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Monday, January 15, 2018

Minestrone Soup with Tortellini

I've been getting bored with my usual rotation of soup recipes and wanted to try something new. I came across Cook's Illustrated's Hearty Minestrone recipe and used that as a base for this recipe that I've adapted a bit. It is packed with veggies, but still incredibly flavorful and very filling. A perfect winter meal at home. Don't be swayed by the number of ingredients... they are all easy to find!

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into a 1/2 inch dice
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 small fennel bulb, cored and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into quarter-rounds
1 cup green beens, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of savoy cabbage (or green cabbage), halved, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup flour
1 can cannellini or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 cups chicken broth (use the good stuff, not low-sodium)
1-2 cups water
1 piece of parmesan rind (5x2 inches)
1 bay leaf
2 cups V8 juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 9-ounce package of cheese tortellini, cooked according to package
salt and pepper

Garnish: parmesan, red pepper flakes, olive oil

In a large dutch oven heat the butter and pancetta over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered. Add the celery, carrot, onion, and fennel and saute until vegetables start to soften about 7 minutes. Add the zucchini and green beans and cook all the vegetables until they start to lightly brown. Add the garlic cabbage, along with the 1/4 cup of flour (this will help thicken the broth a bit) and stir continuously until cabbage has softened and flour is cooked about (2-3 minutes). Pour all the vegetable mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

In the same pan, add the broth, beans, red pepper flakes, water, parmesan rind and bay leaf and bring to a boil, stirring every few minutes so the parmesan rind doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the head to a vigorous simmer and add the reserved vegetables and V8 juice and cook, simmering for about 15-20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and parmesan rind and taste for seasonings. Stir in the pasta and basil. Serve with grated parmesan on top and a drizzle of olive oil and enjoy!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Salted Butter & Chocolate Chunk Shortbread

Apparently, this is the "cookie of the year" from 2017. So, I'm a little late to the game. But I kept coming across this recipe from Alison Roman's new cookbook Dining In on various sites (e.g., Smitten KitchenBon Appetit, etc.) and decided it was time to try it myself. These cookies highlight the best parts of cookies without a lot of extra distractor flavors. They are simple, but deeply rich in flavor and highlight the good quality salted butter and dark chocolate. I recommend getting good chocolate and chopping it yourself. Beware: this is not your everyday chocolate chip cookie, so don't expect it to be. It's a horse of a different color, but in an excellent way. Makes 24-30 cookies.

1 cup plus 2 TBS good salted butter, cold and cut into small pieces (I used this)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (50 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (295 grams)
6 oz. of semisweet/bittersweet chocolate chunks (170 grams)
1 large egg
Raw or turbinado sugar (for rolling)
Flakey sea salt

Using a stand mixer beat together the cold butter pieces, both sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed (this might take 5 minutes). Add the flour and beat just until combined. Add the chocolate chunks and stir to incorporate. The dough will be crumbly and that is just fine. At this point, the dough is DONE (don't add the egg! it's for later). Separate the dough into two parts and place each half in the middle of a piece of wax or parchment paper and roll into logs about 2 inches in diameter. Chill, covered in the wax paper, until firm-- about 2-3 hours, or longer.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, slightly beat the egg and brush the entire log with egg and then roll in the raw sugar to coat. Then, using a serrated knife (I used a bread knife for the weight), slice cookies about 1/2 inch thick. You'll need to use a slow and stead sawing motion. You will likely hit chocolate chunks and might have to put the dough back together a bit if it crumbles or breaks in half. Thats okay. Place cookies on the baking sheets, sprinkle with a little flakey sea salt, then bake for about 13-15 minutes until edges are lightly brown. Remove from oven, let cool, then serve and enjoy!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Lemony Carrot & Cauliflower Soup

It is 13°F outside and tomorrow is going to be colder... meaning it's soup weather, y'all, and this 5 star Melissa Clark/NY Times recipe is getting me through the weekend of the Bomb Cyclone. This soup is creamy, sweet, tart and deeply savory, thanks to the miso. Best part: it comes together in under an hour. Highly highly recommend. I've adapted it slightly. Serves 4-6 people.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons white miso
1 small head (1/2 a large head) of cauliflower, chopped into florets
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Cilantro leaves (for topping)
Sprinkle of smoky chile powder (for topping)
Olive oil (for drizzling on top)

In a large pot over medium heat warm the oil. Add the onion, celery and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and just beginning to color (about 7-10 min). Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir together for 1 minute. To the pot add the carrots, chicken broth, water and coriander and stir to combine. Add the miso and stir until it is incorporated. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cover the pot and let simmer for another 10-12 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Puree the soup (either with immersion blender or in batches in your stand blender). Return to pot and add the lemon zest and lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper.

Pour into bowls and top with cilantro leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, chile powder and a touch of flaky sea salt. Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Turkish Coffee Brownies

I saw this brownie recipe on My Name is Yeh earlier this week and thought it was perfect since I've recently been trying to incorporate new flavors into my traditional favorite sweet treats. And if you know me at all then you know that brownies are my ultimate favorite sweet treat. Also, I'm soon marrying into a family with Turkish roots, so I thought it would be fun to surprise my future hubby with this recipe at the end of a long work-week. Turkish coffee typically describes a method of coffee preparation, but it also often has cardamom mixed into it before serving, so this recipe is a play on those flavors. They are outstanding: fudgy and warm from the cardamom... and the frosting is not to be missed.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 stick butter melted, slightly cooled
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prep an 8x8 baking dish by lining it with parchment paper and greasing it.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and espresso powder. In another bowl whisk together the cooled butter, eggs, and vanilla until well incorporated. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then fold in the nuts. Pour into prepared pan and smooth the batter to the edges. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then remove from pan and finish the cooling process on a wire rack. You can either eat these as they are at this point or top them with the following frosting.

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon of water with 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
handful of chopped pecans/sprinkles

Whisk together all of the above ingredients until smooth. Spread onto the brownies before cutting and top with nuts, sprinkles, or just leave them as they are! Cut into pieces, serve and enjoy!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been in the mood to bake more on Friday afternoons and so I made this cookie dough batter yesterday and got to the very last step.... and then realized the dough is supposed to refrigerate for 12 hours before baking (UGH), so I ended up baking them this morning (well, I did a "trial run" last night with 2 cookies, because c'mon, I don't have that much self-restraint). They are delicious. The tahini is noticeable and adds a little funk to the taste, but is sandwiched by flavors of salt and chocolate, which leaves you wanting many more bites. I made my own tahini this time because I was feeling adventurous, but I am certain store bought is exactly the same. (Making your own tahini: slightly toast the sesame seeds in a pan, stirring constantly, then throw them in the food processor for a minute, add some oil and a pinch of salt and letting 'er rip again for a few minutes until smooth. Store in refrigerator for 1 month). Recipe from NY Times Cooking.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup tahini (well stirred)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour (150 grams)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 3/4 cup chocolate chips or chunks (230 grams, semi-sweet or bittersweet)
Flaky salt for topping

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat together the butter, tahini, and sugar for 5 minutes on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat another 5 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking power, and salt and then slowly mix into the dough. Stir in the chocolate chunks. The dough will be very soft at this point. Refrigerate for 12 hours (OR I found after 2 hours in the fridge I was able to scoop and shape a few cookie dough balls, then refrigerated those for another 2 hours and they were ready to bake).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (original recipe said 325, so if you know your oven, preheat accordingly) and place cookies on parchment paper about 3 inches apart (they spread). Sprinkle tops with a little sprinkling of flaky salt (like Maldon). Bake for about 13-16 minutes until lightly browned on the edges and still soft on the inside. Let cool for 10 minutes then take off the sheet and let finish cooling on a rack. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

I made this cake as a present. To myself. 

I have spent the last 4 weeks following a pretty strict meal plan (no sugar/no dairy/no grains), which has seriously impacted my dessert intake. In a negative way. As in, I haven't had even a bite of dessert in 4 weeks. The horror.

So, I've come to my final day of the Whole 30 "program" and thought to myself: I deserve a treat. A chocolate treat. Interestingly, this cake is actually dairy-free (and is vegan if you make it with vegan chocolate chips), but that is a mere coincidence. One of my favorite food bloggers Smitten Kitchen posted this recipe just a few days ago and it felt like a sign-- the ultimate way to mark the end of this diet. This cake is luxurious and rich and chocolatey and earthy and very moist. It comes together in a matter of minutes and is the easiest cake to frost: just dump the ganache on top and let it spread. Make it soon, please, for me. I've got a lot of dessert catching up to do and need your help.

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 (heaping) teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup coffee
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (helps to add shine to the glaze)
a pinch or two of kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prep an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan by lining the bottom with matching-sized piece of parchment paper and then coat with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and granulated sugar. Add the brown sugar and the olive oil and stir together. Add the coffee and vinegar and whisk to combine. The batter will be a bit thinner than some cakes: this is A-OK. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean but not too dry. Remove from oven, let cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack and let cool completely out of the pan.

When the cake is cool, add the glaze ingredients into a small heat-proof bowl and microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring in between until melted and smooth (this really only took about 40 seconds for me). Pour on the cake, spread to the edges, and let cool to room temperature (the glaze will harden a bit). Serve and enjoy!!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Roasted Tomato Soup

I cannot recommend this soup highly enough. Roasting the tomatoes, onion, and garlic helps to make the soup flavor even more intense. It is outstanding and just jumped in line in front of my previously favorite tomato soup for the #1 spot. Inspired by a Tyler Florence's recipe for roasted tomato soup. Serves 4 people.

4 lbs. ripe tomatoes (I used a combination of heirloom and on-the-vine)
1 large onion, half of it thinly sliced and the other half chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs. ghee*
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken stock (see recipe here if you want to make your own)
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/3 cup coconut milk (or heavy cream)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the tomatoes by quartering large ones and halving smaller ones and then removing all the seeds. Place them, along with the thinly sliced onion and the whole garlic cloves on a sheet pan in a single layer and cover with the 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 1 hour. Let cool a few minutes, until they are able to be handled, and then remove and discard the tomato skins.

Once the veggies are out of the oven, start prepping the rest of the soup. Heat the ghee in a large pot over medium-low heat and add the chopped onion and some salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and just starting to get brown (~7-10 minutes). Add a little water if the onion starts sticking/browning too quickly. In the last minute or two of cooking add the red pepper flakes and stir to combined. Once softened, add the tomato/onion/garlic to the pot and stir. Add the chicken stock and bay leaf and bring to a low boil for about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, add the chopped basil and the coconut milk and blend with a stick blender until silky smooth. Taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately. 

*Ghee is clarified butter and it has a much higher smoke point, meaning it won't burn as easily as regular butter. It also tastes delicious with sautéed onion. But, if you don't have ghee, just use olive oil.