Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fig and Pomegranate Fruit Cake

A couple weeks ago, I received samples of PAMA pomegranate liqueur. Around the same time, a case of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice also came in the mail. Great week for my antioxidant intake, I would say. And I'm sure you have also been hearing about the benefits of antioxidants in the news, in advertisements, in diet trends, in skin care products; yes antioxidants have been become quite popular. And it seems that their place in our vocabulary is not about to fade off any time soon since they are closely linked with aging. Or I should say, they are closely linked to the prevention of aging, in particular the aging of our skin cells.

Last year, I did a series of recipes with pomegranate juice, and here is a new recipe combining both the liqueur and juice. This recipe also contains a good amount of dried figs which, it just so happens, also have antioxidant properties. I think you will find that this cake is moist and sweet enough to stand on its own but, just in case, I also included a recipe for lime frosting below. After all, what is a cake with out frosting, right?

Figs and Pomegranate Fruit Cake
Makes one 9" cake

1 pound dried mission figs
1 cup PAMA pomegranate liqueur
3/4 cup pomegranate juice
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract

1. Add the liqueur and juice to the figs in an air tight container and allow to marinate in the refrigerator over night. *
2. Set the oven to 300 degrees F. Spray the base and sides of a 9" cake pan, and line only the bottom with wax paper.
3. Puree the figs and liqueur- juice mixture to achieve a mostly smooth consistency. Set aside.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
5. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, and apple sauce for five minutes. Add the eggs , one at a time, mixing between additions. Whisk in the lemon zest, vanilla extract, and lemon extract.
6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and fig mixtures in thirds, mixing well between each addition. (Start with flour and end with fig puree.) Turn the mixer to high and whisk for another 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.
7. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake at 300 degrees F for 1 hour and 10 minutes. The top should crack and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes, then remove from pan and discard the wax paper. Cool completely before frosting.

Lime Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
8 oz fat free cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 cups confectioner's sugar
zest of 1 lime
1 tsp lemon extract

Whisk butter, cream cheese, and lime zest together until it forms a smooth conistency. With the mixer on low, slowly add the confectioner's sugar and lemon extract and continue whisking until all of the sugar has been incorporated. Turn the mixer on high and whisk for another 2 minutes seconds until fluffy.

* A faster alternative to marinating the figs overnight: add the pomegranate juice to the figs, microwave on high for two minutes, then add the liqueur before pureeing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chicken A L'Orange (made with Florida Minneola Tangerines)

Last week, we made a quick visit to Florida. Since this winter turned the sunshine state into the sunny-yet-freezing-state, we didn't expect that beaches will be on the agenda. This visit was primarily to catch up with family, and a short break from the Minnesota winter. For, even though Florida was unseasonably cold, Minneapolis in January is simply ungodly!

A great blue heron treading lightly next to an Everglades alligator.

It turned out that we did have time for some sightseeing: a quick trip to the Everglades. At the visitor's center, the guide suggested the Anhinga trail for first time visitors. A short, flat path takes you around ponds and marshes that are full with birds and, yes, alligators! It was incredible how much wild life was visible in that short trail. Incredible, too, was how close the alligators were to the mere-two-foot rail that guarded the path. Incredibly unsettling! My question is: what in the world prevents them from crawling onto the path? I'm sure there was nothing to worry about and that park officials had already taken that into account but the wimp in me was unsettled nonetheless.

Getting a close up view of the park's most popular animal.

On the drive back to the turnpike, we stopped at Robert Is Here, a ranch-like fruit stand studded with signs of tropical fruit, quirky sayings, and historical tid-bits of the original owner. From the road, it didn't seem that there was more than a variety of oranges but as we entered the shed-like structure and my eyes had time to readjust to the lighting, a mound of brown appeared on my periphery. Could it be? A favorite fruit from my childhood? It was! Sapodilla. A soft, oval fruit with a thin, brown skin and sweet, almost custard-like, caramel-colored flesh. As children, my sister, cousins and I would eat these by the bowlful. (Our parents never had to worry that we didn't eat enough fruit. In fact, I would say in those early days fruit was our candy.) While I hovered over the sapodilla pile, selecting what would become part of our breakfast for the rest of the trip, my husband bought a couple bags of minneola tangelos - those were to take back to Minnesota.

Minneolas are a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit and are good oranges for just about any utilization. They are excellent for eating, for making freshly squeezed juice, and for cooking. They worked well in this recipe but, of course, any other variety of orange will do.

Chicken L'Orange
Serves 4 to 5

1 free range 2 1/2 to 3 lb chicken
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 onion
2 oranges
2 cinnamon sticks
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 whole minneola oranges
1 cup orange juice (from two oranges)
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp agave/honey

1. Set to the oven to 450 degrees F. With paper towels, pat the chicken dry, on the inside and outside. Place on a roasting rack.
2. Combine the ground spices, salt and pepper and, using your fingers, thoroughly season the chicken, again on the inside and outside. Cut the onions and one of the oranges into wedges and, together with the cinnamon sticks and thyme, stuff the cavity. Truss the bird. Bake at 450 degrees F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bird reads 165 degress F. Remove from the oven and allow to rest while you prepare the sauce.

For the sauce:
Peel and remove the pulp segments of the remaining two oranges. Discard the peel and set aside the pulp. Combine the pan juices with the one cup of orange juice, grated garlic, agave, and cornstarch. Whisk together and place on medium high heat; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until it thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the reserved orange segments and cook for another minute before serving over the chicken.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Super Bowl Giveaway Winner

Thank you for all the comments and interest in this month's giveaway. I wish I could have given a gift to everyone but there's only one and the winner: Shannon Scott from Tacoma, Washington.
There will be more opportunities to win in the future, so stay tuned!