Monday, January 31, 2011

A guilty snack - chocolate barks

I don't know if this really counts as cooking, but I made two different kinds of barks, and I was so happy to eat them I thought I would share.

For the pretzel bark - In a double boiler melt down 12 ounces of dark chocolate (maybe Scharffenberger bittersweet 70% cacao . . .?) until it is smooth and creamy (but not burnt). In a sheet pan lined with parchment paper pour out the melted chocolate and spread it around evenly with a spatula. Crumble 1 cup of thin salted pretzels and sprinkle them across the chocolate. For the final step sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Once hardened, break the bark into pieces and devour.
For the peanut butter bark - melt 16 ounces of milk chocolate in a double boiler. Pour the chocolate in another lined sheet pan. Spread evenly. Warm 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter in the double boiler. Pour the peanut butter in with the chocolate. Swirl a knife through the peanut butter to make it all pretty. Place the bark in the fridge for some hours. Check to make sure it is set and then put the point of a knife into it to break it into pieces.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Not for the Meat-Faint-of-Heart: Winter Oxtail Stew

Even though it appears that spring is making a guest appearance here in San Francisco (a 70 degree day in January!), I am doing an ode to winter with my mom's oxtail stew. She made this for New Year's Eve this year and it was divine - hearty and velvety. Mmmm...

Begin by browning 2-3 lbs of seasoned (w/ salt and pepper) oxtails in a large, well-loved pot with some olive oil. Remove the oxtails and place them aside. Throw in 4-5 chopped celery stalks and 4 chopped carrots. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
Replace the oxtails in the pot. Add in a head of garlic cloves, 2 cups good quality beef stock and 2 cups of red wine. Also add a couple bay leafs, 5 sprigs of fresh thyme and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 3 hours.

While the stew is cooking, oven roast some root veggies. Roughly chop 3 carrots and a couple of parsnips and turnips, maybe even some potatoes. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out in a roasting pan and throw in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until tender and nicely caramelized.

Skim the fat off the top of the stew. Add in the roasted vegetables and cook on low for another 1/2 hour. Then dish up and sprinkle with some fresh parsley. Enjoy thoroughly.

This recipe was adapted from the original which you can find here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chocolate Frustration Cake

This weekend I had a lovely lazy Sunday. My favorite time to cook is on a grey day when I have loads of lazy time and can leisurely meander my way through a dish. So this last Sunday provided me with the perfect cooking opportunity but I couldn't decide what I wanted to make. I was going to do a main course or a soup, but then I just wasn't in the mood. Next, I decided I would make this pie that I have been wanting to make for a while, but after I looked at the recipe (a small novel), I ditched that option. Then, I found an easy pie that sounded great, but it called for pecans. I didn't have any and I had JUST come from the market. Frustration was mounting and I decided to regroup. So, I sat back and thought about what I was in the mood for - I decided upon a chocolaty cake with crunchy chocolate chips laced throughout it and thus, a cake was born.

I found a recipe of Nigella Lawson's that seemed good, but it involved making a chocolate syrup that I decided from the outset I wasn't going to do. I went ahead and started to assemble my ingredients, only to realize that I didn't have cocoa powder, which led me to my version of Chocolate Frustration cake.

To begin, combine a heaping 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, 1 1/2 sticks butter (softened), 2 eggs, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp baking soda, a dash of salt, AND swirl in 1/2 - 2/3 cup chocolate syrup (mmmm). Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water. Finally, fold in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into one large, well-greased loaf pan. Lick bowl clean. Pop your cake into a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. I enjoyed my loaf with a large glass of milk.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Quick Bite - Arizmendi

Happy Holiday Weekend! We took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather (67 degrees in San Francisco - sounds like bathing suit weather!) and went for a bike ride yesterday over to Irving Street. We worked up quite an appetite biking those relatively level 3.4 miles and eagerly headed into the neighborhood cooperative bakery, Arizmendi. We got a slice of focaccia with goat cheese and marinated artichokes to tide ourselves over while waiting for our pizza. Arizmendi makes one type of pizza each day and the selection changes daily. The focaccia was good but the pizza was spectacular - parsley, button mushrooms, housemade tomato sauce and cheese all united on a glorious piece of crust. mmm. . .

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lemon Pudding Cake

After a marathon weekend of eating and drinking I received a request for a light dessert. I immediately thought of the delicious sounding lemon recipe that I had torn out of a magazine. Of course I couldn't remember the name of the dish nor could I locate the recipe (although I'm sure it was in my way for the last three weeks, but now that I want it . . .). Anyway, I made the best of my absent-mindedness and found a simple recipe (six ingredients!) for a Lemon Pudding Cake.
To start combine 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt and a heaping 1/2 cup of sugar in a large bowl.
In a separate small bowl combine 3 egg yolks, 1 1/3 cup whole milk, and the juice and zest of two lemons.
Add the wet mixture into the dry and stir to combine.
For the following step, the "official recipe" instructs you to beat the three egg whites with your electric mixer. . . some of us don't have one of those. In that case, bear down and hope that your upper body strength is better than mine and get to beating those eggs by hand.

Frothy . . .

Once the egg whites form soft peaks gradually add in 1/4 cup sugar.
Soft peaks. . .

Beat until the whites form
Add in 1/4 of egg whites to your other mixture and stir to combine. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour into a buttered baking dish (I, for example, used a pie pan) and pop into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

Eat up!
For the original recipe from Gourmet magazine click here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

after a brief holiday hiatus . . . I'm back . . . with Quinoa!

Happy New Year!

Starting the year on the right foot - I am attempting to explore some healthy recipes (I don't want to get ahead of myself - I will still be enjoying my butter-y baked goods and cheesy mashed potatoes). We had a nice crab dinner accompanied by mushroom quinoa.
I bought some model-esque oyster mushrooms, they were so pretty I felt a bit bad cutting them up . . .but I did it anyways. I chopped the mushrooms and chopped up a few cloves of garlic.
I threw the garlic into a large saute pan with a little bit of butter. After a minute add in your mushrooms (try not to crowd the pan, do as I say not as I do) and let them cook. I add salt at the end because I wanted the mushrooms to get that dry, nutty flavor instead of drawing out the liquid.
While the mushrooms were cooking I measured out 1.5 cups of quinoa and put it in a sauce pan with 3 cups chicken stock. Once it was boiling I reduced it to a low simmer, covered it and let it cook away for about 15 minutes (until tender).
To finish the quinoa dish, I chopped some cilantro and tossed the sauteed mushrooms and the cilantro in with the cooked quinoa. Salt to taste.
One of the beautiful dungeness crabbies
To fill the veggie quota I made a little 'salad' of fresh watercress, cumquats and a little salt and nice olive oil (very little).
Et voila, our healthy holiday-y meal.