Strawberry Mint Cake

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Strawberry Mint Cake

In just 30 days, I managed to bookmark 124 pieces of content I found across the web. I saved articles to read “when I have the time” and resources I “might need to refer to one day.” A few random websites were thrown in there “just in case” I wanted to peruse them later. A feast of content awaits out there, which is precisely the excuse I need to keep this particular contribution to the table brief.

This tender cake gets a shot of flavor from fresh mint before it’s prettied up with saucy strawberries and sweet whipped cream. You will dirty approximately four mixing bowls, two cake pans, one saucepan, and various other measuring instruments and utensils during the three stages of its making. And it will all be worth it. Enjoy!

Strawberry Mint Cake

 

Strawberry Mint Cake

 

Strawberry Mint Cake

Strawberry Mint Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the Cake
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ cup full fat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • For the Strawberry Filling
  • 2, 16-ounce containers fresh strawberries
  • zest of ½ lemon (about ½ teaspoon)
  • For the Whipped Cream Filling
  • 1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Garnish
  • a few extra strawberries and mint leaves
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the Greek yogurt, and vanilla extract. Continue to mix until well combined.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix until the batter is smooth.
  5. Fold in the fresh mint.
  6. Divide the cake batter evenly between two buttered and floured eight-inch round cake pans.
  7. Bake the cakes at 325 degrees F for about 40 minutes until set, slightly golden, and a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
  8. While the cake bakes, prepare the strawberry filling by hulling and slicing the strawberries.
  9. Reserve a few berries to use as a garnish, then place half of the remaining berries in a medium saucepan.
  10. Add the lemon zest and cook for about two minutes over low heat until the berries are fragrant and slightly soft.
  11. Remove the warm berries from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.
  12. When the berries have come down in temperature, stir in the other half of the berries. Remember to keep the few berries set aside earlier as a garnish out of this berry mixture.
  13. When the cakes have cooled, prepare the whipped cream by beating the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until medium-stiff peaks form.
  14. Assemble the dessert by layering half of the strawberry mixture across one cake and then topping the berry layer with the whipped cream.
  15. Top this first layer of cake, berries, and whipped cream with the second cake.
  16. Again, cover the cake with the remaining berry mixture and whipped cream.
  17. Garnish with the reserved fresh berries and mint leaves if desired.
Strawberry Mint Cake

Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic Scape PestoI was sitting here tonight, wondering what to do with myself. Hockey ended Monday. Basketball ended Tuesday. OITNB is an option, but I am not about to fall down that rabbit hole. Well, that is not entirely true. I’m just not about to fall down that rabbit hole yet. Then I remembered I have this so-called hobby called a blog, and that the people who read it might appreciate an effort to update it. So, here we go.

I signed up for a CSA program this year, and it is awesome. It feels good to support a local farm, and I think it feels good to eat green things everyday. Green things like lettuce, I can handle. Green things like bok choy, I can figure out. Green things like garlic scapes, I’m left giving the side-eye and, again, wondering what to do.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic scapes are the shoots that grow from the tops of garlic plants. When they are cut, the garlic bulbs growing in the ground are strengthen. The scapes I have received are brilliant green, crazy curly, smell faintly of garlic, and also taste like mild garlic. They taste phenomenal when wrapped in bacon and cooked in a skillet over mild heat. Since eating bacon essentially undoes what eating all the green things for my waistline does, making pesto out of garlic scapes is a better option.

The recipe I used is courtesy of the great Dorie Greenspan. She suggests using the garlic scape pesto over scallops or like I did in pasta. Spreading it across a nice piece of bread sounds lovely, as does enjoying it with a few ripe, juicy tomatoes. If you are left with a few raw scapes after pesto, try cooking them in a stir-fry or using them raw like you would a green onion in a salad or other dish. Anyway you slice it, they are lovely. Enjoy!

Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic Scape Pesto
 
Author:
Serves: about 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
  • ⅓ to ½ cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
  • ⅓ cup slivered almonds
  • ½ cup olive oil, possibly more
  • salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the scapes, the Parmesan cheese, almonds, and ¼ cup of the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and chop to blend.
  2. Add the remainder of the oil and, if desired, more cheese.
  3. Continue to thin the pesto with more oil until you reach the pesto texture you desire.
  4. Season with salt to taste.
  5. To prevent the pesto from oxidizing if not used immediately, press a piece of plastic against the surface before storing.
  6. The pesto will store in the refrigerator for a couple of days or frozen for a couple of months.
Notes
The measurements in this recipe are a bit loosey-goosey, but keep in mind the amounts will depend on how long your garlic scapes were cut and your own personal preferences on texture. The measurements here provide a solid guideline, but don't be afraid to modify them bit-by-bit to get your best pesto.

A note on the almonds: I included the original call for slivered almonds, but I got by with the whole almonds I had on hand just fine.

If you want to use the pesto with pasta, simply toss the pesto with the noodles once cooked and drained. I suggest reserving some of the water used to cook the noodles to add, as needed, as you toss the noodles with the pesto. This will help thin the otherwise thick pesto so it better coats the noodles. Top with a few sprinkles of Parmesan and crisp bacon crumbles.
 

Garlic Scape Pesto 2

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Fernet Float

Frenet-Branca FloatWhat’s your favorite color? I like shades of blue, and the more those shades of blue resemble the waters surrounding a Caribbean island, the better.  My preference for teal-streaked turquoise is followed closely by red, quite possibly because I bleed scarlet and gray.

As for yellows, greens, and oranges, well you can take them or leave them.  “But I love green,” you think to yourself. Or maybe you think green is for the birds, but you can’t get enough of buttery yellows and fiery oranges.

My point is that taste is subjective. I recently drank a cocktail that I could not get enough of, but upon trying a sip, my friend proclaimed it tasted like cough syrup. I think she may have even gagged a little, mentioning something about Robitussin as she tried to recover.

Like colors and flavors, Fernet-Branca  has the power to polarize. Unless you are checking in on this space from San Francisco or reading in Argentina, it is likely you have never even heard of Fernet. A novice when it comes to cocktails, I too was introduced to it only recently. Here’s the crash course:

Fernet is a bitter amaro typically consumed as a digestif. When the term Fernet is ushered about, most people think of Fernet-Branca. It was Bernadino Branca, a self‐taught alchemist living in Milan, who created the bitter amaro to help settle the stomach way back in 1845. The Branca family continues to oversee production of the spirt at the Fratelli Branca Distillery today.

Fernet-Branca is made with more than 40 herbs and spices sourced from four continents.  The blend – that includes myrrh, chamomile, and saffron to name just a few – is soaked in alcohol for one month. The infusion is then blended, filtered, and aged another 12 months in Slovenian oak barrels.

Frenet-Branca Float

My first sip of was intense. I’m not sure the sip I took made it much past my lips. Bitter is the most common descriptor, but I think bitter times 10 is more accurate. I am not exaggerating when I say it made my mouth feel a little numb.

I’m not the only one to feel this way. If you want to read something quite funny, scroll through the comments on Why Does San Francisco Love Fernet? A couple of my favorite descriptors likened the taste to potpourri or potting soil. One gentleman from an Italian family proclaims, “It’s like a cult of people who drink NyQuil.”

Liqueurs that taste like cough syrups apparently make for good cocktails.

Nearly anywhere you look when you look for Fernet, there is mention of Coca-Cola. I have no shame in admitting I do not mind knocking back a rum and Coke from time to time – an admission which I imagine is to the cocktail enthusiast like what professing love for Bud or Miller Light is to the craft beer enthusiast. There is nothing wrong with either drink, but we can do things differently. And better.

My version of better is this Coke and ice cream float spiked with cherry-vanilla syrup and Fernet-Branca. The sweet Coke, sweeter ice cream, and sweetest syrup nicely temper the bitter spirit, which adds a refreshing quality to the quintessential ice cream float. I like to think the cherry-vanilla syrup is a bonus to jazz up the Fernet-Branca and Cokes you will enjoy no doubt enjoy all summer long. Salute!

Frenet-Branca Float

 

Fernet Float
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the Cherry-Vanilla Syrup
  • 1½ cups cherries, pitted
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • For the Float
  • 2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 2 tablespoons cherry-vanilla syrup
  • 2 tablespoons Frenet-Branca
  • Coke or other cola of your choice
Instructions
  1. To make the syrup, pulse the cherries, the seeds from the vanilla bean, and the sugar until the cherries are broken down.
  2. Pour the mixture into a saucepan along with ½ cup water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, give the mixture a stir until the sugar is dissolved, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Once the syrup has cooled, stir in 1½ teaspoons of lemon juice.
  5. To prepare a float, fill a glass with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream.
  6. Pour the cherry-vanilla syrup and Fernet-Branca over the ice cream.
  7. Top the whole thing off with the cola. Enjoy immediately.
Notes
The leftover cherry-vanilla syrup will store refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to one month.
 

I received a bottle of Fernet-Branca and a Whole Foods gift card to help offset the cost of ingredients for this post to celebrate National Herbs & Spices Day on June 10. You can read more about Fernet on NPR or The Atlantic and get a few more serving  ideas for Fernet on The Kitchn.