Lilian Zamorano sent her family recipe for Strawberry Cream Cake (Torta de Frutillas) for Stacie, who missed her favorite birthday cake from the fabled Andalusia Bakery in Coral Gables. “It was so moist and light,” Stacie remembered, “always kept in the refrigerator because it has all natural whipped cream on the outside as well as in the inside layers with pieces of real strawberries on the inside.”
What makes Zamorano’s cake a cut above the usual is the four layers of homemade sponge cake, the whiff of Grand Marnier — and, of course, the mounds of real whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
Q: Do you by any chance have the receipt for the salad dressing at Olive Garden? I love the salad there and really would love to make the dressing myself.
A: Alas, the salad dressing recipe is not one the Olive Garden shares. However, the chain recently started selling the dressing at Sam’s Club. Or try the dressing here, circa 1989, from Laurenzo’s Italian Market. To make it a little more like the Olive Garden’s, I would add a tablespoon of sugar. To make it your own, add flavors you like — Parmesan or Asiago cheese, minced chives, roasted peppers or sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil or dried Italian seasoning, for example. I usually double the amount of garlic and add hot pepper flakes.
Chili sauce dip
Thai sweet chili sauce had morphed from the Asian foods aisle into the mainstream – even Frank’s Hot Sauce has a version. (For those unfamiliar, the sauce combines hot chiles, vinegar and sometimes onion with the perfect balance of sugar.)
II use it as often as I use ketchup or barbecue sauce, and always have a bottle in the refrigerator. It’s great as a quick perk-up for rotisserie chicken, fried rice, steamed vegetables or sauteed fish.
The dip here couldn’t be simpler, and yet it is addicting — it would be great as a starter for Valentine’s Day or as no-prep party fare.
Tried and new
If you’re looking for a Valentine sweet, check out Alchemy cookies crafted by The Talk’s Carla Hall. I received a package at Christmas, and was quite taken with the tiny bites (1/2-inch squares, just right for those who want an indulgence but not a lot of calories).
They come in sweet and savory varieties and are made with European-style butter and other premium ingredients. My favorite was a lemon-black pepper shortbread, but I also loved the chocolate-hazelnut praline. Prices range from $6 to $40 at alchemybycarlahall.com.
Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Replies cannot be guaranteed.