strawberries and cream cupcakes

The olympics turned out to be the event of the summer, no?  I didn’t exactly mean to spend two weeks watching team volleyball and pole jump and handball (not a sport). No, it just happened.  You sit down, turn on the tv or the computer, start watching something some swimming or track and field heats, and before you know it you are condemning the South Korean ping pong players for being self-congratulatory assholes.  Though, like most things, my favorites were the big hits: Bolt, Phelps, Murray, and of course Bitchface.  Seriously though, women’s gymnastics is weird, right?  Not only the pressure on all these young girls, but also the sentimentality – the focus on whether they are hugging or crying or how they react or whatever.  And it really seems to bring out the nationalism in people.  Anyway, I think Komova should’ve won the women’s individual all around.  There, I said it…

See what I mean?!  They just suck you in, and don’t let go.  Secondarily, I find the construction of a gentrifying and costly olympic center which apparently necessitated a complete security apparatus in the middle of London to be disturbing but also revealing in how ‘we’ manage cityscapes in a way that reflects racial and class divisions even under the competing rubrics of ‘nationalism’ and ‘globalization.’  To that last point, the opening ceremonies!

caliban the industrialist at glastonbury tor, played by kenneth branagh. wait, what?

I had of course heard stories of gigantic voldemorts and flying mary poppins and real sheep, and so decided that opening night necessitated group exegesis.  By that I mean, a party.  I had a party for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, is what I’ve been trying to say for the past three paragraphs.  And I made food!  In the spirit of the event, I made cornish pasties and served Pims #1 cup lemonade, with mint garnish.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to make a British style ‘curry,’ even though that’s Britannia’s national dish.  But I did make these delicious strawberries and cream cupcakes.  What a natural combination.  Fresh tasting but also sweet like a cupcake, with Mark Bittman’s buttercream frosting recipe, these were a delight.  I am noticing a trend, however, in people not eating desserts, probably because they are ‘unhealthy’ and we area all getting a bit older.  Well…bloody hogwash!  If someone makes you a cupcake, you eat the cupcake.  This rule is the basis of all civilization.

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

The recipe I got from the internets, duh.

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. cake flour (or cake flour substitute)

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 sticks butter, softened

2 1/4 c. sugar

3 large eggs

1 egg white

1 c. buttermilk

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 lb. strawberries, pureed

A few drops of red food coloring (optional) [I did not use food coloring and the cupcakes were red enough.  They do turn a little gray over time.  By gray I mean grey.

Frosting (Bittman)

Ok, kids, here we go:

1. Oven, 350, or as the British say, Mark something something.  Make it happen.

2. Muffin tin and cupcake liners.  I got mine from Gelsons, and without looking at it brought home the “If you care brand,” subject to this David Cross bit:

Incidentally I didn’t notice because the woman at Gelsons that helped me was sort of crazy and was trying to get me to make this train wreck of a dessert that included pistacchio jello (?) and cool whip and then did a wicked witch of the west impersonation (which she called a “voiceover”).  It was stressful.

3.  Whisk flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

4. Take out your trusty hand mixer, or use a stand mixer if you are married and have one of those.  And as the the person who made the original recipe says: “Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs and egg white, one at a time, beating after every addition. Combine buttermilk and vanilla together and set aside. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture; end with the dry ingredients. Fold in strawberries.”  (Seriously, why are you reading my gloss on this perfectly simple recipe?  All I’m doing is confusing you.)

I did take pictures after each addition of the flour mixture, so as to help you see what it should look like.  But in the batter sort of looks the same in each picture.  I’m just useless.  Completely useless.

5. Bake for 25 minutes until you can stick a knife in it!  (and pull it out cleanly).

6.  Top with the frosting, and add a little slice of strawberry on top, for cuteness.

AWWW!!! Look at those little itsy-bitsy cute little cupca…OM NOM NOM NOM!!

Cupcakes, nom nom, it’s almost like it was the 2008 olympics!  But it’s not.  It’s 2012, and the world is ending.

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Dine LA restaurant week

I had the chance to eat somewhat less expensively recently, because of Dine LA restaurant week, which just concluded.  Ok, it concluded several weeks ago, but I didn’t get around to posting about it.  I’m sorry, but there’s been 3500 hours of olympics to watch, people.  I even watched some handball, which is sort of not really a sport, amirite?  Anyway,  do I even remember what I ate?  I think so?

Jar

Appealing because I’ve actually been re-watching top chef masters seasons 1 and 2 for some reasons, when they were actually playing for charity and not just to get more people to visit their restaurants.  Anyway Season 1 featured Suzanne Tracht, chef at Jar, which calls itself a “modern chophouse” which means they make steak and things.  The decor feels very 70s; the chairs had wheels, for example.  That’s ok I guess.  So, the food

Prime Rib Eye: first time I’ve eaten steak in fifteen or so years!  It was good, maybe a bit too chewy but then I asked for medium rare.  TAL, who is my fine dining partner (apparently?), said the steaks were wonderful, like the platonic ideal of steak.  I can’t really judge since it’s been so long.  They are certainly very filling.  I’m not sure how necessary it is to just eat a big slab of meat, but maybe my opinion will change over time.

 

Butterscotch Pudding: really really really good!  I think I just like soft caramels.  Once it cools down, I’m going to make this for the first person who comes over to my house to eat.  I will make you some butterscotch pudding and you have to eat it.

Picca Peru

The next week, I ventured *all the way* out to Beverly Hills to try Picca with the Secret Menu, A and J.  Picca is a very hip, of the moment place.  There was a lot of wood panelling and a ‘cabin’ look, exposed filament lightbulbs, no tablecloths, and open kitchen and bar within the restaurant, a large wall mirror with things written on it (mirrors might be the new chalkboards), and odd things on the walls.  It’s just how things look these days.

Picca Peru

Anyway, the food.  Picca is a Peruvian restaurant, obviously, and the menu is strongly influenced by Japanese cuisine  like Peru itself.  We had some options because this is a ‘small plates’ place, of course.  Well first drinks, while we waited for our table.  I honestly forget exactly what was in my drink, but it had strawberry air, I believe.  A’s drink was also fancy:

That’s the top of the drink.  The period is what makes it fancy.  And then…well to be honest, it’s a bit of a haze at the moment.  That’s the trouble with food.  It goes away, leaving only haze.  But a delicious haze.  In some cases a strawberry haze.  mmm.

But I think these or slight varions on these were among the parade of small plates:

chicharron de pollo. marinated crispy chicken, salsa criolla, rocoto sauce, ceviche mixto. mixed seafood, sweet potato, choclo, tres leches de tigre. rocoto, aji amarillo, sea urchin shooters, arroz chaufa de mariscos. mixed seafood, peruvian fried rice, pickled radish, causa snow crab. cucumber, avocado, huancaina sauce, bisteck a lo pobre. skirt steak, egg, pan fried banana, chickpeas tacu tacu, alfajoresvanilla bean pisco flan.

Also an eggplant dish that’s not on their menu anymore.

I can speak best to what I ordered.  The “bisteck a lo pobre” was a pretty amazing combination; I think mine also had rice..  Steak, egg, banana and chickpeas and rice go really well together.  In fact I was very pleasantly surprised by how well fried egg and fried banana pair.  The causa snow crab came in two cute little bites and was lovely and refreshing.  The ceviche was a really nice way to start the meal.  The Alfajores was good – sugary and crisp, though the creamy flan was probably better.  If I went back…well, I would try new things, but probably hit up the bisteck dish again.

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