July 29, 2009

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

Our friend's birthday was the other day, and we celebrated it the good ole' SF way with oysters from Tomales Bay and guava cake from Yasukochi's. However, no birthday is complete without chocolate (obviously!)....so of course we also had to throw some of that into the mix as well :) In searching for her special chocolate treat, I came across a chocolate cookie recipe that had the description, "made without butter or flour, these dense and chewy cookies will satisfy even the most intense chocolate craving." Ummmm, he-llo!

Despite the simplicity of the recipe (5 ingredients total!), I actually had a fairly challenging time rolling the batter into balls because it was so gooey in the beginning with the melted chocolate. It wasn't until the dough had been left out at room temperature for a while that it began to harden, making it much easier to handle. As you can see in the first picture, half are rolled in powdered sugar and the other half are plain. Although both were equally delicious, I think the powdered sugar ones look a little more festive, what'd ya think?

The end result was exactly how the recipe described it. Chewy and crisp on the outside, soft and dense in the center. You also get bits of chocolate chips in every bite, which is a nice little addition. Too much chocolate never hurts, right? ;) These are VERY dangerous with milk...or in my case, on a picnic with oysters, sausages, chips, chicken salad, guava cake and beer :D

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2008

Makes about 24

1 1/2 C bittersweet chocolate chips
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 1/2 C powdered sugar
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400. Melt 1 C chocolate chips in glass bowl in microwave, stirring once, about 1-2 minutes. Cool slightly.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1 C sugar. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow creme. Mix 1 C sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend. Add dry ingredients to meringue, stirring until mixed. Add lukewarm melted chocolate and chocolate chips (dough will become very stiff after a couple of minutes).

Place 1/2 C sugar in bowl. Roll 1 T dough into ball; roll in sugar, coating thickly. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and top is slightly cracked, about 7-8 minutes.
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July 26, 2009

Orange Cranberry Scones

I picked up a scone from Starbucks the other day, and was severely disappointed. Hard, doughy and more like a blueberry biscuit than anything -- it was the ultimate insult to what a scone should be. Feeling totally unsatisfied and cheated of my scone allotment, I went home in search of something that would be able to somewhat redeem the biscuit I had earlier.

Well, I think found it. This (dare I say) perfect scone recipe yields buttery and flaky scones that become delicately crumbly in your mouth. AC and I ate them right when they came out of the oven (hard to resist when a rich buttery aroma is wafting through your entire apartment!), and they were unbelievably soft, fluffy and flavorful. The scones also have a subtle orange essence that compliments the tartness of the cranberries wonderfully. My only complaint is that they definitely didn't taste as good the day after...does anyone know if that's common for most scone recipes?

Cranberry-Orange Scones
Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 1998

Makes 10

3 C all purpose flour
1/3 C sugar
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 T grated orange peel
3/4 C chilled, unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 C dried cranberries
1 C chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Mix in orange peel. Cut the butter into the flour until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in dried cranberries. Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to bind dough, about 4 turns. Form dough into 1.5-inch thick round or rectangle. Cut into 10 triangles. Transfer wedges to baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until tops are slightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet, and then transfer to cooling rack.
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July 23, 2009

Kimbap + Sesame Roasted Edamame

After our friend's extravagant Polish dinner party the other week (complete with Polish music and vodka shots...not kidding), we really just needed some good ole' rice and veggies to detox from all that meat. :P Not that we're normally huge vegetable eaters. But I would gladly eat this flavorful edamame on a daily -- ok weekly, basis.

I also decided to make kimbap because it's relatively quick, makes a lovely light meal or snack, and is chock-full of veggies! Kimbap is a popular Korean staple that is similar to Japanese futomaki, but (in my unbiased opinion) tastes much better. I think the difference is that futomaki uses larger amounts of rice vinegar and is served with wasabi soy sauce, while kimbap has more sesame oil and usually contains fishcake or meat in it as well. It's really addicting, and goes perfectly with edamame for a utensil-less meal! :D

Sesame Roasted Edamame
My mother's recipe

Serves 6 generously

2 bags (1 lb each) frozen edamame, in pods
2 T soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
1 T sesame oil
1 T toasted sesame seeds
Kosher salt, to taste

Spread frozen edamame on on baking sheet, and cover loosely with foil so steam can escape during roasting. Bake in pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and roast an additional 15-20 min, until slightly brown. Whisk together vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce in a small bowl. Drizzle over hot soybeans and toss to coat. Add sesame seeds and salt.

AC's recipe

Makes around 8-10 rolls

4 C sushi rice
2 T rice vinegar
2 T sesame oil
1/2 t soy sauce

1 bunch spinach
1 t sesame oil
1 t soy sauce
1 t sesame seeds

2 carrots, julienned
1 english cucumber, sliced
3 eggs
1 pickled radish (daikon), sliced
fish cake or spam, sliced
6-8 roasted seaweed sheets (nori)

Cook rice and let cool 20 minutes. Mix in rice vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Set aside. Blanch spinach (boil for 1 minute and immediately rinse with cold water) and toss with sesame oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. Set aside. Beat eggs and fry into a flat pancake. Slice omelet into thin strips. Set aside.

Place the nori shiny-side down on the sushi mat. Spread a thin layer of rice on top so about 2/3 of the seaweed is covered. Lay carrots, eggs, cucumbers, fish cake, spinach and daikon close to the bottom. Roll sushi mat from the bottom, like a sleeping bag. Cut and serve.

Most kimbap recipes can be easily adapted to suit your individual tastes. Similar to a sandwich, feel free to add or take out different vegetables, meats, etc.

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July 22, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Our Polish friend was throwing a Polish dinner party the other night, and we were in charge of bringing the dessert. Not that cupcakes are necessarily Polish...but I figured you can never go wrong with red velvet, right? Plus, I kinda wanted some myself :D

I've made this red velvet recipe before as a layered cake, and have sworn by it since then. Its mild chocolate flavor is delectably moist, and when you combine this tender crumb with a generous dollop of cream cheese frosting -- there really IS no turning back! I could go on and on about the necessity of the frosting, but essentially it's the perfect compliment as the cream cheese slightly cuts the cake's sweetness...but also enhances it at the same time. Makes perfect sense, huh? :P

The one thing I hate are dry cupcakes...and even though I admittedly slightly over baked this batch (whoops), the cupcakes were still sinfully moist and delicious. Note to self: cupcakes bake faster than cake! I only baked them for 16 minutes (directions stated 27 mins for a 2-layer cake) and think I still could have shaved about 1 to 3 min off that time.

Red Velvet Cake / Cupcakes
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2003

Makes 18 cupcakes or one 9-inch layered cake

2 1/4 C sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 C buttermilk
1/2 bottle red food coloring
1 t distilled white vinegar
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 C sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs

2 8-0z packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 T vanilla extract
2 1/2 C powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Mix sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in a small bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended.

Add eggs to mixed butter and sugar, 1 at a time. Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions.

Pour batter into cupcake trays. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10-12 min. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes.

Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Spread frosting over cupcakes

*For a 2-layer cake, use 2 9-inch cake pans and bake 27 minutes
**If you are having problems with frosting, place cake into the refrigerator to chill. This will make it easier to frost.
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July 20, 2009

Veal, Sausage and Porcini Ragu with Pasta

Even though it's summer and been a balmy 80 degrees all week (hot for SF!)....I've been craving hearty, comfort foods like no other. Go figure. Specifically, I really wanted something authentically Italian. Something you could only get in the Tuscan countryside where the pasta is al dente, and the sauce is bursting with flavor and depth.

Well, this sucker hit the nail on the head. Obviously sausage and veal are no "light" foods, but what really gives this dish its comforting heartiness are the porcini mushrooms (YUMMY!), which add a really earthy, almost smoky element to it. Pour this meaty sauce over pappardelle noodles, and you have a definite home run. AC's already asking when we're going to rotate this into our menu again :D

Pasta With Veal, Sausage and Porcini Ragu
Bon Appetit, May 2000

Serves 6-8 (I would say more like 4-6, but maybe that's because we're pigs! :P )

1 C water
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms

1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 C plus 2 T finely chopped Italian parsley
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 oz sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
8 oz veal stew meat, chopped (I used ground veal)
1/2 C dry red wine
2 14-oz cans chicken broth

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
2 bay leaves (I used 1/2 of a dried one)
2 t chopped fresh sage
1 t fennel seeds, lightly crushed

1 lb pappardelle

Bring water and mushrooms to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Strain soaking liquid through sieve into a bowl and coarsely chop the mushrooms. Set both aside.

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, 1/4 cup parsely and garlic. Saute around 5 minutes. Push vegetables to the edge of the skillet and add the sausage, cooking until brown about 5 minutes. Add veal and saute another 5 minutes. Add wine, bringing everything to a boil until the wine is almost evaporated. Add 1 C chicken broth, boiling for 10 minutes. Add mushroom liquid and simmer for 5 minutes until liquid is almost evaporated again. Mix in tomatoes with juices, bay leaves, sage, fennel seeds and porcini mushrooms. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes and adding remaining chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time. Stir occasionally for about 1-2 hours.

*I removed the bay leaf from the sauce after 30 min so its flavor wasn't too overpowering
** The longer you let the sauce simmer, the more the flavors are able to stew and come out!

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July 16, 2009

Blueberry Maple Granola

This should really be a post about how AC thinks everyone in California wears Birkenstocks and eats granola all day :P But regardless of his misconception, I think I'm getting closer to my perfect bowl of granola.

Some people like their granola really soft so it turns slightly soggy when mixed with yogurt or milk. Some like it on the other extreme, where it almost hurts your teeth because it's so crunchy (even when in yogurt/milk!). I like it somewhere in between, but definitely with a lot of clusters.

While this granola recipe didn't yield as many clusters as I had hoped for (more on this later), its flavor turned out better than most of my 4-5 previous attempts at homemade granola. I think that's because this recipe tells you to toast the nuts separately from the oat mixture, and then add them in with the dried fruit at the very end. This prevents the over/under baking of "goodies" that usually happens when you mix everything together in the beginning and bake in one big batch.

Extreme Granola
Adapted from Epicurious, July 2008

Makes about 7 cups

1 C almonds
4 C old-fashioned rolled oats
4 T unsalted butter
1/3 C pure maple syrup or honey
1/2 C dried blueberries
1/2 C dried cherries (or other fruit such as dates, cranberries, etc.)
1/4 C sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line a large shallow baking sheet with foil. Spread the nuts on the sheet and roast for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Transfer browned nuts to a board and chop. Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the maple syrup. Mix this syrup with the oats and shredded coconut. Pour mixture onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly. Bake for 30 min, stirring once with a spatula halfway through, until the oats are lightly colored. Let cool; toss with dried fruit and nuts.

*For crunchier granola, add 1-2 egg whites to the oat mixture before baking
** I've read that you can create more clusters by adding H20 to the mixture. Essentially the wetter the oats, the more likely they will cluster. I love my clusters -- so I'll test out this water theory next time, and let you know how it works...
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