Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Best things I ate this week: Something sweet and something savory

This week it was a toss up between something I made, and something I ate out. The best thing someone else made for me this week was the lasagna al forno at Quincy Street restaurant in Oxnard. This little neighborhood restaurant is known for it's Chicago style ribs and barbecue, but also excels in the arena of Italian cooking. The lasagna, which I got as a half-order, was the ultimate comfort food, the perfect antidote to yet another cold and foggy night in Ventura County. The lasagna noodles were layered with a hearty meat sauce, plus mozzarella, ricotta, and Romano cheeses. I absolutely adored the tang of the cheese with the richness of the meat sauce- and the whole thing made me feel all warm and fuzzy (and full) inside. Stay tuned for the full review in the VC Reporter in a few weeks.

The best thing I ate this week that I can take any credit for, is the Cookies and Cream Cake I made this weekend. The recipe is adapted slightly from The Cake Mix Doctor, and her cookbook, Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor.

25 chocolate sandwich cookies, plus additional if needed
Shortening and flour for pans (or Pam spray with flour)
1 package (18.25 oz.) white cake mix with pudding
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup half and half or milk
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs

Place the chocolate sandwich cookies in food processor, and process until you have crumbs. You should have at least 2 1/2 cups of crumbs. If not, process more.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with shortening and dust with flour (or spray with Pam with flour).

Place the cake mix, water, cream, oil, and eggs in a mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down sides when needed. The batter should look well combined. Fold in 1 cup of the cookie crumbs until well distributed. Divide the batter evenly into two pans. Place on oven rack in middle of oven, side by side. Bake the cakes until they spring back lightly when pressed with your finger, about 25-30 minutes. Cool in pans on wire rack until cool to touch, and then remove from pan to rack. While cakes cool, make vanilla buttercream frosting (also from the Cake Mix Doctor), adding in the 1 cup of cookie crumbs at the end.

If cake tops are uneven, slice a small portion off top to level them out. Ice bottom layer, and sprinkle icing with 1/4 cup cookie crumbs. Place second layer on top, finish icing top and sides of cake. When finished, spread 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup cookie crumbs on top of cake and press down into icing. Can decorate sides of cake with remaining cookies (cut in half) if you like.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (with cookie crumbs)

8 TBL (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
3-4 TBL milk
1 cup chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs (reserved from before)

Place the butter, vanilla, and 1 cup of the confectioners' sugar in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed to incorporate, 30 seconds. Add the remaining sugar alternately with 3 TBL milk, 1 TBL at a time, blending with the mixer on low speed. Add another TBL of milk if the frosting seems too stiff. Then add the 1 cup of cookie crumbs. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more.