Chat Leftovers: Rutabaga Primer, Baby Shower Sweets, Spanish Apps
Richmond, Va.: I would appreciate a little help because my brain has gone on vacation somewhere warmer. I am baking desserts for an elder-care shelter this weekend and need ideas for transportable (probably not iced) 13x9 or bundt/tube cakes. I have done pound cakes of every flavor, carrot, chocolate, and spice cakes and am stumped. The folks look forward to the treats so I would very much appreciate any ideas you may have.
Richmond, how can I resist helping someone who wants to help others. Here’s a handful of Casa Appetite favorites:
Old-fashioned crumb cake, from Liberty Tavern chef Liam Lacivita. Not a Bundt shape, but easily transportable and those crumbs go great with coffee.
For a little fruit (and fiber) with their cake, give this apple coffee cake with a cinnamon-y streusel a try. In my pre-Mister MA days, I lured many a man with this cake. Meow.
You can’t go wrong with Aunt Rita’s marble cake, a traditional vanilla-chocolate swirl Bundt that takes you back to those days at the diner.
Even though you’ve done chocolate, consider this low-fat vegan chocolate Bundt, without a stitch of dairy or eggs. It’s so full flavored that nobody will know what’s missing.
Greenbelt, Md: I bought a rutabaga on a whim, but now don't really know what do with it. People have told me to use it like a turnip, but the problem is that I don't know what to do with them either. Any suggestions? I'm a vegetarian, but open to all types of flavors, so I'm game for just about anything.
Greenbelt, congratulations for biting the rutabaga bullet. For some reason, most people steer clear of this root vegetable; as Elizabeth Schneider writes in “Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini,” “For British and American food writers, rutabaga-bashing has been a sport for some fifty years.”
A member of the brassica family (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli cauliflower, kohlrabi and the aforementioned turnip), the rutabaga is also known as a swede. (Personally I think “rutabaga” would make a great name for a car.)
Its short and stout appearance won’t garner any prizes in the produce beauty contest, but if you can get beyond appearances, you’re in for a treat. Unlike its cousin, the turnip, the rutabaga’s skin is thin and quite peelable; on the inside, the flesh is sweeter and milder and is a proven companion for mashed potatoes (as in, boil some ruta with the spuds in the same pot). You can also play with her raw; grate her into salads or julienne for veg plate, along with those carrot sticks. You’ll get a radish-y sensation.
But to really understand the rutabaga, roast her with a handful of other root veg -- carrot, parsnip, potato and turnip -- all diced and lathered up in some olive oil, salt pepper and fresh hearty herb of your choosing. Roast at 400 degrees until fork tender. Talk about a happy meal.
Chevy Chase, Md.: I am having 15 for dinner on Saturday night and need some suggestions for an appetizer that is easy to prepare, can be done ahead of time, and goes along with the rest of the menu. I am making paella and will serve a big green salad along with it, as well as flan for dessert. I plan to have olives and marcona almonds to put out with drinks, but would like to add something else. I have thought about tortilla Espanola, but am not sure I will have time to do it before putting the paella together and into the oven, and also might be limited with oven space. Help!
If you’re worried about serving the tortilla Espanola hot, you can rest easy because it’s fine to serve at room temperature, but it sounds like there are other factors at play, including your nerves. Take it easy on yourself and do the Spanish version of bruschetta. I’m thinking Pa Amb Tomaquet or Pantumaca, Catalonian tapas using thick slices of country-style bread, grilled or toasted, which are aromatized with tomato, olive oil, anchovies and/or jamon Serrano. I realize tomatoes are woefully out of season at the moment, but here’s my point: Toast your bread, then rub it with a garlic clove, drizzling both sides with olive oil and salt. On top goes your favorite anchovies and/or some kind of European ham. If tomatoes you must have, substitute whole canned plum tomatoes, drained, and rub on each piece of toast before the garlic.
Baby Shower Blahs: Kim, we're giving a close friend a baby shower soon. I want to do something interesting and different and have decided on an evening shower -- coffee and desserts -- instead of the usual finger sandwiches and crudites at 2 p.m. What are some good dessert combinations so I don't end up with chocolate everything (which is not a bad thing, but I'd like to have some variety)? I would like light and heavy desserts, fruit and non-fruit, etc.
Fun idea. Have you talked to the mama-to-be about her favorite sweets – or is this a surprise? If it all possible, I’d include something from her wish list. I’m also curious about the size of your party and whether you’ve thought, beyond variety, about dessert styles – fancy or homey, for example? Fork-necessary or hand held? Will you have any help? And how much time will you have to prepare in the days before the event?
Consider the classic lemon tart; the lemon curd can be made in advance, as can the dough, and you’ll assemble the day of the party. Always elegant and a goodie for the un-choc group.
For something on the fly with a more casual feel, consider a seasonal fruit crisp – here’s my personal fave, with pear, ginger, lime, raisins and rum.
If you wanted to get the guests involved in the kitchen, a jelly doughnuts project would be a hoot. You can have a fry team, a jam filling team and a sugar-rolling team.
Decadent does not even come close to describing Golly Polly’s Doodles, a chocolate-peanut butter confection from pastry chef Marcel Desaulniers. Not quite a cake, brownie or candy, this gem is a memorable treat that will make you a rock star hostess.
Now, if your party is small –12 or fewer -- you could do these heavenly white chocolate-mascarpone tartlets that went over really well at an adoption baby shower last fall.
What's Cooking transcript in entirety.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: davemarks | January 14, 2009 7:59 AM
Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | January 14, 2009 8:42 AM
Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | January 14, 2009 8:45 AM
Posted by: esleigh | January 14, 2009 9:48 AM
Posted by: lgdc | January 14, 2009 10:20 AM
Posted by: Kim ODonnel | January 14, 2009 11:03 AM
Posted by: Agathist | January 14, 2009 11:08 AM
Posted by: Agathist | January 14, 2009 11:10 AM
Posted by: Freyathorn | January 14, 2009 11:21 AM
Posted by: esleigh | January 14, 2009 12:10 PM
Posted by: earlysun | January 14, 2009 1:00 PM
Posted by: holdenfoodie | January 14, 2009 5:05 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.