Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding Pie with Crème Fraîche Topping


I have made this pie twice. The first time, I couldn't find crème fraîche so I just made some good ole' whupped cream and let people top the pie off themselves. It was fantastic, and oh so incredibly rich! The pie is amazing. I thought, my dad would LOVE this. So, I made him this pie for his birthday and this time I followed directions because I love my dad and I wanted it to be EVEN MORE PERFECT. Except, it turns out that it wasn't better. In fact, it wasn't even as good as the first time! I didn't like the crème fraîche topping. It was actually too rich for the pie and didn't complement as much as the plain Jane whipped cream. And so it goes. Regardless, I will supply you with the recipe as it is supposed to be (copied directly) from Bon Appétit, January 2008. And I will encourage you to ignore the part about the crème fraîche and just get a little bit of whipping cream, and whip it up with a little bit of sugar.

What you need:

Crust:

  • 1 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about half of one 9-ounce package; about 23 cookies, finely ground in processor)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), finely chopped
Filling:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Topping:
  • 1 cup chilled crème fraîche*
  • 1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Bittersweet chocolate shavings or curls (optional)

What to do:

Crust:
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Blend cookie crumbs and sugar in processor. Add melted butter; process until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides (not rim) of 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Bake until crust begins to set and no longer looks moist, pressing gently with back of fork if crust puffs, about 12 minutes. Remove crust from oven, then sprinkle chopped chocolate over bottom of crust. Let stand until chocolate softens, 1 to 2 minutes. Using offset spatula or small rubber spatula, spread chocolate over bottom and up sides of crust to cover. Chill crust until chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.
Filling:
Whisk sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt to blend in heavy medium saucepan. Gradually add 1/3 cup milk, whisking until smooth paste forms. Whisk in remaining milk, then 1/4 cup cream. Using flat-bottom wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, stir mixture constantly over medium heat, scraping bottom and sides of pan until pudding thickens and begins to bubble at edges, about 5 minutes. Add chocolate; stir until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in rum and vanilla. Pour hot pudding into crust and spread evenly. Cool 1 hour at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap; chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.
Topping:
Using electric mixer, beat crème fraîche, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl just until stiff peaks form and mixture is thick enough to spread (do not overbeat or mixture may curdle). Spread topping decoratively over top of pie, swirling to create peaks, if desired. DO AHEAD: Pie can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.
Sprinkle chocolate shavings decoratively atop pie, if desired. Cut pie into wedges and serve.
* Sold at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.



Banana Bread

Ingredients:
  • ¼ C vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 2/3 C. sugar (you can use white or brown)
  • 1 egg 3 large mashed over-ripe bananas
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • ¾ t. salt
  • 2 C. flour (I like half white and half whole wheat pastry flour)
Optional:
  • ¾ C. nuts --OR--
  • ¾ C. strawberries or mixed berries (either fresh or thawed from frozen) --OR--
  • ¾ C. semi-sweet chocolate chips

What to do:
  1. Mash the bananas
  2. Add the sugar, eggs and oil and mix.
  3. Add the dry ingredients and fold until mostly incorporated.
  4. Depending on how crazy you want to get, add one (or more if you're really crazy) to the batter and fold in.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased and floured (or sugared*) loaf pan
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

*When I use chocolate chips, I like to grease the pan by putting some butter in the bottom of the pan and sticking it in the oven for about a minute to melt it. Then I use the melted butter to grease the pan. And, because it is so good, I then dump sugar in the pan instead of flour and toss it around to coat the bottom. This creates a nice crunchy edge for a dessert bread. That is what is creating the edge in the picture below (mmmmm):



P.S. Edward made these for a potluck tomorrow from my tried and true recipe. I'm so proud.

Potato Kale Soup with Italian Sausage


Long time and no blogging. We have, despite the impression the absence may have given, actually been eating quite heartily.

Here is a recipe we've made quite a bit. We adapted it from a recipe I found online by Cait Johnson who, apparently, is author of Witch in the Kitchen. I have never actually laid by eyes on this book, but that's what the internet told me. The main changes we made were to add some delicious Italian sausage and fresh thyme instead of dried and it is sooo good. And easy. And even better, it is still easy to find most of these ingredients locally grown here in Colorado, even in the last weeks of fall. A fine local soup, indeed!

What you need:
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 large potatoes*, chopped
  • 1 bunch (a bouquet if you will) fresh thyme
  • 6 cups veggie stock**
  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 lb. Italian sausage from your favorite butcher

What to do:
  1. Put the olive oil in the bottom of a soup kettle and heat it up over medium heat.
  2. Add the sausage and brown it.
  3. Add the onion and and saute until the onions are soft.
  4. Add the garlic and stir around.
  5. Add the potatoes and stir to cover with oil (and sausage renderings...)
  6. Add the stock, thyme bouquet, and bring the whole shebang to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Add kale and continue cooking for about 15 more minutes until the potatoes are soft and the kale is tender.
  9. Remove the thyme garni and then lightly mash the potatoes with a potato masher.
  10. Serve it up!***
Notes:
* We've made these with the fun Colorado fingerling potatoes and it works just fine. We like to leave the skins on any kind of potato for added texture and nutrients

** You can use any kind of stock you want, but I think veggie or chicken would be best. One time we made it with mushroom bullion that my mom brought back from Italy and it was divine.

***This would be good with sour cream or creme fraiche I think, but I never have that on hand so I'm not sure.

**** I think this would be a really fun soup to make for a kid and call it dinosaur soup. I envision using the knobby "Dinosaur" kale (also called Tuscan) and purple potatoes (as dino eggs). I think it would be fun. Edward asserts that kids would not like the mature flavors of the dish, but I assert that it would be a fun and nutritious meal. And I love dinosaurs.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Zucchini Fritters

Ah, more zucchini.

I created these tasty little fritters last night and we ate them so fast, I didn't even manage to get a picture of them, but imagine smallish rounded fritters that are toasty brown with spots of bright green showing through. Mmmm. These are essentially flattened zucchini meat balls and can be served with pasta. I think they'd also be good with goat cheese and fresh heirloom tomatoes alongside a mixed green salad with balsamic viniagrette. Mmmmmm!

I, as usual, did not measure anything while I was creating these darlings, but I think I can come up with some usable approximations. This recipe serves about 2. (Four fritters each.)

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium zucchini (grated)
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese (or other cheese that's around)
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (or other dry, salty cheese like parmesan)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (more if you like it!)
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Canola and Olive oil

What to do:
  1. After grating the zucchini, place it on top of a paper towel perched inside a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let sit about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, squeeze the hell out of the zucchini to get as much moisture out as possible.
  2. Once you're done squeezing, return the zucchini to a bowl (this time without the paper towel, please) and add the cheese, garlic, oregano and flour to the zucchini and toss around.
  3. Next, add the bread crumbs and mix. (I'm sure you could use just one type, we just happened to have both laying around).
  4. Then add the egg and mix. I used my fingers because I like to FEEL it, but I guess you could use a spoon.
  5. Meanwhile, add enough canola and olive oil to a saute pan (or, I used our darling cast iron pan) to cover the bottom. Heat on medium-high. (I used both because I like the frying quality of canola with the taste of the olive oil.)
  6. Then, shape the zucchini mixture into 2 inch wide rounds that are about a 1/2-inch tall.
  7. Once the oil is hot, add the fritters to the pan. (Depending on the size of the pan, you may have to do two batches.)
  8. Cook on each side until dark golden brown-- about 5 minutes each side, but check on them to see how they progress.
  9. Eat up!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Zucheesy Boats


Are you, or someone you love a gardener? Do you, or someone you love, then, have obscene amounts of zucchini and summer squash exploding from their garden? Yes, me too. You can make zucchini bread, or you could make a sautee. Another fun thing is these quick, crispy cheesy zucchini halves that work perfectly as a side dish alongside pasta, grilled meats, or really anything you please.

Ingredients:
  • Zucchini (depending on how big they are, 1/2 per person is good)
  • Blue Cheese
  • Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano, or anything really)
  • Garlic Powder or finely chopped fresh garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
What to do:

Halve the zucchini and scrape out the seedy insides with a spoon. Sprinkle with garlic powder or a smattering of the fresh garlic, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Place a few crumbles of blue cheese in the zucchini cavity. Now, top with Panko and then with grated cheese (or mix them.) Place them in a toaster oven (or a real oven) at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and serve. (It also works to "toast" them, but the zucchini won't be as soft.)

Pasta Puttanesca


Puttanesca is an Italian term for whore. I don't know why such a delicious pasta dish was named after a disreputable occupation, but some say it is because the ingredients are easily stored on a shelf and perfect for making a little post-business pick-me-up. This cannot be confirmed, but I can tell you that it is so good you might be surprised what people will do for you to get it. I jest, but only a little. I made this recipe based on this recipe in Bon Appétit magazine January 2008. My variations are not many, but the recipe is so good, it's worth posting here.

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped, or even better 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 28.2-ounce can peeled tomatoes in puree with basil
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved, pitted
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 pound Penne or Linguine pasta
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino Romano is nice too)

What to do:

Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When the water is about to boil, heat the oil in a separate large pan and then add the garlic and onion or shallots. Cook for about a minute, or longer if you like your onions softer. Add your pasta to the boiling water. Then, add the tomatoes, olives, anchovies (they are really good! Be brave!), capers, oregano and red pepper to the garlic mixture. Stir together and cook for about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Stir it up. If you happen to have Italian parsley or any other kind of herb like fresh basil around, throw it on top. Let people serve themselves and top with grated cheese! Enjoy!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Delite (Review)

Delite is a new "lounge" and bar located at 30 S. Broadway in Denver. It is truly a delightful experience. Owned and operated by the same folks that run the also fantastic Deluxe next door, Delite offers small plates with all of the simplicity, and delicious creativity offered over at Deluxe.

Edward and I recently visited Delite for happy hour (Tues-Sun from 4-7) and were VERY impressed. I had the happy hour wine ($3 per glass), Edward had beer (also half price). The small plates are all half price (usually $8-10 each) at happy hour so we ordered a smorgasbord. First we ordered our favorite, not to be missed EVER, Dylan's Fried Oyster Shooters. Dylan Moore is the chef-extraordinaire behind both ventures and serves these shooters in both Deluxe and Delite. He starts with a tasty pico de gallo nestled in a Chinese soup spoon. He tops this with a delicately fried oyster, and then tops the oyster with chipotle (smoked jalapeno) aioli and a leaf of cilantro. It might be a little hard to fit it all into your mouth at once, but it is truly worth it. For happy hour these babies top out at an extremely reasonable $5. We also sampled the House Made Potato Chips topped with, get this, TRUFFLE OIL AND MAYTAG BLUE CHEESE. I actually drempt about these the next day. To round out our meal, we also tried the Thai Beef Salad and the Goat Cheese Stuffed Pablano Chile. As a woman who used to be vegetarian, I don't usually find things called "beef salads" all that appealing, but this one was great. Marinated in the same flavors you'll find in a seaweed salad, this beef was perfect and tender. Edward devoured the stuffed Chile too. I found it a bit too smoky, but I don't really enjoy smoky flavors, and he does. A lot.

Though we didn't sample them this trip, the mixed drinks are also fantastic. On a previous night I tried a tasty number with the awkward moniker of "Dylan's Ass". Based on a Moscow Mule, this one has fresh ginger, vodka and sweetness. These drinks, however, are not included in the happy hour so be ready to pay $8-10 for each of the fancy drinks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blueberry Crisp


A crisp, a crumble, a strudel. I don't know the difference, really. The kind I like is full of oats, sugar, and of course, butter. I call it a crisp because it is crispy and delicious. Also, a crisp topping is a lot easier to make than pie crust if you ask me.

We went crazy at the store last week and bought a huge tub of blueberries, but through a series of events that kept us away from said blueberries we didn't eat up nearly enough of them last week. And so, blueberry crisp.

This recipe turned out pretty well. I might add some more sugar and maybe a little less of tapioca next time. And, maybe I'll smash some of the berries, maybe.

Filling Ingredients:
  • Fresh blueberries (about 2 pints or enough to fill up your pie plate)
  • Heaping tablespoon tapioca
  • Tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Crisp Ingredients:
  • 1 c. oats
  • 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 c. butter
What to do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the inside of a 9 inch pie plate with butter, then add the blueberries, tapioca, sugar and cinnamon. Toss to mix evenly. Make the crisp by adding the first five ingredients to a bowl. Then add the butter in small pieces. Ideally, you'll cut this in with a pastry cutter, but I always use my hands to incorporate the butter and it works just fine. When the butter is incorporated, dump it over the blueberry mixture. Place the whole shebang in the oven for about an hour. You may want to place a cookie sheet under the pie plate to catch any juices that might leak out. When the topping looks browned and delicious, take the crisp out of the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Then dive in.

We didn't have any ice cream because I guess we ate it all, but it would be really tasty with some nice vanilla. I had mine with milk and it was still pretty good.


Notes:
  • I don't like things too sweet, but if you do, add some more sugar to the blueberries. There are a lot of recipes that recommend between 1/3 c.- 1/2 c!
  • The tapioca is kind of interesting. If it doesn't get mixed in evenly, you can get some tapioca globs, but I like that. Most recipes used a couple tablespoons of flour instead.
  • I think it might be good to add a couple peaches, peeled and chopped. And/or perhaps smash up some of the berries for a smooshier consistency. That's right, I said smooshier.