Tag Archives: food

Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Dark Chocolate (and Orange Mascarpone Frosting, if you like)

There are a lot of ways that you can try to dichotomize people- Right-Brained vs. Left-Brained.  Introverts vs. Extroverts.  Cat-People vs. Dog-People.  (For a while I thought maybe I was an all-around “Animal-Person”, but after much consideration I have come to the conclusion that I am truly a Cat-Person who happens to like some dogs.)

One category that has always baffled me are the people who claim that they are “not a dessert person”.  As someone who, in an ideal world, would conclude every meal with at least a little something sweet, I have a hard time relating to people who claim to never be tempted by ice cream, chocolate, or baked goods.

As I have gotten older, though, my sweet-tooth has developed a more refined palate.  Although there are still a few super-sugary treats I have a hard time resisting (i.e., Dunkin Donuts or Cadbury Creme Eggs), the desserts I really appreciate are the ones that have a lighter touch with the sugar.  Strawberries with balsamic and basil, for instance.

Or this Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Dark Chocolate.  I think this is a cake that even the self-proclaimed non-dessert people would like.  It’s not too rich or too sweet, has a nice graininess from the spelt flour, and the rosemary is fragrant and earthy.

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I followed the recipe exactly, so just follow the link above over to The Vanilla Bean Blog.  While you’re over there, spend some time perusing all the delicious-looking recipes.

A technical note: The recipe calls for using a 9 1/2 inch fluted tart pan.  If you are wondering if you can get away with using a 9-inch tart pan, the answer is yes, but the cake will rise above the edge and bake over the side a little bit.  Absolutely no effect on the taste, just not quite as neat, if you’re concerned with such things.  You can also use a springform cake pan with higher sides; you won’t get the pretty fluted edge, but you don’t have to worry about overflow.

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If you are wanting something fancier, you can top the cake with an orange-scented mascarpone frosting, which makes it a little more decadent but still not over-the-top.   I did this for Mother’s Day, and no one complained.  If you should choose to do so…

  • While the cake is cooling, combine 1 pound mascarpone cheese, 1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream, 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (or a little more, if preferred) in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Use the paddle attachment to beat at high speed, until soft peaks form- about 60-90 seconds.
  • Spread frosting on the top (and sides, if you like) of the cooled cake.  This recipe will yield way more frosting than you will need for the cake, but I’m sure you can find a way to use it up.  I’m thinking it would be lovely with ginger snaps or graham crackers….
  • Keep frosted cake chilled and serve within a few hours.

With or without frosting, leftovers of this cake (if there are any) are wonderful for breakfast.

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Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

I suppose it doesn’t need to be stated that we’ve had a lot of snow this winter.  Every time it has snowed, my Facebook feed has been taken over by posts about people cooking hearty stews and baking dozens of cookies, cinnamon rolls, and donuts.  And every time there has been a forecast for snow, and I’ve joined the crazed masses at the grocery store to stock up for the next Snowpocalypse, I have deliberately avoided buying supplies to bake.  As lazy and inactive as I have felt this winter, I’ve been trying – with varying success week-to-week – to been eating less, especially less sweets.

But a girl can only go through so many snowstorms in one winter before she has to give in to the urge to bake.  And I apparently reached my limit this weekend when word spread about the next storm to hit Maryland today.  I figured (perhaps wishful thinking) that this will be the last snowy excuse I have to bake this year.  And ever since I made these Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies at Christmas, I’ve been wanting to experiment a bit more with chocolate chip cookies.  Don’t get me wrong- those were great.  But I received Joy the Baker‘s cookbook for Christmas, and saw her recipe for Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and thought, “What if I made those and just sprinkled a little Maldon sea salt on top?”

So while I watched the snowflakes fall outside today, I spent some time sprinkling flakes of sea salt on top of balls of cookie dough.  Nick and I are pretty sure the end product is the finest cookie I have baked to date.

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I was going to type up the recipe from the cookbook, but I just discovered that Joy has the recipe on her blog right here.  It’s a little different than the version in the book, but since she posted it after the book came out, I’m going to assume this version is new and improved.  She even added a step of topping them with sea salt.  Great minds think alike.  chocchipcookies2

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Garlic Shrimp and White Beans (and the Best Kale Ever)

The past couple weeks have been full of exciting discoveries.  I figured out how to replace a headlight (a tricky thing with a Mazda), which completely trumped my sense of accomplishment regarding the back light replacement.  Because my car repair self-efficacy is fairly low, I recruited my brother-in-law for moral support, but really, I did it myself.

Even more exciting, and more relevant here, I found out that our big cast iron skillet fits in the broiler of our oven, and I found my new favorite kale recipe.  I’m guessing you’re more interested in hearing about these things.

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The cast iron skillet discovery came in handy for this Bon Appetit recipe for Garlic Shrimp and White Beans.  I followed the recipe almost exactly, but I do have a few comments (don’t I always?)

  • I used a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes rather than fresh chopped tomatoes.  Who wants to buy fresh tomatoes in February?  This did make it a little more liquidy, but this wasn’t a problem with me since I had some delicious sourdough bread to soak it up.
  • Next time I think I would squeeze a little lemon juice over the shrimp just before serving.  It could use a little citrus-y brightness.
  • I don’t think the last two tablespoons of olive oil (drizzled on the shrimp after broiling) are really necessary.  (Although if you had a citrus-infused olive oil, that might work well instead of just using lemon juice).

Generally, this was a really tasty recipe that came together easily and quickly, and reheated well for lunch.

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And now, the kale.  This is ridiculously simple, and not that different from how I have cooked it in the past, but this particular formula seems to be magical in creating a pile of greens that I would never tire of.  It is fully endorsed by Nick, too.  Thank you, Alice Waters.

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Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Vinegar (from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters; serves 4-6)

2 bunches kale (about 2 pounds), torn and washed (drained, but no need to spin dry)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 or 2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Salt

Heat a large saute pan and add olive oil and just enough kale to cover the bottom of the pan.  Allow these greens to wilt down before adding more.  When all the kale has been added, season with salt, stir in garlic, and cover the pan.  The greens will take anywhere from just a few minutes to 15 minutes to cook, depending on their maturity.  When they are tender, remove the lid and allow any excess water to cook away.  Turn of the heat and stir in the vinegar.

Note: The recipe mentions that most leafy greens can be cooked using this method.  I’ve cooked Swiss chard like this, and indeed, it’s excellent.

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Beer-Glazed Black Beans with Chorizo and Orange

This recipe is the neglected guy friend of the female lead in a romantic comedy. You know the one. The best buddy who secretly pines for the girl while supporting her pursuit of another man who is clearly wrong for her. Then suddenly, after the other man has broken her heart, she sees the best friend in a new light (and probably in a rainstorm). The love of her life was there all along, just waiting patiently by her side for her to figure it out.

So, Beer-Glazed Black Beans, forgive me for taking so long to pay attention to you.  I have flipped past you time after time in search of more exciting recipes – maybe something indulgent with cheese and pasta , or something exotic with coconut milk and fish sauce.  Sometimes maybe I entertained the idea, giving you a glimmer of hope as I paused on your page for a moment until my eyes landed on “chorizo” and I moved on.  Then we lost touch completely, as I loaned my copy of The Food Matters Cookbook to a friend for several months. But then I got you back, and this time, something was different.  Maybe it was my need to spend a Saturday night doing nothing but cooking for myself.  Maybe it was my need to redeem myself for last night’s mac and cheese binge by making a dinner full of fiber and protein. Suddenly, “beer-glazed” didn’t seem weird; it seemed intriguing.  I realized you had citrus and cilantro- a couple of my favorite things. How did I not notice that before? And you yield enough food for a couple dinners this week while stashing the rest away in the freezer for another time.  I have a feeling you’re gonna be in heavy rotation for a while.

I was about to put this in the category of “Vegetarian Dishes That My Husband Actually Likes” but then I realized the chorizo makes this most certainly not vegetarian. (That being said, I think you could come up with a decent veggie-friendly version.)  But that’s what makes this a classic Mark Bittman recipe: the meat adds flavor and depth, but the bulk of the meal is plant-based.

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Bittman notes that you should use a beer that you like, because the flavor comes through.  I actually used a beer that I wasn’t crazy about drinking: Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale.   It was a little sweet for me, but I figured that the spices would blend well with the chili powder and beans.  Since it was a sweet beer, I cut back the amount of honey from the original recipe. The only dilemma is that I’m not sure what beer I will use next time, since this was a limited release!

Beer-Glazed Black Beans with Chorizo and Orange

(from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook)

Makes 4 generous servings, and can be frozen and reheated

1 orange

8 ounces Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced (I used pre-crumbled chorizo)

1 red onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

One 12-ounce bottle beer

3 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon honey (or cut back to 1 teaspoon if using a sweeter beer)

Salt and black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (or more, if you’re a cilantro fan like I am)

Halve the orange and seed it if necessary. Peel one half, divide the segments and save the rind; squeeze the juice from the other half.

Put the chorizo in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring and turning to brown the slices, for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the orange rind and juice, beer, beans, chili powder, honey, and salt and pepper.

Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed. Remove orange rind before serving, and garnish with orange slices and cilantro.

Serve hot over brown rice.  Keeps in the fridge for three days, or in the freezers for several months.blackbeans

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Apple & Cheddar Salad

There has been a lot of rain and gray skies this past week.  The upside: I’m welcoming the arrival of boots-and-sweater weather. The downside: It makes me want to hibernate.

More specifically, it makes me want to EAT ALL THE FOOD.  I have to keep telling myself that it’s not time for my once-a-year Fettuccine Alfredo indulgence. The idea of eating green vegetables is less than exciting, unless they are folded into a casserole of macaroni and cheese.  But vegetables must be eaten.  More exercise must take place, too, but let’s just focus on one thing for right now.

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I committed myself to making a salad today for lunch. I’ve talked before about my special relationship with salads.  I’ve even admitted to being seduced by a salad.  Once again today I was struck by how the process of making a salad makes me feel.  Preparing lunch for myself is different than cooking dinner.  It’s leisurely.  There’s no concern about pleasing anyone else.  This is special Sarah time.  As I was mincing shallots and toasting sliced almonds, I felt like I was engaging in some sort of ritual to take care of myself.  You know in chick flicks when the woman recovers from heartbreak by lighting candles, pouring a glass of wine, and running a bath?  That’s oddly what this felt like.

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The foundation of this salad was a mix of spring greens in my fridge that needed to be used, some apple, and good sharp Cheddar.  It didn’t need much beyond that.  I decided to throw some toasted almonds on there for some extra crunch (and fiber and protein).  When it came to the dressing, I whisked together a tiny bit of minced shallots, Dijon mustard, and apple cider vinegar with some olive oil. Seasoned the greens with salt, tossed in the dressing, topped with the sliced apples, coarsely grated Cheddar, and almonds.

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So, this is pretty much a standard fruit-nut-cheese salad formula.  You could change out the almonds for walnuts or pumpkin seeds, or the cheddar for blue cheese or Gruyere.  I used Ambrosia apples because that’s what I had on hand, but I think Pink Lady or Honeycrisp (my favorites) would work nicely, too.

 

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Cumin- and Coriander-Spiced Summer Veggies

Can we just hit “pause” for a moment and try to make summer last a little bit longer?  I know we’ve still got a month or so (or more, if you’re thinking about the seasonal calendar instead of the academic calendar), but I’ve gotten into a comfy breakfast routine that involves fresh berries and I hate the idea of giving it up in a few weeks.  I’m not ready to go back to oatmeal.  I don’t want to have to wear socks.  I want to keep eating farmers market nectarines that are so wonderfully sweet that I momentarily thought, “Maybe I should be one of those people who just eats fruit for dessert.”  Sure, I laughed it off once I remembered the sea salt brownies in the freezer, but the nectarine was so good that I contemplated swearing off chocolate.

Speaking of chocolate and reasons to extend summer, I have only had one s’more this year.  That word doesn’t even look right in the singular form. I have eaten no more than two tomatoes, and they were somewhat disappointing.  I have so much to accomplish in the next month.

To be fair, I have enjoyed steamed crabs twice, maxed out my yearly allowance of hot dogs*, and I’ve consumed so many eggplants, I’m surprised I have not turned purple. They’re my new favorite meaty vegetable (fruit?) and we’re having a hot and heavy affair before the novelty wears off and they get put into regular rotation.

Here’s something I’ve learned this summer on my insatiable quest for eggplants: Eggplants from Trader Joe’s, even if they are featured in a “Grown Locally” section, are not as good as eggplants from a farmers market.  But if you cook them in olive oil infused with cumin, coriander, and saffron, you might be able to overlook their inferiority.

Freshly ground cumin and coriander… I love a good excuse to pull out my mortar and pestle.

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This was an adaptation of a Bon Appetit recipe for Spiced Peppers and Eggplant.  Since I decided to add a yellow zucchini to the mix, I dropped the yellow peppers and just went with orange, because that’s all TJ’s had and I am not going to be fooled into buying a $6 red pepper imported from Holland from our friendly organic market.**

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I didn’t change the recipe beyond the particular combination of vegetables, and using a combo of basil and cilantro, so I’m just going to direct you to the original recipe.  I took BA’s suggestion to chop up the vegetables and stir them in with some Israeli couscous, but I can see them also being a great side to some grilled chicken, pork, or steak.

roasted veggies

*In case you are envisioning that I have eaten dozens upon dozens of hot dogs, I will tell you that it apparently only takes seven or eight hot dogs eaten over the course of a summer to make me feel guilty about eating hot dogs.

**Not again, that is.

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Welcome Home Scones

If your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, you probably are under the impression that everyone in the world is:

a. buying a new house

or

b. getting pregnant and having babies

Seriously, my Facebook feed is nothing but photographs of fetuses, bellies, and babies, and exterior house shots, stacks of boxes, and shiny new house keys.  Oh, and there are still a lot of photos of cats and food (but not cat food).  These are my friends, after all.

Because these are my friends, fortunately I don’t see a ton of the inappropriately first-person-plural updates about infant waste elimination. (You know what I’m talking about: “We’ve already filled five diapers with poop today and it’s not even noon!”  We?? I really hope that’s not something you’re doing with your baby.)

In fact, I felt rather proud of one of my best friends when she posted something referring to a poop situation as a “pants disaster.”  Understated, humorous, and leaves something to the imagination, even if I choose not to imagine it.  Now that’s what I’m looking for in classy baby-related status updates.

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I actually still owe this classy new mom and her husband (also a wonderful friend) a post-baby dinner.  I have a terrible habit of offering to make things for people and then not following through with it. Not because I don’t want to follow through or because I’m flaky and forget about it.  I end up with performance anxiety about the final product, whether it be a painting or vegetarian enchiladas.  There’s something unsettling about trying a new recipe and sending it off for someone else to consume, without having tasted it yourself first.

So, when our friends moved to a new house with a baby, I remembered that I had told them several months before that I’d make them a meal after the baby was born.  Oops.  In the midst of packing, moving, and unpacking, knowing dinner was waiting in the fridge or freezer would probably be really helpful. But I still hadn’t had a chance to test an enchilada recipe. Guilt and obligation versus perfectionism and procrastination.

I ended up compromising by baking scones.

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In their old house, we shared lots of evenings together. Games were played, movies were watched, and bottles of wine and pounds of cheese were consumed.* For some reason, separate nights eating strawberries and gingersnaps also stand out to me. So strawberry & ginger scones seemed like a good idea.

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Something sweet with a little spice.

I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.  She calls them biscuits, but also refers to them as scones. I just think they’re delicious. I’ve made buttermilk scones before, but these use heavy cream instead. They really do taste creamy, which is lovely with the strawberries.

I followed the recipe exactly except for also adding in about a tablespoon of fresh grated ginger.  They did not turn out very gingery, although I wondered if I just did not thoroughly stir in the ginger and someone got a very gingery bite.

If I was going to make them again, I might sprinkle a little raw sugar on top.  I like when scones have a bit of crunchy crust on top, and since these are not very sweet to begin with, a little extra sugar wouldn’t make them too sweet.

Oh, one more thing. I didn’t feel like using biscuit cutters, so I shaped the dough into a rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick, and divided it into 8 squares. Further halving each square diagonally yields a good scone portion, in my opinion, but if you want a larger, more indulgent scone, I fully support your decision.

scones

*Let’s just assume I mean cumulatively over the years, and not per evening.

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