kuri squash and olive oil cake with dark chocolate

kuri squash and olive oil cake with dark chocolate on millys-kitchen.com

A few years ago, Christmas at our house was turning into a real shit show. Somewhere in the middle of gift shopping, choosing and decorating the perfect tree, baking and shipping holiday cookies and planning our Christmas Eve feast, it struck me (probably while I was stuck in holiday traffic) that I was super pissed about Christmas. I wanted to abandon the whole thing, book a flight to a sunny beach somewhere and drink margaritas for about a week. Not exactly what you’d call holiday cheer. 

That was the year I decided to reign in the crazy and start making Christmas about people and not things. 

kuri squash and olive oil cake with dark chocolate on millys-kitchen.com

These days, Beau and I buy gifts only for the children in our lives. (Because, come on, what’s better than watching kids open gifts?) We both have December birthdays, so we treat ourselves to a b-day/Christmas trip somewhere we can spend time with each other and un-plug. For everyone else, we prioritize getting together for a drink or a meal and just letting people know how much we love them.

If it sounds like fun, I bake holiday treats. And now that the pressure’s off, it usually sounds like fun. Even though we avoid sugar and processed carbs at home most of the time, I’m still nostalgic for baking up tins of Christmas sweets to give at the holidays. 

kuri squash and olive oil cake with dark chocolate on millys-kitchen.com
kuri squash and olive oil cake with dark chocolate on millys-kitchen.com

This December is a busy one. I’m wrapping up the final details on food and photography retreats for the spring. I’m teaching classes at Book Larder. And I’m hosting another pop-up dinner with my friend Kyle this weekend. But I couldn’t resist the urge to fit in a little holiday baking. 

So over the next few weeks, I’ll be popping in to say hello and share some new recipes for holiday goodies with you.

In the meantime, I urge you all to grab some winter squash and get busy making this amazing cake! The recipe is from Gjelina--a fantastic and stunningly beautiful cookbook. If you don’t have a copy, you need one. 

This cake is insanely good. As in, Beau-and-I-ate-a-whole-loaf-in-two-days good. There are so many pumpkin spice recipes floating around the internet between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I’m sure some of you are thinking you’re done with pumpkin-flavored anything until next year.

This cake will change your mind.

kuri squash and olive oil cake with dark chocolate on millys-kitchen.com

This cake is moist, tender, chocolatey and darkly spicy (without tasting like pumpkin pie). And the olive oil glaze ties all the sophisticated, wintry flavors together. You need to bake one up for yourself. And then you need to bake up a ton of mini loaves and give them to everyone you think is awesome and amazing and deserving of the best winter squash cake ever. 

You work on that, and I’ll work on bringing you some more stellar holiday recipes over the next few weeks.

xo!

Olaiya


Kuri Squash and Olive Oil Cake with Dark Chocolate

  • 1 1-lb. (455g) piece of kuri squash, seeded
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling, plus 1/2 cup (120 ml)
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups (265 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 oz (230 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pepitas

*Notes: This recipe is from Gjelina by Travis Lett. It is originally entitled Kabocha, Olive Oil & Bittersweet Chocolate Cake. I made a couple small changes:

1) I substituted red kuri squash for the kabocha. Kuri is my all-time favorite squash and since its flesh is firm and relatively dry, you don’t need to drain it as the recipe calls for. You can just scoop and puree it. But I’m confident you could make this cake with just about any winter squash. If the flesh seems wet after roasting, drain in cheesecloth as directed in the recipe.

2) I accidentally halved the amount of olive oil since I was baking two cakes and forgot to double the oil. The finished result was delicious. So know there’s a bit of flexibility in terms of how much oil you need to use. (The amount of oil listed above is half what the original recipe calls for.)

- You’ll want to use a high quality extra-virgin olive oil as the flavor definitely comes through. 

- I used Guittard 72% onyx chocolate wafers, which are my new obsession and go-to for chocolate desserts.

kuri squash and olive oil cake with dark chocolate on millys-kitchen.com

Full instructions for this cake can be found here.

roasted cauliflower salad with pomegranate and hazelnuts

roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on millys-kitchen.com

For those of you in the US, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving! Ours was much better than I expected. As I wrote in my last post, I had been having a hard time getting in the holiday spirit after the election. A few days before Thanksgiving (with no menu whatsoever in place) I happened upon this article, which gave me the idea to draw on Middle Eastern flavors for our holiday meal. The bright flavors of Turkey, Iran, Lebanon and Israel felt like just what I needed to lift me out of my funk.

So I decided to scrap the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce in favor of lemony leek meatballs; a basmati pilaf with chickpeas, currants and dill; homemade flatbread with za’atar; cucumber yogurt and a beautiful pink beet hummus. The star of the dinner, though, was this roasted cauliflower salad with pomegranate and hazelnuts. 

roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on millys-kitchen.com
roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on millys-kitchen.com
roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on millys-kitchen.com

The recipe comes from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi--one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. This salad is earthy, nutty, sweet and tart all at once. The silky texture of the roasted cauliflower is balanced by the crunch of raw celery and toasty hazelnuts. The fact that this salad sits at the unlikely intersection of so many contrasting flavors and textures is a large part of it’s appeal. The fact that it’s beautiful and healthy doesn’t hurt either.

After I made this for Thanksgiving, I realized how festive those jewel-toned colors are--perfect for adding a bright splash to your holiday table. Or a quick weeknight supper. Either way, you can’t go wrong. 

cauliflower and hazelnut salad on millys-kitchen.com

And in case you’re wondering, my post-election blues seem to be fading. I’ve been talking to friends about meaningful ways to take action and stand up for what I believe in. And gathering around the table with loved ones as often as possible. Which, in my opinion, is the best ways to cure any sort of blues.


roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on millys-kitchen.com

Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad

  • 5 tablespoons hazelnuts, raw or toasted
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 large stalks celery, cut on the bias into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/4 cup celery leaves
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves

*Note: I recommend toasting your own hazelnuts for this recipe so their dark, nutty flavor really comes through. But pre-roasted nuts will do in a pinch.

roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on millys-kitchen.com

If you are using raw hazelnuts: preheat your oven to 325° F. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed sheet pan and roast until the skins start to loosen and the nuts turn golden-brown and fragrant, 8-12 minutes  Transfer the hot hazelnuts to a clean tea towel. Gather the four corners of the towel and twist them together to form a parcel around the hazelnuts. Rub vigorously to remove as many skins as possible. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Increase the oven temperature to 475° F. Place the cauliflower on a parchment lined sheet pan, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and toss with a generous pinch of salt. Roast until browned in spots and tender, 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, sherry vinegar, maple syrup, cinnamon, allspice and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Roughly chop the hazelnuts and place them in a large bowl along with the cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, celery, celery leaves, parsley and the vinaigrette. Stir to coat, taste, and adjust seasonings.

Serve at room temperature.

Makes 3-4 side-dish servings.
Adapted slightly from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on millys-kitchen.com

blackberry-pear upside down cake

blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com

Hello friends,

I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week. I was hoping inspiration would hit and I’d be able to send you all a positive message of unity and hope before Thanksgiving. But today, I got nothin’.

It’s been pretty dark in this corner of the world for the past two weeks. The weather, shorter days and post-election mood have conspired to leave me feeling more than a little bit upside down.

So today, upside down cake it is. 

blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com

I have faith that, as with so many things that seem undeniably bad at the outset, some good will come of our current political situation. Hopefully, the results of this election will spark a demand for greater equality and inclusion in this country and beyond. Yossy from Apt. 2B Baking Co. has put together a fantastic list of some things we can all do to turn our anger and frustration into action. So get to it.

In the meantime, cheer yourself up with a slice of cake.

blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com

Blackberry-Pear Upside Down Cake

  • 1 ½ cups (10 ½ oz.) superfine sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ cup (7 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 scant cup (4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ¼ cups (7 oz.) hazelnut flour (or almond flour)
  • 2 firm-ripe pears
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 3 tablespoons apple jelly

Rum Whipped Cream

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons dark rum

*Notes: I used Bob's Red Mill hazelnut flour for this recipe and I love how it turned out. (I have no connection to Bob's Red Mill, BTW. Just love this hazelnut flour!) Store-bought nut flour works best in this recipe because its finer grind gives the cake a lighter texture. If you're in Seattle, Dilaurenti carries an amazing (but pricy) Italian hazelnut flour that would be perfect in this cake. Another great alternative is Trader Joe's almond meal since it's quite finely ground. 

- You can also make your own hazelnut (or almond) flour by placing toasted and cooled nuts in the bowl of a food processor or blender and processing until they form a fine meal. You will be able to get a finer meal in the blender. Adding a tablespoon or two of sugar will help keep the nuts from turning to nut butter. If you go this route, your cake will be a bit more crumbly than if you use store-bought nut flour.

- I call for superfine sugar because it makes for an easier caramel and yields a finer textured cake. If you can't find it (or don't want to buy a box just for this recipe), you can make your own following the directions here

- If you use frozen blackberries, don't thaw them before baking. Raspberries or boysenberries would also be great in this cake.

blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com

Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan with 2 1/2-inch sides. Line the bottom of the pan  with a round of parchment paper and lightly butter the parchment.

To make the caramel, bring ½ cup (3 ½ oz.) of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, do not stir or your caramel could seize up on you. Boil, swirling the pan occasionally, until the caramel turns pale amber. Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter. Swirl the pan until the butter melts into the caramel. Carefully but quickly pour the caramel into the cake pan, tilting it to coat evenly. Whatever you do, do not grab your pan by the bottom as it will be very hot! Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the remaining 1 cup (7 oz.) sugar until just combined. (You can also use a hand mixer or even do this by hand if your butter is soft enough.) Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the zest. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and work until just combined. Set aside.

Peel and core the pears and slice them about ¼-inch thick. Fan the pear slices over the caramel, leaving a bit of room for the berries to show through. If you need to, save some slices back to leave space. Pour the blackberries over the pears. Arrange any remaining pear slices over the berries and pears.

Gently spread the batter evenly over the fruit. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Remove the parchment  paper if it sticks to the top of the cake.

Just before serving, heat the jelly and  water in a small saucepan over medium-low until melted. Brush the top of cake with the apple glaze. Whip the heavy cream, sugar and rum together by hand or using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature accompanied by the whipped cream.

Makes 6-8 servings.