Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sour Cream Cake With Peaches

I hate to waste food. Homeless kittens and puppies tug at some people’s heartstrings, but a half cup of soon-to-expire sour cream in the fridge makes me cry. In my zeal to rescue the sour cream, I found myself making this cake at 10 p.m. on a weeknight--and I'm glad I did. 

My inspiration was Orangette’s yogurt cake recipe, in which I subbed sour cream for the yogurt. Dozens of yogurt cake variations have been floating around the blog world ever since Clotilde Dusoulier posted her now-famous recipe for this simple, traditional French dessert.

Yogurt cake is lightly sweet and mild, kind of like pancake batter, so you can add  fruit, or nuts, or chocolate to spice it up. For my cake, I added a couple of sliced, soon-to-be-squishy peaches (it’s not just leftover sour cream that makes me sad).

Sour cream makes the cake super-dense and moist, as does Orangette’s addition of lemon juice syrup that you pour over the baked cake. 

Here’s the recipe with my modifications:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine and mix well ½ cup sour cream, ¾ cup sugar, 3 eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla concentrate.  Add 1.5 cups flour, 2 tsp. baking powder; mix. Add ½ cup canola oil, and mix well.

Dice a couple of medium peaches (or nectarines, or apples, or strawberries, or rhubarb—any tart fruit will work).

Butter a 9-inch cake pan, and pour ½ batter into the pan. Add diced fruit on top, and then pour the rest of the batter to cover the fruit. Sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool cake completely.

Optional: Juice an orange and a lemon. Add ¼ cup powdered sugar to the juice and mix well. Pour over the entire cake, and serve.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Slacking Salads

June marks the start of my summer slacking season on the blog. Hey, in Wisconsin, warm weather begins in June and ends mid-September, if we’re lucky—so there’s some urgency to take advantage of it.

These are my dos and don’ts for a nice summer evening in Milwaukee:

Do: Go for a walk or bike ride on the lakefront

Don’t: Go to the gym

Do: Read on the patio at Alterra

Don’t: Read at home

Do: Get custard at Kopp’s

Don’t: Bake

Do: Make salad

Don’t: Make anything that leaves grease stains on your stove

So, salad. Here’s a little number I made on a hot day last week. Mix everything in a big bowl.

  • Brie, cut up in chunks
  • Sliced tomatoes (make sure both brie and tomatoes are at room temperature—they will taste better)
  • Chopped scallions
  • Black olives
  • Chopped parsley
  • Thinly sliced onions
  • Dressing: something Italian, or a red wine vinegar/balsamic/olive oil combo
And here are a few other low-maintenance salads to make during summer slacking season, ranked by time commitment:

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Russian Folk Remedies

In February, I blogged about Russian cold remedies; come summer, let’s talk about cures for hot-weather ailments.

  • Russians put sour cream on everything—why not sunburned skin? I tried this after a few too many hours in the sun on Memorial Day. Sour cream won’t cure your sunburn, but it will soothe crispy skin. Make sure to use very cold sour cream, and smear on a thin layer. Wait 20 minutes or so, until most of it is absorbed, then gently wash off the rest. You can also use yogurt and buttermilk.

  • For tired, sore or bloodshot eyes, try the tea bag remedy. Brew some tea using tea bags (Lipton is perfectly okay for this). Remove the tea bags and let them cool, then carefully squeeze out the extra moisture. Lie down or sit back, and place a tea bag over each eye. Apply for…well, for as long as you want. This will feel very soothing and pleasant—it’s the world’s cheapest spa treatment.

Other Russian remedies:

For cooling down in hot weather—drink hot green tea, just like they do in Central Asia. 

For hangovers—drink pickle juice.

For stress and anxiety—valerian root drops and water.

For fuller hair—wash it with raw egg yolks.
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