Using the oven to stay warm while we wait for the snow

Update: Here is what it looked like when the snow finally came!

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So much for being good before Hawaii. Today we made brownies and a sausage stew to keep warm in the kitchen. After reading about a simplified brownie recipe using cocoa powder on Smitten Kitchen and Honey&Jam, I decided to test it out for myself using a jar of Penzey’s dutch process cocoa powder.  I haven’t strayed from my usual brownie recipe in years so I was a bit nervous with this one.

They take about 10 minutes to put together (most of this time is spent waiting for the chocolate/butter mixture to cool before you can add the eggs) and about 35 minutes to bake. Surprisingly chocolately and not at all too sweet, I’d make these again. They have a very gooey consistency which is just how I like them. I also like that they make significantly less than my other recipe (an 8×8 pan rather than a 8×13).

brownie

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and microwave for 1:30 minutes. Remove and stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smoothes out once the eggs and flour are added.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Herbed white bean and sausage stew

soup

The stew was also quite good though it took a lot longer to prepare and cook. Because you don’t soak the beans overnight and precook them before adding to the stew, you need to allow about 2.5 hours from start to finish. I also added some red chard to the soup since it was starting to look pretty sad.

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, sliced 3/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound dried Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste.

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

 

Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

 

When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil.

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Cauliflower Soup

I’ve had a head of cauliflower sitting in my fridge for the last two weeks courtesy of my CSA box. I kept thinking that I would get to it but I hadn’t until today. It’s been so cold this week that I can’t imagine not eating soup for dinner every night. This was super simple to make and even more fun to eat. Since I’ve never made anything like it before, I looked for a recipe on a trusted blog and went from there. Apparently, the use of butter was inspired by a recipe from Bar Jules in San Francisco. It should yield two bowls of buttery, salty goodness and is a great way to use up a head of cauliflower.

1 lb of cauliflower, separated into florets
1 leek (whites and light green parts), thinly sliced
2 teaspoons of salt (was a bit much for me)
3 cups of hot water
2 tablespoons of olive oil or unsalted butter (the butter is SO good)

1 – In a heavy pan (that has a lid), melt butter or warm olive oil over low heat
2 – Add onion and cook gently until softened, not brown, 15 minutes
3 – Add Cauliflower, salt and 1/2 cup of water.
4 – Raise the heat to medium-low, cover tightly with a lid and cook for 20 minutes
5 – Remove lid, add remaining water and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes more
6 – Leave to cool sightly before blending until super-smooth
7 – Return to the pan to heat before serving, thinning with a little more water if the soup is too thick for your taste. Add pepper and enjoy!

Dinner parties

I can count the number of dinner parties we’ve hosted in Seattle on one hand. After having two girlfriends over for dinner last night, I now realize how much I have missed cooking for and with good friends. In San Francisco, it feels like we are constantly having people over for dinner and trying new recipes. This is something I hope to change in our few remaining months in Seattle.

I made one of my favorite chicken recipes (Braised Chicken with Almonds, Saffron, Lavender, and Almonds) that I found a few years ago on Leite’s Culinaria. It’s David Leite’s masterpiece of a website which includes how-tos, promotions on kitchen toys, a number of colorful recipes from chefs, restaurants, and cookbooks from around the world, and lots more. I probably try something on their website at least once a week.

The girls brought over some roasted brussel sprouts and a pumpkin cheesecake – YUM! I made a spinach salad and polenta to go with the chicken (it would also work over couscous, rice, or mashed potatoes). The original recipe comes from Deborah Krasner’s The Flavors of Olive Oil cookbook. It is relatively simple to prepare and is super flavorful. It’s also a nice way to use up some of the spices we got a little carried away with buying on our RTW trip. Oops.


Soup swap, round 2

Sharon and I swapped our second batch of soup last week. She made a peanut chicken stew with lots of veggies and I made butternut squash soup. My friend Mark (Thanksgiving Mark) introduced me to it several years ago and I make it frequently throughout the fall and winter – it’s one of my favorites and is very simple to make.

I just had Sharon’s stew for dinner and it was yummy. Who would have thought to add creamy peanut butter to a soup? Not me but I love it. I’d make it again and add some thai basil just to give it a twist.

Mark’s butternut squash recipe

  • Tart apple
  • Yellow onion
  • Decent sized butternut squash (you can use any sweet squash here)
  • Vegetable or chicken broth
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Optional: creme fraiche

Chop and saute the onions until translucent. Add the sliced and peeled apple. Add the peeled and diced butternut. Add enough broth to cover the butternut (don’t use too much) and simmer until the butternut is soft all the way through. Transfer the squash/apple/onion mixture (with a slotted spoon) to the food processor and puree using as little broth as possible. Transfer the pureed mixture to another pot and add the remaining broth until it is the desired consistency. Save the extra broth if you plan to refrigerate the soup and add it when you warm it up. Add spices as desired. Top w/ creme fraiche.

Pre-Giving in San Francisco

Last night we made our annual “pre-giving” dinner with Mark and Sarah. We’ve had some version of Thanksgiving (usually after the holiday as “second-giving”) together every year since Alex and I started dating in 2005. Mark’s stuffing and cranberry are absolutely divine and I look forward to this dinner all year long. Unfortunately, I have had a cold this weekend so my taste buds weren’t quite working, but I took extensive notes while watching Mark in the kitchen so that I can attempt to recreate some of the goodies in the weeks ahead. The rosemary dates are a new addition to the meal – I saw them on one of my favorite food blogs and couldn’t resist trying them. Here is the menu:

Rosemary Dates Wrapped in Bacon (hors’ d’oeuvres)

2 Medjool dates/person (I bought them pre-pitted at Whole Foods)
1 half slice of bacon for each date
a bunch of rosemary

Preheat the oven to 375. Stuff a few rosemary leaves into each date, then wrap with the halved bacon slices. You can close them with a toothpick. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bacon is browned and crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

date(Photo courtesy of Bitchin’ Camero)

Cranberry sauce

1 bag cranberries
small bottle of tangerine juice
1 tangerine
white sugar
ground ginger
cinnamon
cloves

Rinse the bag of cranberries. Put in a pan with about ¼ to ½ cup tangerine juice. Bring to a boil (the cranberries will start popping) and then let simmer. Add about ½ tsp of tangerine zest and sugar until sweet enough to your liking (½ cup maybe). Once the sauce has the consistency of a jam, add about ¼ tsp of ground ginger, ½ tsp cinnamon, and ¼ cloves. This will keep in the fridge for a few days and works well as a spread for turkey and chicken sandwiches.

Stuffing

1 loaf Italian bread (Ciabatta)
6-7 slices pancetta
butter
olive oil
2 packages of mushrooms (chanterelle, crimini, and/or oysters work well)
chicken stock
dried thyme and sage
1-2 yellow onions

Cut the bread into cubes and dry in a 250-degree oven until they feel stale. Saute chopped pancetta with a little olive oil and remove from the pan once cooked. Add butter and olive oil to the pan and cook the chopped onions and mushrooms. Add the pork back into the pan and once cooked through, add to the stale bread. Mix in a bowl and add enough chicken stock to the mixture until the bread seems bloated but not soaked through. Add thyme and sage. Bake, covered at 350 for about 45 minutes. At the end, remove the cover and let the top roast to a golden brown.

Roasted Green Beans (our token veggie)
Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to trimmed green beans and roast in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until done.

Turkey
Mark smothered olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika on the 11.5 lb bird and sat her on a bed of chopped onion, celery, and carrot. He took the veggies out once carmelized and used in the gravy.

Gravy
Add some grease from the bird to the pan. Add flour to make a rue, cook until dark brown. Add veggies, some chicken broth, and brown bits from the turkey pan. Bring to a rolling boil (if adding turkey neck). Add thyme and sage, and salt and pepper. Strain to get the biggest bits out of the gravy.

Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie

Filling:
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese

Put the filling into a prepared crust (Sarah made her own) and bake for about 55 minutes. The original recipe from Bon Appetit is here.

Our dessert has rotated between pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin creme brulee, and regular pumpkin pie throughout the years. This version of pumpkin pie with mascarpone cheese is especially decadent. I didn’t photograph any part of the meal because we ate everything too fast. Oops.

Thanks to Mark, Sarah, and Alex for yet another entertaining and delicious Thanksgiving meal together!

Favorite chili

I have a new favorite chili recipe! Not that I consume a lot of chili or make it that regularly, but I know a good one when I eat it. And this one – well, I’ll be making it again very soon. The original recipe is here. Hot damn!

Two-Bean Chili with Vegetables (adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2001)

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 7 ounces beef broth, 8 ounces leftover red wine
  • 2 medium white potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1 15 1/4-ounce can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained

 

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until almost golden, about 8 minutes. Add beef and cook until brown, breaking beef up with fork, about 10 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin and cayenne and continue cooking 3 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, broth, potatoes, carrots, bell pepper and chili sauce. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 70 minutes. Stir in beans. Simmer until beans are heated through and vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Serve with creme fraiche, fresh diced tomatoes, sliced avocado, and salsa on the top. Yum!
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A Feast of Boeuf Bourguignon and Pumpkin Creme Brulee

With all the rain last week, I decided to go all out with a French fall-themed dinner of beef bourguignon and pumpkin creme brulee on Friday night. I’d never made a bourguignon but something about watching Julie and Julia with my mom last month had me longing to try it. I hadn’t played with my torch in years – I was on quite the brulee kick a few years ago experimenting with Baileys, Kahlua, vanilla, eggnog, pumpkin, and lavender (not all together). Creme brulee is still one of my favorite desserts and I am happy to say that I’m back on the bandwagon.

I didn’t make Julia Child’s version of the beef. Instead, I used Amanda Hesser’s version from The Essential New York Times Cookbook which was as easy as assembling lasagna. I only wish that I hadn’t chopped the vegetables so finely as it would have been nice to eat chunks of mushroom, onion, and carrot like in a stew. I guess that’s the price you pay for using the food processor for everything. The flavor definitely intensified over the weekend making leftovers especially delightful on Sunday. I would easily recommend this recipe to anyone nervous about making a beef bourguignon for the first time as it was simple to prepare and felt quite fancy to feast on.

For the pumpkin creme brulee, I used my old stand-by recipe which doesn’t require heating the cream before putting it in the oven. Simply mix everything together, pour into ramekins sitting in a water bath, and bake. Enjoy!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Notes from the editor:

  • If you make the boeuf Bourguignon a day ahead and put it in the fridge, the chilled fat will rise to the surface and solidify, so you can peel it off with a spoon before reheating it. (This was really cool!)
  • When the casserole is cooking, the liquid should barely bubble.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large slices salt pork or 6 slices bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots
  • One 2-pound boneless chuck or beef rump roast, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/2 bottle (750-ml bottle) Burgundy or pinot noir
  • 1/3 cup Cognac

1. Pour the oil into a large casserole and add 1 slice salt pork (or 3 slices bacon). Add the diced carrots and cover them with 1/3 of the sliced beef in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the meat with half the onions, garlic, shallots, and mushrooms. Cover with a layer of half the remaining beef and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Add the remaining onions, garlic, shallots, and mushrooms and cover with a final layer of the remaining beef. Top with the second slice of salt pork (or remaining 3 slices of bacon). Pour the Burgundy and Cognac over all. Season with additional salt and pepper.

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2. Place the casserole over high heat, and when it begins to simmer, cover and lower the heat. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender when tested with a fork.

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Pumpkin Creme Brulee

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons rum or vanilla
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (for caramelized tops)

Preheat oven to 300F. Whisk together the cream, rum/vanilla, yolks, sugar, pumpkin, and spices. Blend well. Strain into a large bowl, skimming off the foam/bubbles. Divide evenly among 6-7 ramekins and place in the water bath and bake until set around the edges but still loose in the center (30-40 minutes). Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cool. Remove and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard and caramelize. After caramelizing, chill in the refrigerator for 5 minutes before serving.

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