Saturday, March 06, 2010

New Year's Cake, Ranunculuses, and Wine-Dyeing

Well, this may seem like a random post, but I've decided that the unifying element is the color purple . . . that and these are all things that make me happy.

Chinese New Year's Cake (nian gao, 年糕) can be steamed, baked, or fried and include a variety of ingredients - and eaten whenever, even if it's a month past New Year's! While I love steamed nian gao, I don't have a steamer. But my mom has an excellent and simple recipe for baked nian gao, which also includes red bean paste and walnuts. Yum! Recipe at the end of this post.

Red bean paste is dolloped into the batter - see the deep purple goodness oozing out?

I love these Ranunculuses I picked up at the market.

Finally, we had a friend over for dinner the other night. In the middle of our lovely evening, he overturned a full glass of red wine on our roommates white tablecloth. Whoops. It's already been stained to bits by wine, however, and I thought: why not just dye the whole damned thing? I tried with leftover wine and some cheap cooking wine, with some vinegar added to make it set more. After drying the wine-saturated cloth, I then rinsed it thoroughly in scalding hot water. Don't know how permanent the results are, but I do like them!

A pale lavender cotton.

My Mom's Baked New Year's Cake Recipe:

1 pack of sweet rice flour (1 lb) I only trust Mochiko brand
1 cup sugar (I usually use 3/4 cup)
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup cooking oil
3 eggs
1 or 1/2 can of red bean paste
1/2 cup crushed walnuts, cashews, or pine nuts, or mixed (we prefer walnuts)
A little cooking oil or butter, some flour

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Oil and flour a 9x13x3 baking pan.
Mix 1 through 6 well, pour mixture into baking pan.
Use a spoon to scoop red bean paste and drop it onto the batter so that, when done, each piece will have some paste. The paste will sink to the bottom of baking mixture. DO NOT MIX.
Sprinkle nuts on the baking mixture.
Bake at 350 for one hour. A toothpick should come out clean.
Cut when cool. A buttered knife will cut better.

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