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Lemon Lift {CtBF} #EverydayDorie

Lately I feel like a hamster on a wheel, trying to keep abreast of Cook the Book Fridays bi-weekly recipe challenges. Sometimes I cook them on time. Sometimes I cook them late. More often than not, my blog posts have been monthly instead of recipe-by-recipe. Despite my best intentions, catchup has been the norm. It’s a new year, so I’m hoping that January represents more consistency on my part.

This week’s selection from Everyday Dorie is Pasta with Shrimp, Squash, Lemon and Lots of Herbs, or in my case, Pasta with Shrimp, Broccoli Rabe, Lemon and Lots of Herbs. This recipe has many components, but once your mise en place is set, the whole dish comes together quickly.

There are many steps, but they are all easy. First, you zest the lemons into the serving bowl. Then you juice the lemons. In an interesting twist, the spent halves are added to the pasta water to infuse further lemony flavor. While the pasta cooks, you sauté shrimp, then the vegetables. When the pasta is done, and drained, the shrimp and vegetables are tossed with the pasta along with butter, lemon juice, some reserved pasta water, and the tomatoes. Finally, the pasta is transferred to the serving bowl with the lemon zest and topped with fresh herbs and stirred together.

Dorie recommends using pasta that’s a similar size to the shrimp, so I chose mezze rigatoni. Howard has placed zucchini and summer squash on the “taboo” list at our house, plus they’re out of season, so I substituted broccoli rabe, which I cut into 2-inch lengths and blanched first. I also used a few tablespoons of diced sun-dried tomatoes instead of fresh ones. For herbs, Dorie’s recipe lists dill and chives. I already had a mixture of chopped dill, parsley and minced garlic to garnish a fish soup I made, so I used up the rest to top the pasta.

I was worried that the zest of three lemons would be too much. However, we enjoyed the brightness that all aspects of the lemon contributed. Its flavor wasn’t dampened in the leftovers either. I found the proportion of vegetables lacking, so if I make this again, I’ll double them. I will also increase the amount of sun-dried tomatoes I add.

This recipe offers a nice template for a lemony pasta that can evolve through the seasons by varying the vegetables. With a salad, it makes a perfect dinner.

I also made the Sweet and Smoky Roasted Carrots from last month’s schedule. I first made them for Thanksgiving 2018, right after Everyday Dorie was published. At the time, I felt ambivalent about them and particularly didn’t like the whole carrots because they took too long to cook through. I made a note to try cutting the carrots into 1-inch pieces, which is what I did this time around. While the carrots roasted in a more reasonable amount of time, I’m still ambivalent about them. With all the spices and flavorings, they should taste more interesting. Unfortunately, it falls flat on my taste buds. I won’t be making these carrots again. However, I still have some of the spice syrup left, so I’ll test that out on salad or in mayo and see if that works better for me.

If you’re up for trying either of these recipes, you can find the pasta on page 204 and the carrots on page 214 of Everyday Dorie. To see what the other cooks from Cook the Book Fridays thought of these, you can find links to their reviews here for the pasta and here for the carrots.

Happy New Year! Happy Cooking!

A Bit of Winter Sunshine {CtBF}

My mother was more of a cook than a baker.  Though she had a limited repertoire of baked goods, the things she made were delicious.  She was also a strict recipe-follower, so her baking was very consistent.  Her signature cake was a chocolate-chip cake that my sisters and I still make.  The other cake I remember her making frequently, starting in my teen-aged years, was Carrot Cake.  Her recipe was from the classic James Beard’s American Cookery  (now out of print).  As with her chocolate-chip cake, she baked it in a 13×9 pan and slathered it with cream cheese frosting.  Whenever I imagine eating a carrot cake, it’s hers I dream of.  It was a basic carrot cake with grated carrots, warm spices, and nuts.  There were none of the extraneous ingredients that carrot cake recipes often called for, like crushed canned pineapple or the dreaded (to me) shredded coconut.

As you might expect, Howard is not a fan of carrot cake.  That means I haven’t made one in decades.  I seldom eat it out, usually choosing something else because of the frequent appearance of those extra ingredients I mentioned before.  When I saw that this week’s recipe challenge with my friends at Cook the Book Fridays was the Carrot Cake from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen, I had mixed feelings.  However, on closer review of the recipe, I was reminded of my mother’s cake.  Just the basics.  The main differences between David’s cake and my mom’s (and James Beard’s) were few.  David’s cake is enriched by vegetable oil and buttermilk instead of butter and warm water.  My mom’s cake added grated orange rind.  Otherwise, they were very similar.

I didn’t want to make a whole cake.  Initially I thought I’d make half a cake as my friend Ro from Chez Nana ingeniously did, but I wanted to be able to share it more easily.  After looking up cake volume conversions, I decided to make cupcakes instead.  According to the handy chart I found, batter for a 9-inch cake pan would make 9-12 cupcakes.  Perfect!  Or so I thought.  The full recipe must make one massive cake.  I filled all twelve of the cavities in my muffin tin and had enough to batter left to fill a 6-inch cake pan as well.

The cake is quite easy to mix together with a whisk and a rubber spatula.  The resulting cake is moist and tender.  I used the stand mixer to mix up the mascarpone-cream cheese frosting.  I loved the tang of the frosting, and it is much less sweet than my memory of my mom’s frosting.  As you can see, I’m not the most talented froster.  I can’t remember the last time I made a layer cake.  When I make cakes, I usually leave them unadorned or sprinkle them with powdered sugar.

I shared some of the cupcakes and have been working my way through the single layer cake.  Though it’s a different recipe than the one I dream of, it came out just the way I like it, taking me for a delightful trip down memory lane.

While I can’t say carrot cake will make frequent returns to my kitchen, I did like this recipe enough to make it again.  Revisiting my mom’s recipe, I think adding orange rind to this recipe could only improve it.  I noticed she added nuts to the frosting AND the cake.  That might be an interesting variation as well.  And for minimal fuss, I would even try baking it in a 13×9 pan.

My Mom’s Carrot Cake Recipe in My Teen-Aged Handwriting

As a side note, David Lebovitz’s memoir l’appart has finally bubbled up to the top of my pile.  I bought a copy in December (and met him) when he came through Boston on his book tour.  I’m about halfway through.  It is very entertaining, though I doubt I would ever be able to face purchasing property or doing a home renovation in Paris.  I bookmarked a few of the recipes in the book to try.

If I’ve inspired you to try out David’s Carrot Cake, you can find the recipe on page 277 of My Paris Kitchen.  To see if my Cook the Book Fridays friends enjoyed their cake, follow their links here.