And what a beautiful spring it already is in sunny California! My friends back East have been treated to another dusting of snow, but here on the West Coast the weather has been warm and the streets have been lined with flowering trees. It is one of my favorite times of the year.
I had some lovely pears left in my refrigerator, which I accidentally let ripen too much in the midst of a hectic work schedule. Since I like my fruit crisp and at its peak (not soft), I decided to turn the pears into this lovely Italian pear cake – it was my way of saying adieu to winter and its warm, spice-filled dishes. This cake is surprisingly light and fluffy thanks to the corn starch, and lightly sweetened. I added a little cinnamon for a little extra warmth.
Italian Pear Cake (original recipe here)
- 3 ‘very’ ripe small pears (or 2 large ones) – peeled & cut into chunks
- 1 & 1/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 cup corn flour (corn starch)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp butter (slightly melted)
- 3 eggs
- confectioner’s sugar (to sprinkle/ decorate on cake)
- Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
- Cream the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Sift the flour, corn starch, cinnamon (if using), salt, and baking powder together.
- Add the flour mix and stir well, add the butter till the batter is smooth.
- Lightly grease and then line a 9-inch (23 cm) springform cake pan with parchment paper, and pour in the batter.
- Peel the the pears, cut in chunks and drop them on the cake, gently pushing down each piece of pear. It doesn’t matter if the pear sticks out of the cake it will all blend in.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean – do not overtake! Leave to cool before serving.
- When cool, dust with confectioner’s sugar.
- (Optional) Serve with whipped cream.
It’s been a busy week, with a few more downs than ups after a fun-filled birthday weekend. I’ve started developing a little carpal tunnel syndrome from all the chart documentation I’ve been doing since I started working. The EMR is both a blessing and a curse. I spend more time in from of a computer than I do with my patients, and no, that is *not* why I went into medicine.
That said, it’s been a full week, too. March is a month full of joyful birthdays! One of my closest childhood friends has her birthday on St. Patrick’s day, so her birthday is always doubly lucky and green ;). I dug out the green shirt and made a vibrant green salad to celebrate the day, even though I couldn’t join her for a green beer!
Green Salad with Cilantro-Lemon Vinaigrette (inspired by this recipe)
For the dressing (makes extra, so save for another salad!):
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- 1 tsp honey
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the salad:
- 2 cups arugula
- 1/2 avocado, cut into thin wedges
- 2 tbl shelled salted pistachios
- 8-10 (about 1/2 lb) spears fresh spring asparagus
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- shaved parmesan (optional)
- In a blender, blend the oil, lemon juice, shallot, honey, and 1/4 cup of the cilantro. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
- Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Cut off 1 inch of the asparagus tips and cut stalks into 2 inch segments. (If using larger asparagus, cut off 1 inch of the asparagus and cut each tip in half lengthwise. Using a peeler or mandoline, shave the asparagus spears lengthwise.) Blanch the asparagus tips and segments (or strands) in the boiling water until just heated through, 10 seconds. Drain and transfer to the ice water to chill; drain well. Pat dry and transfer to a bowl.
- Add the arugula, pistachios and the remaining 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves to the asparagus. Toss with a little dressing. Add avocado and parmesan (if using) and drizzle with dressing as desired. Enjoy!
And as a reward for a looooonnnnggg and tiring week, what better way to forget the week’s worries by indulging in a bowl of chocolate-y goodness? Which, surprisingly, isn’t all that unhealthy for you, packed w/ fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3s? Oh, sweet revenge!
Mexican Chocolate Chia Pudding with Strawberries
¼ cup chia seed
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or milk of choice)
5 to 6 medjool dates, seeds removed**
2 to 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (depends on the intensity of the cocoa powder)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (use 1 tsp if using unflavored almond milk)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon (depends on how spicy you like your chocolate!)
pinch of sea salt
**You need a high-powered blender such as a Vitamix**
- Put chia seed in bottom of blender and add almond milk and dates. Allow chia seed to soak up milk and become gelatinous, at least 60 minutes, but you could also soak it for longer.
- Add cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt and blend at high speed until very, very smooth.
- Spoon into serving dishes/bowls and refrigerate until set. Garnish with shaved chocolate and strawberries and enjoy!
** instead of dates, you can also simply use the sweetener of your choice – a little honey or agave syrup would work well!