I’m back in the thick of tax season, which means one thing [other than 60 hour weeks and y’know, stress]: catered dinners.
Oh yes. We try a lot of random local restaurants and caterers four nights a week. Sure, I’ll be sick of it before April, but until then, it’s something to look forward to. This latest caterer, Hunt & Gather Catering, has been by far my favorite. We started last week with some delicious Morrocan food — chicken tagine, couscous, chickpea and sunchoke salad, grilled onion flatbread. The highlight so far though has been this flank steak and romesco sauce, sauteed leeks and greens with browned butter, wild mushroom fregola pasta that had a creamy comforting risotto-style texture, and home baked breads with TRUFFLE BUTTER. Who has truffle butter at work? We do. I ate a ton with dinner, had more for dessert, and then it was a breakfast of champions. It takes all my willpower not to eat it by the spoonful. It ranks up there with foie gras for me. It’s amazing.
Speaking of amazing food, it’s been hard not to post these recipes out of order. This pound cake was the best baking I’ve done in a long, long time. It marries together some of my favorite things, which is something Smitten Kitchen is pretty good at doing. Her cookbook was one of the few that I actually keep on hand. I don’t think I would ever try to make the real deal. The idea of cannoli just sounds like a lot of work. Making it in a cake? Way more my style. Whenever I see cannoli [plural of many cannolo, by the way], I think of my tour of them in Boston for work. We went to Roman Candle Baking Co. in Portland the other night and they not only had them on the menu, they had them for $3. That’s rare to see outside of a city with a Little Italy neighborhood like Boston and San Diego. I didn’t have one because I was too busy gorging on pizza and arancini, but I’ll be back for one. They are a hard-to-resist dessert. Even for me.
Anyway, this cake came together like a dream. Finding tiny chocolocate chips proved challenging, and I’m not sure why. I didn’t want to run the risk making my own with chopped chocolate. I wanted to follow the recipe to a tee. The only substitution I made, which was purely out of necessity, was using vermouth instead of Marsala or white wine. Well, I had white wine, but I didn’t want to open a whole bottle just for a little bit. Vermouth it was, and vermouth was just fine. Zest of both lemon and orange are nonnegotiable. If you’ve had a real cannolo, you know what I’m talking about. The same goes for the chopped pistachios. All of it. 100% nonnegotiable. Just do it. Trust me. Trust Smitten Kitchen. It becomes a one bowl masterpiece that you lick any surface that batter comes in contact with. My god. So good. Don’t over mix so it rises and doesn’t become too tough. It’s a dense, moist cake but it’s not too heavy. It makes for good breakfast. Who doesn’t love cake for breakfast?
Inspiration: Smitten Kitchen
- 1 cup sugar
- Zest of one orange
- Zest of one lemon
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vermouth or Marsala
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta [don’t compromise here, eat all the fat]
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- A pinch of allspice
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup pistachios, finally chopped
Preheat the oven to 350° and spray an 8 1/2″ and 4 1/4″ bread pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, orange and lemon zest. Use your fingers to really disperse it evenly. It’ll be light and fragrant. Whisk in the olive oil, vermouth, ricotta, and eggs until smooth. Add the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Gently stir in the flour until it’s evenly dispersed. Fold in the chocolate chips and pistachios. Pour the batter into the pan. Smooth it out as best as possible. Bake for 55-65 minutes until a toothpick comes out clear. Mine took closer to 65 minutes. Allow to cool before inverting on a cooling rack. It’ll keep for several days covered. Good luck seeing if it’ll last that long.