I received the gorgeous A16 Food + Wine cookbook as thank you gift from my sister around Christmas but haven’t used it until today. I don’t know what I was waiting for as the pistachio and almond cake with orange salad that I made today was delicious.
The book is co-authored by A16 restaurant’s chef Nate Appleman, wine director Shelley Lindgren and Chicago-based food writer Kate Leahy. Named for the A16 highway in Italy, the first section of the book focuses on Italian wines while the second section is about the food. I know I said it before but it’s necessary to say again: this book is stunning! The photographs, many of which were taken in Italy, are rich and vivid and make my mouth water.
I could only hope the cake would taste as good as it looked in its photograph. And it did, although my photo above didn’t do it justice. The cake was delicious right out of the oven – moist, aromatic and nicely textured but somewhat subtle in flavor. And it was very filling. But what made it stand out for me was how the flavors really came together with the tanginess of the yogurt and sweet acidity of the oranges (I only used blood oranges instead of mixing those with navel oranges as I accidentally ate the navel orange for a snack yesterday). As I was eating, I actually smoothed the yogurt into a thick, frosting-like layer and cut the oranges into bite-sized pieces and piled them on top of the cake to create the most perfect bites.
This is a dessert I’ll make for entertaining. It’s simple and fairly quick to prepare, can be made in advance, and the presentation is impressive. Here’s the recipe:
Pistachio & Almond Cake with Orange Salad
Serves 6 to 8
1 1/3 cups unsalted shelled pistachios
1 1/3 cups blanched almonds
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar
Zest of 3 lemons
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 blood oranges
2 Valencia or navel oranges
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup plain yogurt*
Unsalted shelled pistachios
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 300F. Grease and flour a loaf pan. Set aside.
Combine the pistachios and almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Set aside.
Combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla then decrease the speed to low. Slowly add the ground nuts and mix just until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, being sure each is incorporated before adding the next. Stir in the flour and salt until just combined.
Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes about clean, about 45 to 55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes then remove the cake from the pan. It can be sliced and served warm or cooled completely and reheated when needed (bake slices in 400F oven 2 to 2 1/2 minutes per side until warm and slightly toasted).
To make the orange salad, cut the top and bottom off the oranges, then along the sides to remove the peel and white pith. Cut the oranges into rounds and save any juices that may accumulate. Set the oranges aside.
Heat the marmalade in a small pot or saute pan over low heat for 3 minutes until it breaks down and becomes liquid. Add any reserved orange juices and the lemon juice. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water to thin it out – it should be the consistency of a vinaigrette or syrup. Cool.
To serve, place 4 or 5 orange slices on each plate and drizzle with orange marmalade.** Place the warm pieces of cake next to the oranges and top with a spoonful of yogurt and a few pistachios.
*The cookbook specifies “plain whole-milk yogurt” but I prefer low-fat Greek-style yogurt for the added tanginess. Pick what you like!
**I messed up this step and couldn’t tell the difference, although it is noticeable in the photograph. I actually spread the marmalade on the cake rather than drizzle it on the oranges and think it would be fine to leave the marmalade out all-together.