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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.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Homemade Chicken Stock

I've been cooking a lot more recently because I'm doing a 30-day no-sugar/no-grains/no-dairy/no-fun diet challenge and that means eating out is nearly impossible. Or, even when it is possible, its not that fun. But it has led me to feel great and spend a lot more time in the kitchen, which I always enjoy. Did you know that lots of store-bought chicken broth has sugar added to it? I didn't. This recipe (thanks, Ina) is naturally sweetened by the vegetables, tastes amazing, is easy and no fuss, and once you put it on the stove, you barely have to tend to it. After a few hours of busying myself around the apartment I had 10-12 cups of delicious homemade chicken stock ready for use or freezing. Adapted slightly from Ina Garten's recipe for chicken stock.

5 lbs. of chicken pieces with bones (you can also use leftover carcass from a roasted chicken-- I did a combination of chicken carcass I had frozen and fresh chicken wings with meat)
3 large carrots, cut in thirds
2 large celery stalks, cut in thirds
2 parsnips, cut in half
2 medium onions, quartered
1 piece of ginger (peeled, about 1-inch square)
1/2 head of garlic (sliced crosswise to expose cloves)
Handful of parsley
Handful of dill
8-10 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt

Add all of the ingredients to a large pot and cover with 14 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3-4 hours. Skim off any foam that floats to the top and you may want to skim some of that fat as it cooks, too. Carefully, once cool enough, strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a large container or bowl. Freeze in airtight containers for 3-4 months, or keep in the refrigerator and use within a few days.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Root Vegetable Bisque

This weekend the temperature really dropped in NYC and it feels like autumn. And whenever it gets cooler outside I always want soup. I've been trying to eat a lot more vegetables recently, had a few things in my refrigerator that I needed to use up, and since blended soups > chunky soups, I decided to throw everything in a pot and immersion-blend the hell out of it. It is delicious. 

The addition of garam masala and ginger in this recipe gives a hint of Indian flavor, but its quite subtle and really just adds warmth to the soup. If those aren't your thing, you could omit them or add other seasonings that you prefer.

Hint: do all of the chopping/prep work ahead of time and then you just add the veggies in stages and its easy as pie. 

Last thing: I didn't even wait until I finished my first bowl of this soup before I started this blog post. I am enjoying it that much.

1 onion, chopped
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 fennel bulb, core removed, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 sprigs of thyme
3 large carrots, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1-inch cube of ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped
1/2 of a sweet potato, peeled and chopped
a pinch or two of garam masala (an Indian spice mix)

Heat a large pot over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, leeks, celery, fennel, thyme and bay leaf and salt and pepper- stir frequently vegetables are softened. Add the carrots and parsnip, and stir occasionally for a few minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant (a minute or two). Add the broth and bring to a boil. Throw in the chopped potatoes and cook until softened 10-20 minutes. Remove the sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf and season with garam masala. Use an immersion blender (or a stand blender, in batches) to blend the soup. Taste for salt and pepper and seasonings and then serve and enjoy!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

This is my current go-to salad and I make it almost once a week. I'm sorry to my friends for the lack of diversity recently. But its so good!! Its crunchy and salty and tart and sweet. It's a winner. Try it out!

1 head lacinato kale
10-12 brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
handful of dried cranberries
2-inch cube of parmesan, grated

1 small garlic clove, minced
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Wash, de-spine, and shred the kale and place in a large bowl. Trim the brussels sprouts, halve them, then shave them (cut thinly) and add them to the same bowl. Top with pine nuts, cranberries, and parmesan.

Mix together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and sugar in a jar. Add olive oil until its about equal parts above mixture and olive oil. Add salt and pepper, shake vigorously and taste for seasonings. Pour the dressing on the salad, mix well, and serve.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Butterscotch Browned Butter Oatmeal Cookies

These are my new favorite cookie. They are sweet and salty and the browned butter gives them a nice nuttiness. Crowd pleaser. Adapted slightly from Two Peas and Their Pod. Makes ~12-15 cookies.

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more for sprinkling)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup (heaping) butterscotch chips

First, brown the butter in a medium shallow pan over medium-low heat, continually stirring/scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula. The butter will melt, then bubble and foam, then settle down and you'll notice brown bits beginning to come from the bottom of the pan and the butter will smell nutty and be amber colored. Remove from heat and pour into a small bowl to cool for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl and set side.

When ready, add both sugars and the browned butter to an electric mixer and beat together on medium speed for 3-4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another minute. On low speed add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Add the oats and butterscotch chips and stir into the dough with a spoon.

Roll dough into heaping tablespoon-sized balls and slightly flatten in your palm before placing on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and bake for 8-9 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve and enjoy.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Grandma's Vegetable Soup

My friend Sarah and I have been buddies for decades, growing up together in North Carolina, and both ending up in New York City years later. She recently left New York and moved to San Francisco to start a new adventure, get re-inspired, and make more art (check out her stuff here!). I miss her.

But when we both were in NYC we would get together for dinners, sometimes out at restaurants, but often at her apartment catching up over a good warm meal and bottle of wine. One night she made me this vegetable soup-- her Grandma's recipe-- and I've been in love with it ever since. Each time I make it I add or try something new and over the past few years have adapted it a bit, primarily making it less vegetarian (i.e., NOT vegetarian). Isn't it better to start every soup with bacon fat??? If you disagree, this can easily be made deliciously vegetarian by subbing the bacon fat with butter/olive oil and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. It is filling, satisfying, healthy. A perfect lunch or dinner.

3 pieces of bacon
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1/3 cup flour
1 large (28 oz) and 1 small (14 oz) can of diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth plus 2 cups water
2 red potatoes, chopped
1 cup canned (rinsed) red kidney beans
4 celery stalks, diced
4 carrots, diced
green beans, 1-inch chop
1/2 head of broccoli, chopped florets
a handful of fresh dill, chopped
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Cook the bacon in the bottom of a large soup pot and cook until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon and eat it (you just need the fat for the soup). Add a tablespoon or two of butter, along with the onion and fennel and cook, stirring regularly until softened. Add the flour and stir constantly for approximately 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes (with juice from the can) and the chicken broth and water and bring to a low boil. Add the potatoes and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the kidney beans and the celery, and continue simmering for a few minutes. Add the carrots and green beans and cook until all vegetables are cooked through.

Lastly, add the broccoli, dill, red pepper flakes (to taste), and salt and pepper. Don't be afraid to season liberally with the herbs and seasonings! Serve with parmesan toast.