Friday, August 08, 2008

Off for two weeks....and lovin' it!

And that's all she least until the end of the month! That's right, friends, Summer Session II is complete, and I am now officially on a break until the fall semester begins. It's just a couple of weeks, but I am looking forward to not having to go anywhere or do anything for a little while. I am going to stay up too late and watch many movies and finish reading the Meyer Vampire saga, my summer reading guilty pleasure (I'm about halfway through the third installment, Eclipse--and these books are filling a small part of the hole left in my heart when Buffy ended). Of course, there are some projects around the house that I should tend to...and maybe I will and maybe I won't if I don't feel like it! However, I simply must turn my attention to the garden(s). With the incessant rain have come GARGANTUAN weeds! I actually went out there today and had almost finished one big row in the tomato patch when the monsoons came, complete with HAIL! I beat a hasty path to the house, but I was still soaked to the skin by the time I got inside. So I gave up for today. After all, it's only Day One of my vacation, and I suppose I needn't do it all in one day (my back and hamstrings will thank me, too)! But observe the first fruits of my labors: imagine my surprise as I pulled up thickets of waist-high pigweed to reveal THIS!

The red one is a very early Siberian variety called Subarctic Plenty which was developed in the 1940's to give those serving in the US Air Force in Greenland a chance to have fresh tomatoes. This particular variety bears fruit under very cool conditions and the shortest of growing seasons. Given our non-summer here in the North Country, I can certainly confirm these claims! Then the little orange golf balls are called Sungella, a new larger-fruited cousin of the ever-popular Sungold cherry. I am just amazed at how prolific this one plant is! The haul you see here came from just two branches (and I left many more unripened ones behind on those branches), plus I had already pilfered a half dozen of the ripest ones to cut up in a bowl with some lemon basil and olive oil for Cyd's salad with supper. Very impressive! Oh, and I stole a couple of monster cucumbers from Neighbor Ken's corner of the garden (with his permission, naturally). So, the tomato harvest has begun at long last! I can hardly wait until I get to use my new Roma tomato strainer that I splurged on a couple of weeks ago to make lots of lovely sauce!

Besides gardening, I am looking forward to having more time to cook things and blog about them. Today's offering comes from our beloved Dorie Greenspan. There are still so many recipes that I wish to try from her wonderful book, but this one was nothing short of a necessity. I needed to make something to use up some of my surplus of frozen bananas. Every time I opened the freezer, a few of them came tumbling down upon me! Usually, I make Aunt Elva's stupendous banana bread, but I thought I might try something new this time. That's where Dorie came in. I decided to try her Classic Banana Bundt Cake. Of course, I had to make my own way with the recipe, adding toasted pecans and a cream cheese glaze. But I must say, this is an excellent cake that's sturdy but moist, and very flavorful--even more so the next day. It's easy to put together, too, and I think it would be ideal to take to a potluck or to share with your co-workers during a coffee break. It certainly makes plenty!

Classic Banana Bundt Cake
(Source: adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
about 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (I used some of the fabulous Liberte' yogurt that we get in Canada--very thick)
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 9 to 10 inch (12-cup) Bundt pan. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about one minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (the mixture will curdle -- just keep mixing), all the sour cream or yogurt and then the rest of the flour mixture. Then add the nuts, if using. Scrape the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to de-bubble the batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 30 minutes; if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding on the rack to cool to room temp.

If you have the time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and allow it to sit on the counter overnight before serving -- it's better the second day.

*If you'd like to glaze the cake, soften a half a stick of butter (four tablespoons) in a bowl for about 30 seconds in the microwave, then add four ounces of cream cheese (half a package) and microwave both for about another minute. Whisk until smooth, then add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, a pinch of salt, and one cup of powdered sugar, and whisk again. You may get fancy with applying the glaze, but as I wasn't making this cake for company, I just drizzled it on sloppily with the whisk. The cake doesn't need a glaze per se, but it sure is a yummy addition!


Randi said...

You discovered the yogurt eh? Its sooooo good.

kabonfootprint said...

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