and continue baking at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

*I would say that this serves at least eight very hungry people, as it is rich and dense, and altogether luscious.

Even though she had the above breakfast casserole and some kind of southwestern frittata planned as well, not to mention two loaves of homemade bread, two cranberry bumps, assorted fruit, and Mimosas to wash it all down with, June was still concerned that she wouldn't have enough to satiate that wild, post-party crowd. I had a premonition that this might be the case, so I got up early on Saturday (well, early for me at 9am...tee hee) and checked in with Bridal Central. Sure enough, they required an additional coffee cake of some sort and eggs--LOTS and LOTS of eggs! Those tasks were right up my alley, so into my own kitchen I headed to wash and pack three dozen farm-fresh eggs from my hens into a small cooler (as June had run out of room in her fridge with all those breakfast casseroles and such!).

Then I decided to make a coffee cake that I had seen on Road Tasted with those Deen boys awhile back. It comes from Macrina Bakery in my beloved Seattle, and it was called Lemon Sour Cherry Coffee Cake, though truly, it looked more like a pound cake to me. Still, as much as my friend June loves sour cherries in all their forms, I knew this would be the perfect addition to her special brunch. Plus, I just had to break in my precious little fairy tale cottage Bundt pan in honor of the happy newlyweds! I think it turned out pretty cute despite those damnable cherries staining the little heart flags that Cyd made for me while I was getting dressed for the wedding. In fact, I was running so late that I didn't have time to take a picture of the cake before I left the house. So I snapped this crappy one in the back of my car before dropping the cake off. But it gives you the general idea...

Lemon Sour Cherry Coffee Cake
Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery and Cafe' Cookbook)

For the batter:
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
5 eggs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325F. Oil a 12-cup Bundt pan. (I used a ten-cup Bundt mold--which I greased liberally and then dusted with flour--and there was enough batter leftover for a large loaf on the side! )

Place dried cherries in a medium bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let soak and plump for 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly and check for pits. (I used two cups frozen but thawed sour cherries instead, and therefore did not have to reconsitute them in water.)

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Toss with your hands and set aside. Combine butter, sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for 5 to 8 minutes. The mixture will become smooth and pale in color. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully mixed into the butter before adding another. After the last egg is incorporated, slowly add the lemon juice and mix for one more minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 30 seconds to make sure all of the ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Alternately add small amounts of the flour mixture and the yogurt to the batter, mixing with a wooden spoon just until all dry ingredients are incorporated into the batter. Set aside 10 to 12 cherries for garnish and gently fold the remainder into the batter, taking care not to overmix. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan, filling two thirds of the pan. Bake on center rack of oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Check the center of the coffee cake with a skewer. It will come out clean when the cake is finished. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes.

Loosen the sides of the cake with a sharp knife. Place serving plate, upside down, on the top of the cooled bundt pan and invert the pan to remove the cake. Let cake cool completely.

Sift powdered sugar into a medium bowl, then add lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix with a spoon until smooth. Drizzle glaze over the cooled coffee cake and top with reserved plumped cherries.

Epilogue: I had a couple of quick emails from the frazzled hostess today. It seems that most of the guests have trickled away (June says that's a good thing--if they left all at once, she might get the bends! ha ha), and the bride's parents are exhausted but happy. I did not get a fully detailed report, but it seems that the brunch went off very well, with barely a serving of any one thing left, and that was after one of the brothers-in-law made a big old mess of scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and chives from June's garden...on top of everything else on the menu! SHEESH! Hungover wedding guests sure can eat, eh? (Tee hee.)

So all's well that ends well, or in this case, that begins well. The bride and groom are off to the Big Apple to honeymoon, and I'm sure poor Tom and June will go comatose for awhile to recuperate from all of the excitement. CONGRATULATIONS, Dove and Trevor...may you have many, many years of happiness together!

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Wow!!! The cake looks great! I will have to try that recipe...sounds delicious!