My grandmother, Sunny Mathison, turns 100 this Sunday, June 10, and our family and friends will be gathering at Pelican Lake in Minnesota this weekend to celebrate her amazing life.
My grandmother embodies the qualities that have defined the Greatest Generation. She is elegant, faithful, responsible, hard-working, dignified and humble. In the course of her life, she has been a devoted and beloved daughter, wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt and friend.
Like many from her generation, she is, even still, a disciplined writer of thank-you notes and a sharp bridge player. She rarely sits still, exercises often, reads daily and takes impeccable care of herself. She is a marvelous home cook who made sure that every dinner she served always included a special dessert. I am humbled, and grateful, to be part of her gene pool and delighted to celebrate her arrival into the rarefied club of centenarians.
Part of our celebration will include several homemade angel food cakes, an old-fashioned specialty and one of my favorite cakes to make from scratch. Just in case there is any cake left over, I've come up with a great excuse for Sunny to enjoy some birthday cake for breakfast (not that you need one if you're 100 years old): Angel Food French Toast.
The egg batter includes a little slurry made from milk and flour, which helps to create a wonderfully crisp outer texture while keeping the cake inside soft and moist. To cook the French toast, I use a griddle set on medium heat and cook each piece on three sides until golden brown, including the thick outer crust.
This breakfast treat is wonderful on its own, but even better when given a seasonal touch with homemade strawberry sauce, also known as a coulis (coo-lee). Coulis is a French word for a simple, thin puree of either a fruit or vegetable that has been strained of seeds to create a smooth sauce.
Featuring just three ingredients - strawberries, lemon or apple juice and sugar - this strawberry coulis can be whipped together in about 20 minutes and refrigerated for at least five days, or frozen for several months. It is excellent with Angel Food French Toast, ice cream, cake or even just toast.
Angel Food French Toast is a heavenly confection fit for an angel 100 years in the making. On behalf of my family and everyone who is blessed to know Sunny, we wish you the happiest of birthdays!
Angel Food French Toast
Serves: 4 to 6
1 angel food cake, sliced into 12 pieces
3 large eggs
¾ cup milk, plus 2 tablespoons
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Butter, for greasing the griddle/pan
Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium to medium-low heat.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla and ¾ cup milk until frothy.
In a small bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, salt and cinnamon until evenly blended. Add 2 tablespoons flour and mix until the dry ingredients are totally dissolved to create a slurry.
Add the slurry to the egg mixture and beat until well combined.
Heat a griddle or pan on medium to medium-low heat. One at a time, soak each slice in the egg mixture, letting most of the liquid drain off. For best results, place soaked slices on a wire rack set over a baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes.
Melt a pat of butter on the hot griddle/pan, then place 2 to 3 pieces on it and cook until golden brown on 3 sides, including the thick outer crust, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining slices, adding butter as needed.
Serve with strawberry sauce or fresh fruit and fresh whipped cream.
Leftovers may be refrigerated for up to 2 days and reheated on the griddle/pan before serving.
Makes: About 1 ½ cups
1 pound strawberries, tops removed and halved
¼ to ⅓ cup sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (apple juice may be substituted)
In a medium saucepan, add the strawberries, ¼ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon juice and stir to combine. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the berries are mushy-soft. Use a handheld or liquid blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Taste the sauce and add more sugar and/or juice as desired.
To remove the seeds, place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the liquid into it, using the back of a ladle to press the mixture through. Transfer sauce to a squeeze bottle or airtight container and refrigerate for at least 5 days or freeze for several months.
Recipe Time Capsule:
This week in...
• 2017: Strawberry Coffee Cake
• 2016: Spicy Black Bean Salad
• 2015: Fried Mushroom Balls
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.