Monday, April 2, 2018

coconut, almond, and blueberry cake.

The snow will just not stop.   I always imagined that I could live in a place (like Alaska or northern Maine) where winter truly existed for 6 months of the year but I've come to realize after I am not cut out for that life. It takes a truly special kind of person to live there.  Someone who is capable of not wanting to burn their snow jacket by the end of March.   

SO! If you're in need of a little bit of summer sunshine and looking for a remarkably easy cooking project on this snow day, this is the cake for you (especially if you are blessed with a freezer stash of last summer's blueberries).   This cake bakes up with a pudding-like consistency that makes me feel as if I am getting the best of two deserts in one.   The edges of the cake are firm but as you move towards the center it's soft and almost custardy with pockets of jammy blueberries throughout.   The coconut is not a typical addition but it really adds a nice textural punch and flavor to the cake.  I couldn't help but tweak and add some ground ginger because I love nothing more then the combination of lemon+ginger+almonds.   It's not necessary but it adds another flavor dimension that works.   

Here's to spring (hopefully) coming.   

Coconut, Almond, and Blueberry Cake

The original recipe called for 1 1/4 cups of sugar which seemed like more sugar then needed.  I dialed it back to about 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons and think I could go to 3/4 cup next time.  I've listed a range below.

I also dialed back the butter to 3/4 of a cup (from 3/4 + 2 tbsp) because I hate having random amounts of butter left.  There didn't seem to be any ill-affects from doing this so feel free to do the same!

12/3 cup /180g ground almonds/ almond flour
2/3 cup / 60g desiccated coconut
3/4 -  1 cup /150 - 200 g granulated sugar  
½ cup plus 1 tbsp/70g all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
4 large eggs
¾ cup/173 g unsalted butter melted and cooled
1½ tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
1 1/2 cups/225 grams blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup/ 20g flaked almonds

Grease and line a 23cm/9-inch spring form cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.

In a mixing bowl add he almonds, coconut, sugar, flour, ginger, and salt and whisk to aerate and remove the lumps.

In another bowl add eggs and whisk lightly. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract and lemon zest and whisk again until well combined. Pour this into the dry mix and whisk to combine. Fold in 1 cup of the blueberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and then top with rest of the batter.  Scatter the remaining blueberries on top.   

Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Keep a close eye on it towards the end of cooking.

Set aside for 30 minutes before inverting out of the tin, removing the baking parchment and placing the cake the right way up on a serving plate. It can either be served warm with cream or set aside until cool.

This will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container or wrapped in aluminum foil. It also freezes well for up to a month.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

pasta with roman broccoli sauce.

Jackson otherwise known as our dog otherwise known as our child is my sous chef.   By sous chef I mean he stands under my feet when I'm cooking for dinner waiting for something to drop.   He is a lover of people food and has a real affinity for crunchy vegetables most notably carrots and broccoli stems.   

We've been on a bit of a broccoli kick as of late and for the most part I give him the broccoli stems since everyone knows that broccoli florets are really the best part of the plant.  But a couple of weeks ago I stumbled across this pasta recipe and now I'm pretty sure I will never share my broccoli stems with Jackson again (kidding!). 

This is pretty much the most amazingly wonderful weeknight pasta recipe you can find.   It's a one pot meal that combines everything you need in a single dish.   Broccoli stems are cooked until they are fork tender.  They get thrown in the blender with lemon zest, olives, garlic, red pepper flakes, butter, and pasta water and blended together to form the most luxurious (yet somehow healthyish) pasta sauce you've ever met.  Toss over pasta and with the broccoli florets and you have a dinner.   

Pasta with Roman Broccoli Sauce
Recipe from Christopher Kimball's Milk Street 

I really, really like this sauce with chickpea pasta.   I'm actually a pretty huge fan of chickpea pasta because of how nutty it is and I think it pairs really well with such a green vegetable sauce.    Also, this tastes like spring and I think everyone could use a taste of spring.   

1 pound broccoli, stems and florets separated   
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1½ cups packed baby spinach
2 medium garlic cloves 
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter cut into 4 pieces 
1 tablespoon capers or green olives 
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes 
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest 
12 ounces rigatoni pasta 
1 ounces Pecorino Romano or Parmesan finely grated plus more to serve 

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Peel the broccoli stems, reserving any leaves, and cut crosswise into ½-inch rounds. Add the stems and leaves to the boiling water and cook until fully tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a blender; reserve ½ cup of the cooking water. Keep the water at a boil.

Cut the broccoli florets into 1- to 1½-inch pieces. Add the florets to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water until cooled. Again keep the water at a boil.

To the blender, add the garlic, butter, capers, pepper flakes, ¾ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest and the reserved broccoli cooking water. Puree until smooth and bright green, about 30 seconds. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Stir the rigatoni into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain. Return pasta to the pot and add the broccoli florets, the broccoli puree, ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water, the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon zest and the cheese. Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly and the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

stromboli lasagna.

This recipe showed up on the Smitten Kitchen site about a week before the Superbowl and it took me all of 12 seconds to decide that I had to make it for Superbowl Sunday.   

I probably don't need to tell you that I have a real weakness for things involving bread, sauce, and cheese.  (My last meal on earth will always be pizza.)  And this stromboli which is essentially layer upon layer of thinly sliced pizza on top of thinly sliced pizza is like the perfect marriage of a pizza and a lasagna.  It's also the kind of dish that would allow for so many variations - a white version with crumbled sausage and greens, a tomato version with roasted zucchini and ricotta, basically I could go on forever.   

I know it looks daunting but I promise it's not scary (the dough is incredibly forgiving) and the resulting dish is the epitome of party food (so I suggest you invite some friends over).   

Stromboli Lasagna (Scaccia Ragusana-Style)
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

For the Dough

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons or 165 ml) lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup (115 grams) semolina flour
1 1/3 cups (175 grams) all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
A few sprigs of fresh basil


2 ounces finely grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
6 ounces coarsely grated provolone (aged is great if you can get it) or caciocavallo cheese
2 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella (if buying in a ball, buy wrapped in plastic, not sitting in water)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 3 1/2 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni (optional)
A few slivered leaves of fresh basil (optional)

Make the dough by hand: In a large bowl, combine flours and salt with your fingers or a whisk. Make a well in the center and pour in warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes, until foamy, then add oil to liquid and mix together with your hands or spoon until a craggy ball forms. Knead it together, gathering any loose flour, into a ball, then transfer to a counter and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until a smooth, elastic ball has formed. Oil your now-empty bowl and return dough to it, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; it should double. (Mine was done on the early end — for once.)

Make the dough in a stand mixer: Pour water, sugar, and yeast into the bottom of the mixer’s bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Add oil to yeast mixture, then flours, then salt and use the machine’s dough hook to pull the mixture into a craggy ball. Knead on low for 5 minutes, scraping down as needed, until a smooth, elastic ball has formed. Briefly remove it from your mixer bowl, oil the bowl, and return the dough to it, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; it should double. (Mine was done on the early end — for once.)

Meanwhile, and I mean right away so it has time to leisurely cool, make the sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a medium-sized pot over medium, then add garlic, cook until it barely picks up color, and add pepper flakes and oregano, stir again. Add canned tomatoes (be careful — it’s going to splash up) and salt and stir to combine. Add basil, bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce to a low simmer, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard basil. Adjust seasonings to taste. Set aside to cool to lukewarm or room temperature while dough rises.

Mix cheeses together in a large bowl and refrigerate until needed.

To make a stromboli/packet-like/scaccia shape: Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll your dough into the thinnest rectangle that you can, pulling and stretching it as needed. You’re looking for 1/16-inch thickness; the longer sides should be parallel to you.

Spread tomato sauce over the whole rectangle in a thin, but not too thin, layer. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with about half the cheese, scatter with slices of pepperoni and slivers of basil, if using.

Fold the left and right sides of the dough over the filling to meet at the center. Spread the top with more sauce, seasonings, cheese, and toppings.

Fold the top and bottom in so they meet in the center; spread the top with more sauce, seasonings, and remaining cheese and toppings.

Fold top half over bottom half, take a deep breath, and lift this from the counter and onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Prick the top all over with a fork.

Bake the stromboli/packet/scaccia shape: For about 1 hour, until deeply browned all over and charred in some spots. Rotate the pan as needed for even coloring. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting into squares with a serrated knife, and serving.

Monday, January 22, 2018

pineapple upside-down cake.

As of late, I've been having a number of kitchen highs and lows.   I'm challenging myself to be a little more loose in the kitchen by experimenting more and just simply winging it.  The good thing about that approach is that it allows me to be a little more creative and make some really noteworthy dishes.  The bad thing is that there can also be some epic fails.   Dishes that just feel blah or lack the look/feel/taste of what I envisioned in my head.  They aren't bad per se but they just aren't what I wanted.   When those mistakes happen I can be very hard on myself - wondering how and why I could have wasted certain ingredients on a dish that feels lack luster.   I think part of the issue is that on the weekends, I push myself to tackle too many cooking projects because I convince myself I will never get my chance to cook again.  Obviously this is a crazy thought to have but it's very real thought for me - I manifest this mindset that the opportunity I have will never exist again.  (Traveling with me is not always easy because I convince myself I am never coming back to that location again and then need to eat EVERYTHING I've wanted to eat in the span of 3 days - my stomach and head do not match-up).  I've been trying to control these things and as noted in my last blog post, I'm trying to make 2018 the year where I let myself be OK with doing less or an amount I feel comfortable with.   It's not my nature but I think it will be good for myself.   

With all of that being said, here is a cake.  A recipe I did not make but I wish I did because it's just so good (I did tweak it slightly).  This was the first time I made a pineapple upside down cake and  considering how much I love all other upside-down cake recipes (apple, cranberry, cherry, etc), I'm unsure as to why I waited so long.   The combination of tender, caramelized fruit with a light and fluffy cake base is pretty addicting.   So make this.  And make it your only project one weekend.   

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Tweaked from Apt. 2B Baking 

I upped the pineapple from 2 cups to 3 cups since I had the room.  I also made my own creme fraiche since I had heavy cream I needed to use though I think yogurt could easily be subbed for the creme fraiche.   I also dialed back some of the sugar in the cake as well since I thought the combination of caramel and pineapple would be sweet enough.  Some ground ginger would be really good in the cake but I didn't want to play around with the flavor too much during my first go-ahead.   

Makes one 9-inch cake

For the Topping

4 tablespoons (55g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (110g) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons rum (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground pink peppercorns 
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 bay leaf
3 cups sliced pineapple (fresh or canned – you do you)
A pinch of salt

For the Cake

1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (110g) light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups (320g) crème fraîche or sour cream (I also think 2% or full fat yogurt or a combination of these 3 would work)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oven to 350° F.

Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a 10-inch (or deep 9-inch) cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and combined. Add the rum (if using), pepper, vanilla bean, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt.

Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the pineapple and cook for a few minutes turning the pineapple over in the sauce occasionally until the pineapple begins to soften and release its juices.  Set the pan on a baking sheet, and brush the sides of the pan with a bit of butter. 

To make the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and crème fraiche/sour cream and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Fold the flour into the wet ingredients then pour the batter over the fruit and spread into an even layer.

Bake the cake on the baking sheet until a toothpick inserted inserted into the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a spatula around the outside of the cake and invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Cool completely and remove the bay leaf and vanilla bean pod before slicing and serving. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

curried lentil, tomato, and coconut soup.

Happy 2018.   I know I usually do a re-cap in this space and much like last year, I don't really feel like it.  2017 felt hard in a lot of ways and I don't want to dwell on it.  

I also don’t want to set any outright resolutions because resolutions really stress me out, but the idea of throwing some goals out there feels like a good thing so here it goes.  Find a photograph that I love and buy it.   Run/go to a gym class twice a week (ideally more) because I always feel better after.  Find more creative food solutions for beans and legumes.  Buy less stuff but when you do buy stuff try and buy it second hand.  If you can’t find a small company to buy from.   Make sure you only buy things that you really truly love and can’t live without.   Give and get more hugs.   Continue to read (especially books on topics you don’t know about).   Stop feeling the need to do too much (I’m looking at you weekend cooking projects).  It’s ok to just tackle one thing and tackle it well.   Figure out if it’s time to make a change in your career or if you’re just feeling impatient.  Hold Tyler’s hand more.  Get a cleaning person since cleaning is the source of almost all stress in your life.   Eat more soup since you love it, it’s filling, and it’s cheap.  Eat less cookies.   

And with that, let’s talk about this soup which was in the December/January issue of Bon Appetit.   It’s a Yotam recipe which pretty much guaranteed it was going to be good.  I loved it because it didn’t use chicken stock but instead relies on flavorful ingredients (tomato, coconut milk, etc.) to make a broth that tastes like it’s been cooking for hours.  Best of all it comes together in about 40 minutes, making it the perfect dish for a cold weekday dinner.  

Curried Lentil, Tomato, and Coconut Soup
Recipe from Bon Appetit 

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 2½-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 tablespoon medium curry powder (such as S&B)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¾ cup red lentils
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
½ cup finely chopped cilantro, plus leaves with tender stems for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken well
Lime wedges (for serving)

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add lentils and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, ½ cup cilantro, a generous pinch of salt, and 2½ cups water; season with pepper. Set aside ¼ cup coconut milk for serving and add remaining coconut milk to saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft but not mushy, 20–25 minutes. Season soup with more salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, divide soup among bowls. Drizzle with reserved coconut milk and top with more cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Do Ahead: Soup (without toppings) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

tahini brownies.

Hi!   It's been a weird not-at-all relaxing December.  Work has been exceptionally nutty and for that reason I'm not in the holiday mindset or in the holiday spirit.  Everything about the holidays has exhausted me this year. I tried listening to Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You on repeat to get out of this funk and that did't help.  (Instead I've reverted to Joni Mitchell's River which will always and forever be the greatest Christmas song though the furthest thing from uplifting.)

For a lot of the above reasons, I didn't attempt too many new cookies this year because it all seemed like a lot of work.   Instead I relied on some old favorites (like these and these) to contribute to the annual Cavagnolo cookie-plate extravaganza.  I'm still working on the perfect ginger-molasses cookie.  The first batch I made was good flavorwise but totally wrong when it came to texture.  I'm in the process of making a second batch and tweaked some things.  Will see what happens.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  

I did make one new recipe.  These brownies which have been calling my name in the new Ottolenghi Sweet cookbook for sometime.  These are decadent but my god are they unreal.  The tahini and chocolate pairing makes these really special.  Like holiday table special.   Since they are rich, they can be cut into tiny squares which means they are great for sharing.  And if you do have any left, they freeze brilliantly (I actually prefer them frozen).  

Tahini Brownies 
Recipe tweaked slightly from Sweet 

1 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp/250 g unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch/2-cm cubes, plus extra for greasing 
9 oz/260 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into 1 1/2-inch/4-cm pieces 
4 large eggs 
1 1/3 cups/280 g granulated sugar 
3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp/120 g all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup/30 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
7 oz/200 g halva, broken into 3/4-inch/2-cm pieces  (can be omitted if you can't find)
1/3 cup/70 g tahini paste 
1/4 cup cocoa nibs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Grease your chosen pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Leave for about 2 minutes to melt, then remove the bowl from the heat. Stir until you have a thick shiny sauce and set aside to come to room temperature.

Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until pale and creamy and a trail is left behind when you move the whisk; this will take about 3 minutes with an electric mixer, longer by hand. Add the chocolate and fold through gently with a spatula—don’t overwork the mixture here.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Finally, add the pieces of halva, gently fold through the mix, then pour or scrape the mixture into the lined baking pan, using a small spatula to even it out. Dollop small spoonfuls of the tahini paste into the mix in about 12 different places, then use a skewer to swirl them through to create a marbled effect, taking the marbling right to the edges of the pan.

Bake for about 23 minutes, until the middle has a slight wobble and it is gooey inside—they may be ready anywhere between 22 and 25 minutes. If using the 12 x 8-inch/30.5 x 20-cm pan, they will need a couple minutes less cooking time. They may seem a little undercooked at first, but they firm up once they start to cool down. If you want to serve them warmish (and gooey), set aside for just 30 minutes before cutting into 16 pieces. Otherwise, set aside for longer to cool to room temperature.

Storage: These will keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container. They also freeze well, covered in plastic wrap, for up to a month. When you take them out of the freezer, they are uncommonly good eaten at the half-frozen, half-thawed stage.