Happy 1st Birthday Little Blog!

Wow! A whole year has gone by since little Fork Tender was born!!!! What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a delicious and adorable cake? This slice is for you little blog… Happy 1st Birthday!

Big thanks to all you wonderful folks out there that read my blog and give me the drive to keep on cooking and sharing recipes. It has been a truly amazing year filled with lots of happy moments and tasty treats. I look forward to little blog’s 2nd birthday and many more after that!

Ok, now let’s talk about the cake. Luscious lemon layer cake with a meyer lemon curd filling, topped with meyer lemon buttercream frosting and gummy candies! Want a slice? Yea, I thought so. This cake was soooo good! Light, fluffy and full of flavor, the lemon peel really elevated the lemon flavor without overpowering the yellow cake or buttercream frosting. As you sunk your folk in for a big bite, the lemon curd offered a nice tang and creamy texture that complimented the cake’s butteriness perfectly!

While the cake was delicious, the topping was the real winner. Gum drops and skittles transformed this ordinary buttercream beauty into a whimsical dessert. The green “stems” of the flowers are actually just green gum drops that I smushed and stretched into long strips.

Happy Birthday Fork Tender!

Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pans
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Lemon Curd
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Lemon Frosting
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 3 3/4 cups), sifted
pinch kosher salt

For the cake

Heat oven to 350°F.

Butter two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter again, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined (do not overmix).

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes for 8-inch pans and 22 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pans. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

Transfer one of the cooled cakes to a plate and spread with 1 cup of the lemon curd. Top with the remaining cake and refrigerate to set, 30 minutes. Spread the top and sides with the frosting. Using the palm of your hand, gently press the pistachios into the sides of the cake and top with the candied lemon slices.

For the curd

In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and salt. Add the butter. Set the bowl over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of mayonnaise, 12 to 15 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper directly on the surface of the lemon curd and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

For the frosting

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and lemon zest on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the sugar, then the salt, and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Purée

Last night Judd and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary with a delicious home cooked meal! We just got back from a visit to New York in which we ate the obligatory slice of pizza, bagels, pastrami on rye, as well as a Peter Luger’s burger (I could taste the butter oozing out of the meat), rich Italian food and an AMAZING meal at Momofuku Ssäm Bar (my personal favorite). So, suffice it to say… we stuffed ourselves REAL good and thought it might be time for a slightly lighter meal.

After many years of watching Giada de Laurentiis cook simple food with a giant goofy smile on her face, I thought… hey, it might be time to actually try one of her recipes. Turns out that woman can cook! This dish is full of unexpected and delicious flavors that absolutely surprised me. Peas puréed with mint, garlic, olive oil and parmesan create a lucious and fresh side dish that embodies the flavors of springtime. Top off the purée with a silken broth of sautéed shallots, chicken stock, mint and the zest and juice of a lemon. The mint and lemon flavors are the perfect compliment to a fillet of expertly cooked salmon (let’s all give Judd a round of applause) seasoned with only salt and pepper.

What’s better than cooking a lovely meal with my lovely fiancé on our anniversary? Nothing. This dish was pure bliss and left us both with big smiles on our faces… just like Giada’s!

Makes 4 servings

Lemon Brodetto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Pea Puree
2 cups frozen peas, thawed (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Salmon
1/4 cup olive oil
4 (4 to 6-ounce) pieces salmon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the Lemon Brodetto, warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest, and broth. Bring to a simmer, and keep warm, covered, over low heat.

To make the Pea Puree, combine the peas, mint, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor and puree. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady drizzle. Transfer the pea puree to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Set aside.

To make the Salmon, warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt and pepper. Sear the salmon until a golden crust forms, about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side. Flip the fish and continue cooking until medium-rare, about 2 minutes more depending on the thickness of the fish.

To assemble the dish, add the tablespoon chopped mint to the Lemon Brodetto and divide between 4 shallow dishes. Place a large spoonful of Pea Puree into the center of each bowl. Place a salmon piece atop each mound of Pea Puree. Serve immediately.

Couscous with Cilantro & Lemon Juice

If you ask me, I’d say everything is better with onions. This recipe is no different.

Couscous has always been a quick and easy alternative to rice for me. Through most of college and graduate school, I simply mixed the grain with water and slathered it with some sort of saucy topping. Having grown up eating couscous dressed up to its full potential (courtesy of my mom’s delicious Moroccan Hannukah dinner), it’s curious that it took me so long to finally give this side dish the proper attention it deserves!

Still quick and easy, but packed with flavor that makes you want to eat this, and only this… the recently discovered lemony couscous recipe is a new favorite! The turmeric coats the onions and garlic while the lemon zest infuses the couscous with a snap of brightness and punch. Chopped cilantro elevates the freshness of the dish, while adding a pop of green amongst the rich yellow color.

You can serve this side with a variety of dishes… grilled lamb, roasted chicken or baked tofu to name a few. We chose to grill chicken and veggie kebabs with a dollop of hummus for a Mediterranean meal right in our own dining room. Mmmm…. tasty!

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 2/3 cups water
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup plain couscous
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions; sauteed until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes Add turmeric; stir 1 minute. Add 1 2/3 cups water, lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt; bring to boil. Remove pan from heat. Stir in couscous. Cover; let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork; mix in cilantro and lemon juice. Season with pepper and additional coarse salt, if desired. 

It’s that easy!