Sicilian Orange Cake.

This was one of those recipes that I kept seeing all over the food blog world, and I was just dying to try it. I’m so glad I did! To the original recipe, I added a splash of vanilla extract (why not?), and to make it gluten-free at the request of a friend, I used brown rice flour instead of all-purpose flour. Either works just fine, but I found that the brown rice flour makes the cake surprisingly soft and moist, so I definitely recommend it if you can get some. A note about the final steps of this recipe: I made a rookie mistake and didn’t grease my pan enough, so I was left with a stubbornly adherent cake that refused to come out in one piece. I pieced it together as best I could and made the most of the broken bits–but your cake SHOULD look about 1000 times prettier than mine does! Good grief.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
1 cup brown rice flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
juice of 1 orange
splash of vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease cake pan.

Using the whisk attachment on your mixer (or, whisking by hand), cream together butter and sugar for 4 minutes. Mixing well between each addition, add the first 3 eggs, one at a time. Add a tablespoon of the flour before you add the last egg, and mix well. I find that using a whisk (rather than a spoon or spatula) throughout the whole mixing process works best.

Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and orange zest, and mix. Then slowly mix in the vanilla and half of the orange juice, setting the other half of the OJ aside for the glaze.

Spread the batter into your pan and bake on the middle rack for about 40 minutes.

If you, like I did, find that the sides of the cake start to brown a bit faster than the middle can keep up with, just loosely cover the pan with foil. Remove the baked cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Or, if you mess up like I did, cool the fragments of your cake on a cooling rack and go cry in the corner until they’re cool enough to glaze…

Pour the remaining orange juice into a bowl and add the powdered sugar. Stir until smooth, adding more sugar as needed until you reach desired consistency. With the cake on your serving plate, spoon or spread the glaze, allowing it to drip over the sides. Let the cake sit and soak up the glaze for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar and garnish with more orange zest.

Since I ended up with my cake stuck to the bottom of the pan, here’s how I made the best of it: I scraped the bottom of the pan to get all the little browned bits, and I sprinkled them over the iced cake like a crumb topping. Maybe I should call it “Sicilian Orange Inadvertently-Crumb Cake.”

Penne all’arrabbiata with Asparagus.

As you might have guessed from the lack of pasta recipes here, I’m not a pasta fan. But every once in a while I get a craving for noodles smothered in a creamy tomato sauce or a spicy pesto, and today was one of those days. This dish is on the hotter side (“arrabbiata” means “angry” in Italian), so feel free to adjust the amount of red pepper flakes you add if you’re a spice whimp. It shouldn’t be overpoweringly hot though–the fresh mozzarella makes the sauce creamy and smooth. A very easy recipe to make vegan if that’s your style–just use vegan cheese!

INGREDIENTS
1 lb penne
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10-20 asparagus spears
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1/2 cup dried basil)
salt
pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil over medium flame and add onions, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes.

Then add crushed tomatoes. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in basil and mozzarella and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

While waiting for the sauce to cook, make the pasta and asparagus. Boil the pasta in salted water until tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the boiling water.

In a separate pan, blanche the asparagus in a pan of shallow boiling water for 2 minutes until bright green and al dente. Then remove from heat and rinse with cold water; this stops the cooking process and allows the spears to keep their bright color. Set aside.

Add cooked pasta and asparagus to the sauce and stir, slowly adding reserved water to create desired consistency.

Top with Parmesan and serve hot. It’s the perfect dish to eat while reminiscing about a trip to Italy, like Inspired Redhead is doing today!

Minestrone

I love any recipe with a mirepoix, and minestrone soup is no exception. A tasty Italian classic with a simple country elegance, minestrone is as easy as it is beautiful. It’s a fairly basic vegetable soup in a tomato broth,  but packs a vegetable punch and is a healthy way to warm up on a chilly day!


INGREDIENTS
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped (leaves included)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large potato, cubed
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves chopped
14 oz canned crushed tomato
5 cups vegetable broth
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
olive oil
herbs de Provence
salt
pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot, heat oil on medium and add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic.

When onion is soft, stir in potato. Top mixture with chard and herbs de Provence and cover. Allow the chard to cook until beginning to soften.

Then add tomato and broth and stir. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

In a food processor, puree beans with 1/4 cup water until smooth. Stir bean puree and Parmesan cheese into soup and season with salt and pepper. Cook 10-15 minutes more.

Remove from heat and serve with bread or over pasta.