“Kick Up the Heat” Spread
¼ cup Wasabi Arugula, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, optional
Dash of sea salt
In a medium bowl, whip all ingredients together until smooth. Spread over crackers. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few days.
6 ounces young dandelion leaves, tough stems and base ends removed*
2 tablespoons blanched hazelnuts (filberts), coarsely chopped (optional)
3 ounces thick-cut sliced slab bacon, cut crosswise into pieces ½ inch wide
1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground coarse pepper to taste
Pick over the dandelion leaves, tearing the larger ones in half. Place in a wooden salad bowl. Add the hazelnuts, if using.
In a small frying pan over high heat, fry the bacon until crisp and its fat has been rendered, about 1 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the bowl holding the dandelions, leaving the fat in the pan.
Return the pan to high heat, add the vinegar, and swirl the pan or stir with a wooden spoon to pick up the sediment on the bottom.
Pour in as much additional oil as will be necessary to dress the salad, swirl once to heat a little, and then pour the contents of the pan over the salad. Season with salt and pepper, toss, and serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 6
*If dandelion leaves are not available, the outer dark green leaves of curly endive or spinach may be substituted.
After tasting a smorgasbord of color, flavors, shapes and textures, attendees indulged their sweet tooth with a few garden-inspired desserts:
Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake and Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting
Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs, well beaten
¾ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup buttermilk
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups grated carrots
1 (3 ½-ounce) can flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting
Combine flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
Combine eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla; beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture, pineapple, carrots, coconut, and chopped walnuts. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.
Bake at 350˚F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately spread Buttermilk Glaze evenly over layers. Cool in pans 15 minutes; remove from pans, and let cool completely.
Spread Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and side of cake. Store cake in refrigerator.
Yield: One 2-layer cake
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon soda
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine sugar, soda, buttermilk, butter, and corn syrup in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; cook 4 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Yield: about 1 ½ cups.
Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon orange juice
Combine butter and cream cheese, beating until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, powdered sugar, rind, and juice; beat until smooth. Yield: enough for one 2-layer cake.
Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cake
2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
6 ounces (¾ cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
⅔ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
For the frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod
1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about ½ inch of stem. Place clean beets in a piece of foil. Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil. Seal up foil. Place on a baking sheet in the oven. Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
Remove the beets from the oven. Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely. Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.
Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane. Measure ¾ cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting. Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚. Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans. Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan. Cut it out and place inside the cake pan. Butter the parchment paper. Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan. Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture. Beating on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk. Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated. Try not to overmix the batter. Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients. Cake batter will be on the thick side…not pourable.
Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30 to 32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan). Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.
To make the frosting
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth. Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Beat in the beets. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
To assemble the cake
Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate. Top with a generous amount of pink frosting. Spread evenly. Place the other cake on top of the frosting. Top with frosting. Work frosting onto the sides of the cake. You will have extra frosting left over. Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make cake easier to slice). Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.
Yield: Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake
Pictures by Starla Willis and Linda Alexander