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Monday, March 29, 2010

Ode on a Grecian Yogurt

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all 
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
 The title is admittedly a bad pun. In case you are unfamiliar with it, the title comes from John Keats classic poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and the final lines are what's quoted above. Keats is one of the poets I study and seeing as I'm waist deep in reading and writing despite it being my spring break, I thought I'd share it with you. He's not one of my personal favorites, nor is the poem one of my favorites to study of his poems. The poem's simple language and complex imagery makes it enjoyable to read and momentarily get lost in. The decades of people writing about it  make it a pain to write about though.

What inspired the post was not Keats though, so maybe I should keep on topic. Initially at least.What did inspire this post was a wonderful surprise comment from Stonyfield offering a few coupons to sample some of their Oikos Greek Yogurt. Now, dairy products in general are one of my weaknesses. I don't know what I would do if I suddenly awoke with a dairy allergy. Granted, I love scones and breakfast pastries, but more often than not I  prefer some greek yogurt and a little bit of fruit to go with my morning coffee. Peaches or blueberries when they're in season especially.

Anyway, the point being that I was quite ecstatic when the coupons to try them came in the mail. Not only was it the first free sample we received, but it was for something that I love on top of that. Almost like getting paid to sit around and read poetry. More like to try in whatever way possible to motivate students to do so, but whatever. Most of you are probably familiar with Stonyfield, and if you watched Food Inc., you may have seen that they are one of the larger companies that support farm's with better environmental and health practices.On top of that, they make some tasty greek yogurt. I wanted to try out a few different approaches as I didn't figure you would be all to excited to see my routine breakfast up for your perusal.

 One of the first things I thought about using the yogurt for though was in an ice cream. The weather has been nice here lately and I've had amazing success using greek yogurt for ice cream before in a Peach Ice Cream and a Bacon Ice Cream. The creaminess of the yogurt carries through to make an intensely smooth and rich frozen treat. So I pull the ice cream freezer out to get it ready and it is inoperable. Alas. "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter, therefore; ye soft pipes play on."

Still wanting to use it some sort of tangy dessert application, Daniel mentioned he was in the mood to make a carrot cake. PERFECT. "How about a carrot cake with a greek yogurt topping" I suggest. He grimaces, but concedes. The carrot cake recipe we used came from was adapted from Michael Richard's Happy in the Kitchen, and was originally designed to help compose a carrot-cake-orange-sauce-cocoa-puff-ice-cream concoction. Intense, I know, and maybe for another day when we aren't starting at 11:30. Perhaps because it was designed to be go into ice cream, or perhaps because of the late hour we initially made the cake, it was quite crumbly, but super moist and delicious nonetheless. The orange-carrot caramel sauce made for quite a sweet cake, and the thin layer of greek yogurt across the top offset sweetness perfectly and let you really enjoy the subtly of the carrot and burst of ginger and spices. As soon as our ice cream maker is repaired, there will be a round two in the immediate future for this concoction.

Tangy Carrot Cake with Greek Yogurt Topping 
Carrot Cake
1-1/2 cups almond flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup maple syrup
8 tbsp melted butter (unsalted)
2 large eggs
2 tsp grated ginger
2 cups finely grated peeled carrots
1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
 1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Butter paper and flour pan
2. Combine almond meal, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl, mix maple syrup, butter, and eggs until well combined. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mix until combined. Add ginger and carrots. Pour into prepared pan.
3. Sprinkle the pecans on top. Bake approx 25 minutes until brown on top and cake tester comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely. Remove from pan and chill completely. 

Orange Carrot Caramel Sauce
 1 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1 cup pureed carrots
1 cup fresh orange juice (strained)
1. Stir sugar and water in medium heavy saucepan to moisten. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer without stirring for about 10 minutes or until amber in color. Have pastry brush with water on hand to remove any sugar that crystallizes.
2.Meanwhile, combine carrot juice and orange juice in saucepan and heat until warm. When caramel is ready, remove from heat and stir in juice gradually. The caramel will bubble, so be careful Return to heat and simmer 20-30 minutes until reduced. Once done, refrigerate in a covered container. 
To assemble:
Remove cake and sauce from refrigerator. Place on serving plate. Carefully spread caramel mixture on top of cake. Allow to rest for a few moments. Spread about one cup Oikos Vanilla Greek Yogurt in a thin layer on top (we used one 5.3 oz container and one 4 oz container). Cut, serve, and enjoy!

For a slightly more savory option, I decided to make a chilled corn soup. In case I haven't mentioned it yet, I can't wait for the farmer's markets to get here and am trying to clean out the few frozen vegetables we have to fill the void while we wait. Although initially I planned to do a southwest option, during an episode of procrastination I came across a creamy lemon grass and corn soup in an old issue of one of our food magazines and opted for it instead. The recipe is quite simple with a delicate subtle sweet corn taste that will be infinitely improved with fresh ears of corn

Lemongrass & Corn Soup
3 cups frozen corn kernels
1 medium shallot, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup vegetable stock
1 small stalk lemon grass, root ends cleaned and outer leaves discarded
1/4 tsp ginger
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
1/2 tbsp lemon grass leaves chopped finely
fresh cilantro to garnish (optional)
1. Thaw corn in fridge. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and a dash each (1/8 tsp) salt and pepper. Heat heavy saucepan or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add corn, stirring quickly. 1-2 minutes. Add shallot and continue to saute until shallots are softened. Add vegetable stock, lemongrass and ginger. Simmer 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Discard lemon grass. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool slightly. Using blender, carefully puree soup to desired consistency. If desired, thin with water. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to chill for at least one hour.
2. Before serving, combine greek yogurt and lemongrass. Divide soup between cups or bowls and top with yogurt and cilantro (if desired).
The original recipe I looked at suggested that you press the purred liquid through a sieve to remove any solids from the corn. Daniel's not a big fan of purees that lack no texture for some reason, so I left them for the additional texture and the slightly more chowdery feel. The soup is everything a summer soup should be. Sweet, simple, and refreshing.

For a full version of the poem, please feel free to go here.

On second thought, that's not all! After the response Daniel had for his sourdough on the last post, we've decided it's time to host OUR VERY FIRST GIVEAWAY!!!

Although the process of making a sourdough starter is extremely rewarding, it's rather time and space consuming. After the first few weeks of a mere bowl on the counter, the containers multiply and subdivide, taking up most of very sparse kitchen space. The particular recipe we used made several containers, and because you continually replenish it once you have some ready, there's little need (at least for us) to have more than one or two. Knowing that some of you may be in the same boat we are, we thought some of you may like the chance to win a container of sourdough starter (as well as instructions as to how to keep it alive of course). The rules will be pretty simple, just become a follower of the blog and/or leave a comment on the post saying you'd like to be entered to win. On Thursday, we'll close the contest, run the participants through a random generator, and pick a winner! Either Thursday night or Friday. We'll contact the winner ASAP and announce it on the blog. That's it! That's almost a month of labor handed over to you!

Good luck and hope you enjoy!

Congratulations to Christine at Fresh Local and Best!


Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

This looks good !!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I love the creaminess and thickness of greek yogurt. Great idea for a giveaway!

Anonymous said...

The cake and the soup both look terrific! oikos greek yogurt is my favorite.

Anna said...

I love the real Greek yogurt, I couldn't find it here yet, in NY I found some amazing delicious yogurt in this Greek Market in Astoria. But here.....nop...I have to look better and see if I can find that. Your cake looks so moist and yummy.

alison said...

i love your carrot cake!thanks for the visit and warm words!i am happy to meet you again!
happy easter!

grace said...

excellent--a new carrot cake recipe for me to try! i don't think i'll ever tire of the stuff. :)
great blog, folks--keep the good stuff coming!

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