New York City Eateries

February 1, 2013

Cafe, Greenwich Village

Cafe, Greenwich Village

Quite a few things on my New York “To-Do” List involved food — tasting hot dogs from a street stand, eating a bagel for breakfast, finding the best pizza slice and an authentic New York cheesecake.  My husband and I gleefully worked our way down the list, and sampled more than a few hot dogs and pizza slices.

New York City has an overwhelming number of eateries.  I was thankful that my niece, who lives in the East Village, knew some terrific ethnic places just steps away from her apartment.  We ate one dinner at the Hummus Place and another at a Japanese curry shop.  The curry shop was a narrow space, with just room for one long counter.  Patrons hung their coats and bags on hooks on the wall behind them or on hooks under the counter.  You had to squeeze behind a long line of seated customers to get to thee bathroom at the back.  And the place was hopping!  We had the best bagel I’ve ever eaten at another East Village spot.

Here in Seattle I prepare and eat most of my meals at home.  If I lived in New York, the temptation to eat out all the time would be irresistible.

Papaya dog, the first NY hot dog we sampled

Papaya dog, the first NY hot dog we sampled

Tompkins Square Bagels in the East Village -- yummy bagels and toppings

Tompkins Square Bagels in the East Village — yummy bagels and toppings

Eating at the counter at Curry-Ya in the East Village

Eating at the counter at Curry-Ya in the East Village

Tempting sweets

Tempting sweets

Hummus Place, a ground floor restaurant in the East Village

Hummus Place, a ground floor restaurant in the East Village

Our dinner at Hummus Place

Our dinner at Hummus Place










Pear-Ginger Upside Down Cake

“An’ I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st have it to buy ginger-bread.”
— William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour Lost

Ginger is one of the tastes of the winter season.  I planned to make some gingerbread, but as I was browsing my recipes, I found this one for a Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake, copied from the Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook.  We love the more traditional Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, so I thought this might be a tasty variation.  We are hard-pressed to choose which we like better, although the pear version must be eaten warm.  From now on, I’ll mark both as favorites!

Arranging pears in the bottom of the pan

It fell out of the pan, upside-down onto my plate, with no trouble.

First bite -- yummy

Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake
from the Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook

Pear-Ginger Topping
1/4 c butter or margarine
2/3 c packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 pears, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (I used canned pears)
1/4 c finely chopped crystallized ginger

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 c finely chopped crystallized ginger
1-1/3 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c milk

1.  Heat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease bottom and sides of 8- or 9-inch pan with shortening.  In 1-quart saucepan, melt 1/4 c butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Stir in 2/3 c brown sugar.  Heat to boiling; remove from heat.  Stir in 1/2 tsp ground ginger.  Pour into pan; spread evenly.  Arrange pear wedges on sugar mixture, overlapping tightly and making 2 layers if necessary.  Sprinkle 1/4 c crystallized ginger over pears.

2.  In small bowl, toss 1 Tbsp flour and 1/4 c crystallized ginger to coat; set aside.  In another small bowl, mix 1-1/3 c flour, the baking powder and salt; set aside.  In large bowl, beat 1 c brown sugar and 6 Tbsp butter with electric mixer on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth.  Add vanilla.  Gradually beat in flour mixture alternately with milk.  Stir in ginger-flour mixture.  Spread over pears in pan.

3.  Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Cool 15 minutes on wire rack.  then loosen edges of cake with small knife.  Place heatproof plate upside down onto pan; turn plate and pan over.  Serve warm with ginger whipped cream.

Ginger Whipped Cream (I served with vanilla ice cream instead)
1 c whipping (heavy cream)
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger

In chilled medium bowl, beat whipping cream on high speed until it begins to thicken.  Gradually add granulated sugar and 1/4 tsp ground ginger, beating until soft peaks form.

Watercolor sketch of strawberries

Another watercolor sketch of a strawberry

June is the month of strawberries, but these are from California rather than from local farmers.  I bought them at Costco, and as usual with Costco portions, we’ve been flush with strawberries for the past few days.  I needed to use them up fairly quickly, and that was all the excuse I needed to make a recipe for Strawberry Upside-Down Cake that I saw in one of the blogs I follow (’ll share the recipe here:

Strawberry Upside-down Cake

recipe found on

makes: one 8-inch cake

For the Topping:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup sliced strawberries

For the Cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

I used an 8-inch round with 3-inch tall sides. You can also use a 9-inch round with 2-inch sides.

Place butter in the cake pan and place in the oven. When butter is melted, remove pan from the oven. Using two pot holders, tilt the pan around and around, coating the sides of the pan with butter. Once sides are coated, set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar on medium speed. Cream until slightly pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop mixer, scrape down the bowl with a spatula, and add egg and vanilla extract. Beat for 1 minute.

Turn the mixer off, scrape the bowl, and add the dry ingredients. Beat on low speed while adding the sour cream. Beat until the batter just comes together. Batter will be pretty thick. Remove the bowl from the mixer and finish incorporating ingredients with a spatula.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup brown sugar into the melted butter in the cake pan. Sprinkle strawberry slices over the butter and sugar in a single layer. Spoon batter over the strawberries and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake rest for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cake and inverting the cake onto a cake plate. Serve warm with sweetened sour or whipped cream.


Bowl of sliced strawberries

Strawberry Upside-Down Cake just out of the oven

My husband liked this cake so much that he ate two pieces, one right after the other!

Lemon Cornmeal Skillet Cake

I like the idea of baking in a cast iron skillet.  These heavy frying pans evoke a pioneer, homesteading spirit — don’t you agree? 

I came across this Lemon Cornmeal Skillet Cake recipe on a blog I follow.  (You can link to it here:  Joy calls it a “breakfast” cake, but it is much lighter and more delicate than scones or coffee cake, so I think it’s perfect for a lemony dessert.  I’ve copied the recipe here for your convenience:

Melting and browning the butter

Lemon Cornmeal Skillet Cake
from Joy the Baker, who adapted it from Bon Appetit, April 2009

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus one tablespoons unsalted butter, melted until browned then cooled slightly

Lemon Glaze:
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

In a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat until browned and fragrant.  Use a potholder to grab onto the cast iron and carefully tilt back and forth so the melted butter greases the sides of the pan.  Remove browned butter from the cast iron to cool, and set the buttery cast iron aside.  That’s what we’re going to bake the cake in!

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, simply butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.  Set aside.  Brown the butter in a skillet over the stove top and incorporate into the recipe just the same.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a small bowl, carefully whisk together eggs, buttermilk, lemon zest and butter.  Add the wet ingredients, all at once, to the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula.  Fold until very few lumps remain.  Pour batter into the prepared buttered pan and place in the oven.

While the cake bakes, whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice for the glaze.  Set aside.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Use a skewer or the tines of a fork to poke holes in the bake.  Sporadic holes here and there will do.  Pour over the glaze, spread evenly and let rest for about 30 minutes before serving.  This cake will last for up to 4 days, well wrapped, at room temperature.

Lemon Cornmeal Skillet Cake -- Enjoy!

Watercolor sketch of cast iron skillet