Saturday, February 25, 2012

Greek Spice Cake

This past summer we were fortunate enough to take a dream vacation to Greece.  We visited the islands of Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, and finally Athens.  This was one trip that will be hard to top.  I immediately fell in love with the picturesque scenery, wonderfully friendly people, and finally the food.

The Greeks as with many of the countries in the Mediterranean are blessed with some of the best and freshest fruits and vegetables imaginable.  The meals the Greeks cook are extremely simple and for the most part pretty healthy.  We sampled fresh from the grove olive oil, homemade wine, breads, and sinfully sweet desserts.

The Greeks are no stranger to wonderful desserts and pastries.  Trust me when I say...I tried stopping in every bakery I could.  Honey, chocolate, fruits, and phyllo dough, how could you go wrong?  This spice cake was the ending to a Greek meal consisting of moussaka, Greek salad, and the cake.

Greek Spice Cake

1  tablespoon shortening
2  tablespoons plus 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1  cup sugar
1  cup brown sugar
1  cup canola oil
1  cup buttermilk
3  eggs
1  tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2  tablespoons almond extract
1 1/2  tablespoons baking powder
1  teaspoon salt
1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2  teaspoon ground cloves
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1  cup pecans, chopped
1  teaspoon confectioners' sugar

1.  Grease 10-inch fluted pan with shortening; lightly coat with 2 tablespoons flour.  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, beat the sugars, oil, buttermilk, eggs and extracts until well blended.  Combine the remaining flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and baking powder; gradually beat into the sugar mixture until blended.  Stir in the pecans.

3.  Transfer to prepared pan.  Bake at 325F for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

4.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Steak and Hummus Sandwiches

These sandwiches were a quick weeknight fix.  Preparation can be done in the morning while cooking of the steak and assembling of the sandwich can be done just before serving.

I made the hummus for the sandwich in the morning.  It is a simple recipe that I have been making for years.  It has chickpeas, horseradish, lemon juice, olive oil tahini paste, and salt and pepper.  Tahini is a paste made of  ground sesame seeds and oil.  It smells similar to peanut butter but is a bit milder.

The sandwiches were a hit.  They were fast to make and easy to assemble.  The creamy horseradish taste of the hummus paired well with the tender steak and sweet red onion. As a side dish, I made a creamy carrot salad with raisins.

Steak and Hummus Sandwiches 

1/2    red onion, thinly sliced
1/2    cup pickled banana peppers, sliced
1/2    cup hummus
1       pound grilled flank steak; thinly sliced against the grain
2       tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
         Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4       pocketless pita or flatbread (I used Naan bread, which is Indian)
8       romaine lettuce leaves, thinly sliced

1.  Spread the hummus on the flat bread.  It should be covered to about 1/2-inch from the edge.
2.  Add lettuce over the hummus.
3.  Add the red onion and pickled banana peppers. 
4.  Add the steak.
5.  Fold in half and serve.