Friday, August 13, 2010

Guest post: Aida's Ham and Cheese Cake

At the recent Detroit Maker Faire, fellow maker Rania, of Mains de fees, shared a couple of slices of what she called "salt cake." Her friend Diane had made it and knowing from this blog that I love food, Rania wanted to make the connection between us. Diane loves to cook and I was intrigued by the "cake" she had made. It is filled with flavor — little bits of ham, salty olives, lots of herby flavor and a dense texture.

Savory ham and cheese cake recipeSavory ham and cheese cake recipe I contacted Diane and she graciously offered to share with me — and you — this recipe that has long been a favorite in her family. Voilá! The result is that today I present you with this blog's first ever guest post and recipe. Welcome, Diane!

Aida, my mother — the greatest cook — is always looking for new recipes and when we were still living in Paris, France, she discovered this salty cake in a magazine. When we tried it… what a success! It was a hit in our family and has been ever since! That makes 20 years and still counting! So when Nicole tasted it, she got hooked and here’s for you one of the favorite recipes of my family.

Aida’s Ham and Cheese Cake
Makes 1 loaf.

3 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup diced ham
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup olives, sliced
1 Tb herbes de provence (or a mix of dried oregano, rosemary, sage, basil & thyme)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup of milk
butter for the pan

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Butter a standard loaf pan.

Blanch the olives for a few seconds so they are less salty. (Note from Nicole: Place them in a strainer that you can submerge in boiling water for a minute or two and then lift out. Run under cold water for a few minutes and then drain well.) Dry them well with paper towel.

Heat milk in a small saucepan over low for a minute or two until it is between 110º and 115ºF. Remove from heat and stir in yeast until it dissolves. Let sit for five minutes. The yeast should be foamy and smell bready.

Sift together the flour, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl.

Lightly whisk eggs in a separate bowl, then add the yeast and milk combination and olive oil.

Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Fold in the ham, cheese, olives and herbs.

Pour batter into prepared pan — it should be no more than ¾ full. Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on a rack, then turn out onto rack and allow to cool completely.

Savory ham and cheese cake recipe

You can always add some sun to your cake with sundried tomatoes, or toasted pine nuts, or apricot and hazelnuts. As long as you have good ham, good cheese, good olives, that’s a good start and then you can improvise!

I hope you will enjoy it! Try it with a delicious spinach and strawberries salad, with a balsamic vinaigrette!

Bon Appétit! ;)
From Aida & Diane!

I did a little more digging online to figure out the origins of "salt cakes" and found a recent article in the New York Times (it appeared just days after the salt cake crossed my lips!) that describes cake salés, or savory quick breads that in France you often find at informal family gatherings, but rarely in restaurants or markets. The article even talks about a New York chef whose French mother saves cake salé recipes clipped from women's magazines for him. Hurray for French magazines!

Thanks so much to Diane and Aida for sharing this little slice of France.
Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Local love: Courtney Fischer Jewelry

Courtney Fischer JewelryThis summer has been all about taking part in local craft shows — which means, of course, lots of shopping at local craft shows! I'd had my eye on this delicate leaf necklace from Courtney Fischer Jewelry since early July. And, to my delight, the boy picked it up for me for my birthday. Aw shucks. So sweet. And that's just what I'd say about Courtney, too: aw shucks, so sweet! The girl's a doll and her jewelry is gorgeous, affordable and local — coming to you from Royal Oak. You can see more jewelry treats in her Etsy shop, Cefische.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Quick, easy — pico de gallo

Pico de Gallo recipeTomato season is finally here which means plenty of fixin's for the beak of the rooster! Huh? What? Pico de gallo, of course! Fresh, hand-cut salsa — the perfect treat, with some nice fresh tortilla chips, at the end of a long, steamy day.

Pico de Gallo
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
4-6 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 or 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers, finely chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 tablespoon lime juice
Salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a nonreactive bowl and chill for about an hour or so.

For milder heat, remove the jalapeno seeds before adding. I like to rub a little bit of oil on my hands before chopping the peppers. This keeps the oils of the pepper from penetrating your skin very much. Some people choose to seed the tomatoes, too, but I don't mind this salsa being a little looser and juicier. Others like to add a bit of garlic. You could also add some cucumber, radish or mango. Serve with chips, fajitas, tacos … you name it! Summer's finest.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wednesday Lunches at Pot and Box

Hello! Have you heard about the Wednesday Lunches at Pot and Box in Ann Arbor? No? Well, let me tell you: It is a ten-week series that each week features a lunch menu built around one spice. Gauri Thergaonkar is the cooking mastermind behind it all and Lisa is the host and owner of Pot and Box, a lovely little flower shop at 220 Felch Street.
Each week, the menu is posted online on Sunday and you may make a reservation for vegetarian, or non-veg. Only 30 lunches are served and the first two weeks were both sold out by Sunday afternoon, so you've got to be quick to make your reservations! The first week's spice was the long pepper and was sold out before I could wrangle that reservation. But I made it to week (thanks to my boss, Kim!) and was stunned by the cumin-based meal. This food is outstanding -- fresh, well-balanced, perfectly spiced!
Wednesday Lunches at Pot and Box
As we entered the shop, we were greeted by the smiling Guari and a little display of the featured spice. She also provides a fun fact sheet with all sorts of info about the spice. Did you know, for example, that cumin is part of the parsley family? Or that it is useful for keeping lovers, chickens and soldiers going to battle from straying? We also learned that Theophrastus in the Study of Plants said that "when people are sowing it, they must curse and slander if they want it to be healthy and prolific."
Wednesday Lunches at Pot and Box

Wednesday Lunches at Pot and Box The menu included cumin-cured pork loin or lentil fritters, corn relish, peach chutney and a tortilla. Using only the featured spice and salt, Guari made each of these dishes distinct and delicious! And it was all topped off by a cumin butter cookie that melts in your mouth.

Wednesday Lunches at Pot and BoxWe are going into week 3 and this week will be all about cardamom -- one of my favorites! Oh! And I just looked and week 4 is already sold out!! Go send your emails now and get a spot for this limited series of lunches. You will not be disappointed!