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Showing posts with label Desserts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Desserts. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Classic Flourless Chocolate Cake Gets a Flavor Twist

New Year's Eve is fast approaching. Super Bowl Sunday isn't that far off. Perfect for both or any celebration, a flourless chocolate cake proves the maxim, a little taste goes a long way. Because the dense cake has so much flavor, a thin slice topped with freshly made whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is more than enough to end a meal or celebrate a memorable occasion.

Many years ago I read my first flourless chocolate cake recipe in Esquire magazine. As created by Jean Banchet, the celebrated French chef, the basics were straight forward. A good quality dark chocolate is melted together with sweet (unsalted) butter. In a separate bowl egg yolks are sweetened with sugar. Egg whites are whipped into peaks. Then, the three are mixed into one bowl.

Like a souffle, a flourless chocolate cake is a delicate confection. Jostled or treated carelessly, the egg whites so carefully aerated will collapse.

My contribution to this classic was a few flavorful ingredients. Instead of a liqueur which is often used to enliven the density of the chocolate, I like to add orange zest and a handful of finely chopped roasted almonds.

The recipe will make 1-2 large cakes or 8-10 smaller ones.

This is purely a matter of taste, but I prefer thin cakes, 1"-2" tall. The taller the cake, the longer the bake. The times listed below are estimates. Ultimately the test of whether the cake is done is to insert a pairing knife into the middle. When withdrawn, the knife should have a small amount of chocolate on the blade. Be careful not to dry out the cake.

After a dusting of confectionary sugar, the cake must always be served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

A few special kitchen tools are essential. Non-stick parchment paper. Springform pans. And a power mixer.

The cake is best served warm, heated for ten minutes in a 250F oven.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Zest and Roasted Almonds

Only use good quality chocolate without additives. The same is true of the heavy cream used to make whipped cream for the topping. In Los Angeles where I live, Trader Joe's has two products which I always use. The One Pound chocolate bars (56-70% cacao) and the heavy cream are both made without additives. I highly recommend them for this and other desserts.

When filling the springform pans, leave room 1" at the top because the batter will rise.

Serves 12

Makes (1-2) 6"-9" cakes or (8-10) 3" cakes

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Time to bake: 30 minutes - 3 hours depending on diameter and height of cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 sticks + 2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoon white flour
14 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into quarter sized pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup raw almonds, roasted in 250F oven 5 minutes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 cups heavy cream or 1 pint good quality vanilla or vanilla bean ice cream

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 250F.

2. Remove the bottom(s) of the springform pan(s) and place on parchment paper on a flat surface. Use a pencil to trace the outline of the bottom(s) onto the paper. Use sharp scissors to cut out the paper round(s). Lay the parchment paper round(s) inside the springform pan(s). Set aside.

3. Use a double boiler or place a sauce pan on top of another pan. Add water in the lower pot to fill halfway. Place on stove top on a medium flame so the water simmers.

4. Melt butter in double boiler. Use pastry brush to paint the top of the parchment paper and inside the springform pan(s) with melted butter. Dust with flour. Set aside.

5. Add chocolate to melted butter. Stir and melt but do not boil. Once chocolate and butter are combined, stir in roasted chopped almonds, set aside for five minutes.

6. Place egg yolks, sugar minus 2 tablespoons, vanilla extract and orange zest into a mixing bowl. Mix well. Set aside.

7. In the bowl of an electric mixing, place the egg whites and lemon juice. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat two minutes and sprinkle in 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue mixing until peaked but no more. Set aside.

8. Using a rubber spatula, carefully combine the egg yolk and chocolate mixtures. Set aside.

9. Transfer the chocolate mixture into egg whites being careful to incorporate all the egg whites.

10. Place the springform pan(s) on a flat baking sheet. Using the spatula, transfer the batter into the pan(s), leaving room 1" at the top.

11. Place springform pan(s) into the oven. Check every 30 minutes and rotate baking sheet to prevent the cake(s) being uneven because your stove is not level.

12. To make whipped cream, place heavy cream in electric mixer with wire whisk. With machine on high, sprinkle in confectioner's sugar. Continue whisking until the cream is fluffy. Be careful not to over whisk. The result will be butter milk. Refrigerate whipped cream in an airtight container until needed, as much a day before.

13. Insert pairing knife into center of cake(s). When blade has a small amount of chocolate, remove cake(s) from oven and allow to rest on cake rack 15 minutes. Cake(s) will contract making removal from the springform pan easy. Lift cake(s) off the bottom and parchment paper. Place on a decorative plate.

14. Serve cake(s) warm with a sharp knife and a large bowl of freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pears & Pomegranate Seeds Make a Delicious Thanksgiving Dessert

A last minute dessert suggestion before Thanksgiving. Poach pear sections in a lemony-brown sugar liquid and add pomegranate seeds for a pleasing crunch to counterpoint the soft, sweet pears. Serve the pears as a small plate dessert or as a topping for ice cream or yogurt.
For our meal, I'll make whipped cream to put on top of a bowl with the pears and pomegranates with a few tablespoons of the poaching liquid.

Sweet and Lemony Poached Pears with Pomegranates 
Serves 8

Time to prepare: 10 minutes

Time to cook: 5 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds unblemished small Bosc pears, washed
1 cup golden brown sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions

Peel the pears. Discard the peels and the stems. Cut each pear length-wise into four pieces. Cut and discard the inner stem and seeds. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, over a medium flame, heat the golden brown sugar and lemon juice. Stir and heat until the sugar dissolves.

Add the pear sections to the saucepan. Stir well to coat with the sugar mixture. Cover.
Check ever 2 minutes to stir the pears so they cook evenly and are well coated with the poaching liquid.

After 5 minutes, remove the lid and set aside. Add the pomegranate seeds and stir well.
If making the pears a day or two ahead, transfer the pears, pomegranates and poaching liquid to an air tight container and refrigerate.

The pears can be served cold, hot or at room temperature, depending on taste.

Variations

Add 1 tablespoon golden raisins to the poaching liquid and simmer 5 minutes before adding the pears.

Add 1 teaspoon finely chopped candied ginger to the poaching liquid along with the pears.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Passion Fruit Custard - Easy to Make, Delicious to Eat

Passion fruit are in season.  The small fruit packs a big flavor when added to cocktails, sauces and custards.

When our son lived in Rio, we visited Brazil for ten days. In the time he had spent there going to college, he had become fluent in Portuguese. With him as our guide, we experienced the city the way locals do. We had several meals at his apartment. One of his signature cocktails was a caipirinha made with cachaça, lime, sugar and lots of ice. To a regular caipirinha, Franklin added fresh passion fruit. The cocktail was delicious.
When he came back to Los Angeles, he continued to serve caipirinhas. To make the drink, he would strain out the seeds and add only the juice from the fruit. He would toss the seeds and husks into our compost bin. We used the compost in the vegetable garden and after a few months we had dozens of passion fruit plants growing along the fence. Ever since, we have had passion fruit vines trellised on the fence.
Some years we had a bumper crop of several dozen passion fruit. Other years, like this past summer, the plants produced only a handful. In any case, flavoring the custard takes only two, so we had enough from the garden to make passion fruit custard for dinner last night. And it was delicious.

Passion Fruit Custard
An easy to make custard requiring a minimum of effort. Use quality fresh ingredients, farmers market eggs and good heavy cream. To my knowledge only Trader Joe's sells a heavy cream without additives or preservatives.

The custard tastes the best when it is only 1" deep. Creating a taller custard means the top and bottom will cook but not the middle.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Passion Fruit seeds and pulp soak overnight in custard

Baking time: 45-120 minutes depending on the size of the baking dish
Ingredients

2 extra large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white sugar
2 fresh passion fruit, washed

Method

Cut open the passion fruit. Use a small spoon to remove the seeds and any pulp. Set aside. Discard the husk.

Beat together the eggs and white sugar. Add the cream and passion fruit to the sugar-egg mix. Stir well. Cover in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator over night.

In the morning, pour the custard through a strainer and into a bowl. Remove the passion fruit seeds. Use a rubber spatula to scrape off the custard on the bottom of the strainer and add to the bowl.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Pour the custard into a large 9" round oven-proof baking dish or 6 porcelain ramekins. Prepare a water bath by pouring 1" of water into a baking pan larger than the baking dish by several inches.

Bake for 45 minutes (the ramekins) or 90 minutes (the baking dish). Every 15 minutes rotate the baking dish and ramekins so they cook evenly. If the custard is browning too quickly, lay a piece of tin foil over the top.

The custard is done when it doesn't jiggle when moved. Depending on your oven, the baking time could be as much as 2 hours or even longer.

Serve at room temperature.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Figs Tart Up

A chance encounter with a discounted flat of perfectly ripe figs led to a day of baking in pursuit of a great tasting fig tart for a recipe I contributed to Zesterdaily.  
Although it might look complicated, because there are a number of elements (tart dough, custard, roasted almonds, fig confit), each element can be made several days ahead.  

On the day you want to serve the tart, you'll only spend a few minutes putting everything together.  The tart goes in the oven while you're having drinks with your friends.  Easy.

The tart can be made into half a dozen small tartlets (above) or one very large tart that serves a dozen or more.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An Easy-to-Make Meal Perfect for Mother's Day

Since Mother's Day is a day when mom is celebrated and pampered, it would be counter-intuitive to expect her to cook. On the other hand, putting too much burden on the other members of the family (dad and the kids) would also be ill-advised.

There is the classic New Yorker's solution of serving lox, bagels, and cream cheese or avoiding cooking entirely by visiting a restaurant, but a home cooked meal makes such a personal statement. The key is to prepare a simple meal so you don't spend more time in the kitchen than with her. That and flowers tells her, "I love you."

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

Chicken Breasts Sautéed with Spinach

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed, dried
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly to remove all the grit, dried, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/4 cup water, chicken stock, or white wine
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Use one frying pan to cut down on clean up. Sauté the garlic and shallot until softened--about 2 minutes--add the chicken breasts and sauté until lightly browned on both sides, then remove and cover with aluminum foil. Sauté the spinach until wilted, then remove. Deglaze the pan with the liquid. Add the butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half, then add back the chicken breasts and coat with the sauce. Remove the breasts and cover to keep warm. Put the spinach back in the pan and mix well with the sauce. Slide the spinach onto the serving plate. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the spinach.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

For the dessert I'd suggest my mom's favorite: Banana Cake With Chocolate Chips and Almonds. The recipe is on the New York Times Dining. The cake can be made the day ahead. Before serving, bring to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Year's Eve Treats: Salmon with Crispy Skin and Buckaroo Cookies

Where does time go? Last I looked, it was almost Thanksgiving. Now it's almost New Year's Eve. 2013 was a good year. Wishing everyone a great 2014.

On New Year's Eve we're having friends over for a late dinner and an evening of movie watching. We've seen most of the movies in Oscar contention and we have our favorites (HerNebraska Philomena and Fruitvale Station). But we have more to watch so we'll enjoy the evening with food and films.

Two of the treats I'll make include holiday cookies and salmon filet with crispy skin.  A few months ago for my oldest son's birthday party, we had a dinner at Napa Valley Grille in Westwood. Franklin likes farm fresh food, simply prepared, not fussy. We sampled the menu and the food was delicious. The chef stopped by to see if everyone was happy. A friendly, nice guy, chef Taylor Boudreaux sent out a pasta dish with truffles as a gift to the table. What a nice thing to do.
One of the dishes we had at the dinner was  a salmon filet with crispy skin. It's a simple dish but I've never been able to get the skin right at home. Chef Boudreaux agreed to do a video demonstration.
The interview and video are on Zester Daily. He makes it look so easy. He shared the magic. I tried it at home. It worked! So cool.

Chef's Secret To Crispy Skin For Pan-Seared Salmon Filets

Alana Vague, a friend of a friend, was baking cookies as holiday gifts. She put them in little brown paper bags, nicely tied with a ribbon.  They are delicious and Alana says they're easy to make, a recipe from her great-grandmother. They'll be perfect to snack on while we're watching movies.

Alana's Great-Grandmother's Buckaroo Cookies
Yield: a lot

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups quick oats
1 cup butterscotch chips
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Cream butter and sugars
Add eggs and vanilla
Add dry ingredients
Stir in oats and chips
Drop by tablespoon on cookie sheet
Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes
(I bake them for 7ish then let them rest on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes or so)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day, Time to Set the Table and Make a Wonderful Meal

As my mother used to say, "Where has the time gone?" It feels as if we were celebrating New Year's Eve a few weeks ago and now it's the middle of May with summer just around the corner. Yesterday I bought the first corn of the season from Gloria at the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market. Big fat ears that grilled up sweet and delicious.

My mother loved Thanksgiving because the family was gathered together. She loved my sister and I working beside her in the kitchen, wrapping sweet potatoes in aluminum foil, shelling walnuts and making turkey chopped liver.

I loved Mother's Day because that was a day to make my mom the recipes she liked. Egg salad with bacon, a dish based on her own modification of her mother's recipe, roasted beet salad, potato salad with grilled vegetables, carrot salad with lemon-black pepper soaked golden raisins, rosemary fried chicken and banana cake with chocolate chips and walnuts.

My mom passed away two weeks shy of her 93rd birthday. She had a good life, filled with ups and downs like any life. My last memory of her was our reading the newspaper together, enjoying a good laugh at the expense of then-President George W. Bush--this was 2006--and she was enjoying a Vietnamese bbq pork banh mi sandwich loaded with lots of pickled carrots and daikon. She was happy. Life was good.

So for everyone who wants some good food on Mother's Day--or any day, for that matter--here are some of my mom's favorite dishes.


Egg Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Crisp Bacon

Starting with my mom's basic recipe, I've added grilled vegetables and freshly chopped parsley for color and flavor. Crisp bacon gives a salty crunch.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

4 farmers' market fresh large or extra large eggs
1 large carrot, washed, ends trimmed, peeled
1 ear of corn, tassels and husk removed, washed
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, washed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, finely chopped
2 strips of bacon, finely chopped, sauteed until crisp, drained
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots or scallion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

To make easy-to-peel hardboiled eggs, I happily borrow Katie Goodman's directions which are to place the eggs into a quart-sized pot with salted (1 teaspoon kosher salt) cold water to cover 2" above the eggs. Raise the heat to high and allow the water to rapidly boil for two minutes. Remove from the burner, cover and let stand fifteen minutes.

Pour off the hot water, rinse with cold water, let the eggs cool to the touch and peel the shells. Dry the eggs and refrigerate until ready to use.

Slice the carrot into flat slabs about 1/4" thick and 3" long.  Toss in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.  Season the ear of corn similarly.  Grill the carrots and corn until lightly browned all over or oven roast in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes. Turn frequently to avoid burning. Let cool.  Finely chop the carrots. Cut the kernels off the cob.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped eggs, carrots, corn kernels, parsley, shallots, and crisp bacon bits. Toss. Season with sea salt and black pepper.  Add the mayonnaise and mix well.

Serve on bread, crackers, or lettuce leaves.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped

Omit the bacon

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped, pitted olives

Roast 2 garlic cloves, tossed in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper until lightly browned, peel off the skins, finely chop the soft garlic and add to the egg salad

Add a dash of tabasco or a dusting of cayenne pepper for heat.

Roasted Beet Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 1 hour or more depending on the size of the beets

The beets my mom served when I was a kid were either boiled or canned. For some reason she never roasted beets until I made them. After that they were her favorite. Not soggy, the beets cook inside their skins, retaining all their sweetness.  They taste great and they're easy to make.

Ingredients

1 bunch of large beets
Olive oil

Method

Cut off the leaves and stems, reserving them to use later. A quick side note: after you wash them, if you chop up the leaves and stems, sauté them with olive oil, garlic and shallots; they'll caramelize and you can serve them as a side dish or tossed with pasta; they're delicious. 

Thoroughly wash the beets to get rid of any grit. Do not remove the skins or cut off the root. 

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Place the beets in the pan, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. 

Turn the beets every 20 minutes so they cook evenly. Use a wooden skewer to test if they're done. Roast until the skewer goes into the beets easily but don't let them get too soft. Al dente is good.

Let cool, then peel off the skins, cut off the root and the top part and discard. 

Serve them up the way you like--julienne, rounds, or roughly cut--put them in a bowl and dress with olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, sea salt and black pepper.

Variations

Use a vinagrette dressing, add feta, sliced scallions, and chopped Italian parsley.

Top with roasted walnuts.

Add roasted carrots.

Add green grapes sliced in half.

Potato Salad with Vegetables

Yield:  4-6 servings

Time: 45 minutes

As a side dish, potato salad goes with any grilled meat or fish.

Ingredients

2 pounds potatoes (Yukon Gold or King Edward), washed
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons grated carrots
1 tablespoon corn kernels
1 scallion, end trimmed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably Best Foods/Hellman's)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Put the potatoes in a pot, fill with water to cover, add the kosher salt, cover with a lid or piece of aluminum foil, and boil on high heat for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but still firm. 

Remove the pot from the heat, pour off the hot water, refill the pot with cold water and let the potatoes cool.

Sauté the corn with a little olive oil for 5 minutes until lightly browned.  Let cool. In a large bowl, mix together the corn, carrots, scallion, and parsley. 

Peel the skin off the potatoes--save the skin for a breakfast sauté with eggs--chop the potatoes into dime-sized pieces, and add to the bowl. Toss all the ingredients together and season with sea salt and pepper. Stir in the mayonnaise and mix well. 

Taste and adjust the flavors with more mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.

Variations

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley.

Add celery or capers.

Add crispy bacon.

Add grilled shrimp.

Carrot Salad with Lemon-Soaked Raisins

Yield 6-8 (makes 1 quart)

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

8 large carrots (preferably farmers market fresh), washed, peeled, ends trimmed off
1 scallion (optional), finely chopped
1 small bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried, stems trimmed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Method

Soak the raisins in lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight Grate the carrots in a large mixing bowl.

Roughly chop the raisins, reserving the lemon juice not absorbed into the raisins. Mix together the carrots, raisins, parsley, and scallions.

Season with the cumin, cayenne, sea salt, and black pepper and toss. Add the lemon juice and mayonnaise. Mix well.

Variations

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley

Add chopped capers

Top with roasted chopped almonds


Rosemary Fried Chicken

Yield4 servings

Time45 minutes to prepare, marinate the chicken overnight in buttermilk

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, washed, cut apart, skin removed if desired, wing tips, bones, and skin reserved to make chicken stock
1 quart buttermilk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts safflower or canola oil

Method

When you cut up the chicken, separate the two parts of the wing and cut the breast meat off the bone. Keep or discard the skin as you wish. The breasts can be left whole but will cook more evenly when cut into strips or tenders. The legs and thighs can be cut in half if you have a heavy chef's knife.

Toss the chicken pieces with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Put the pieces in a container, add the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of the rosemary, stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Using a wok or deep frying pan, heat the cooking oil to 325 - 350 degrees or until a piece of parsley browns immediately when dropped in the oil. Before you begin cooking, prepare your counter. Have a slotted spoon or an Asian style strainer ready. Lay two paper towels on top of a piece of brown grocery bag paper on a large plate.

Reserve 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to use just before serving.

In a brown paper bag mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, rosemary, cayenne (optional), sugar (optional), and onions (optional). Remove one piece of chicken at a time. 

Shake off the excess buttermilk, drop the piece into the paper bag with the seasoned flour, close the top of the bag, and shake. Repeat with all the pieces, assembling them on a plate or cutting board.

Cook the chicken in batches. Gently drop each piece into the hot oil, making sure it doesn't touch the other pieces so each one cooks evenly.

Turn over when browned on one side. Remove when golden brown and drain on the paper towels. The pieces will cook quickly: chicken tenders (breast) 2-3 minutes; wings 7-8 minutes; thighs & legs 10-12 minutes.

Just before serving, lightly dust the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of rosemary, sea salt and pepper.

If you are making deep fried vegetables like onion rings or broccoli florets, they cook even more quickly: thick rings cook in 30 seconds, thin rings in 5-6 seconds; broccoli in 30 seconds. 

Soak the vegetables in the seasoned buttermilk for a few minutes, then process like the chicken pieces.


Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts 
Yield 8 to 10 servings
Time 90 minutes
Ingredients
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts 
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Method
  • 1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and paint the inside of a 9 x 3 round cake pan, then put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. (The frozen butter prevents the batter from sticking to the pan.) On a cookie sheet bake the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so; let cool, roughly chop, and set aside.
  • 2. In a bowl mash the bananas with a fork, add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir well and set aside. In a mixer use the whisk to cream together the softened butter and both sugars. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, half and half and whisk until blended. Mix in the flour half a cup at a time, being careful not to over-beat. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to blend in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the buttered cake pan; it will only fill the pan half-way.
  • 3. Bake the cake in a 350 oven for 60-70 minutes, rotating the pan every 20 minutes so the cake cooks evenly. Test to see if the cake is done by inserting a wooden skewer. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top. When the skewer comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven and place it on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan, putting it back on the wire rack to finish cooling.
  • 4. Just before serving dust the top with powdered sugar and shaved chocolate. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Picnic Food & Ice Cold Beer for Super Bowl Sunday

We have a yearly tradition. For Super Bowl Sunday, we invite friends over to our house to eat, have some drinks and watch the game. Until our younger son, Michael, came into our lives, neither of us were much interested in sports. 

Attending UCLA during the John Wooden days, when the men's basketball team reigned supreme, I never went to a single game. I didn't care. But Michael did. From the time he was a toddler, he watched Sports Center, baseball, basketball and football.

Like any parent we wanted to find common ground with our son. For us, that meant catching up with a three year old's encyclopedic knowledge of major league sports.

At first a chore, we got into it. We learned to cheer on the Lakers, root for the Dodgers and follow the careers of our favorite quarterbacks (Manning, Brady, Luck, RGIII, Rogers and Kaepernick).

During the season, I wouldn't miss an episode of Showtime's Inside the NFL, although I am growing tired of the tedious insider kidding the hosts treat themselves to every week.

For our friends on Super Bowl Sunday, I bring out favorite recipes, ones I would take to the beach or park for a picnic. They're all easy-to-make. Put them on the table and watch the game. Everything can be prepared ahead. Everything will taste as good in the fourth quarter as it did before kick off.

Have a great Super Bowl Sunday. May the best team win!


What to serve

Picnic food is perfect for watching the game: rosemary fried chickenegg salad with grilled vegetables and bacon, lobster salad, carrot salad with lemon soaked golden raisins, green salad, oven roasted beets tossed in seasoned olive oil, chicken wings, Caesar salad with grilled shrimp, baked parsley-garlic chicken breasts, sage and shallot stuffed porchetta, and brown sugar pork ribs.

And for desserts, we'll have some choices: handmade chocolatesapple pie with candied ginger crust, ice creams, banana chocolate chip-walnut cakevanilla custard, dried fruit compote and fresh fruit (Valencia orange wedges and Fuji apples).

My favorite

I love chicken wings. Southern fried wings with a light, seasoned flour dusting or marinated and roasted with Korean (kimchi) or Vietnamese (nouc cham) spices.

For this Super Bowl Sunday, I'm making the Nuoc Cham Gung version. Spicy, sweet, moist and delicious. They are a crowd pleaser.



Spicy Sweet Ginger-Garlic Chicken Wings

Serves 4 as an entrée or 8 as an appetizer
Ingredients

2 pounds chicken wings, washed, disjointed, wing tips discarded or reserved and used to make stock
½ cup white sugar
½ cup warm water
¼ cup fish sauce--preferably a light caramel colored brand
¼ cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
4 cloves garlic minced
1 dried Chinese Szechuan pepper, stem removed, seeds and skin minced
3 tablespoons or 3” ginger, peeled, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste

Directions

1.       In a large non-reactive bowl, dissolve the white sugar in warm water. Add the other ingredients, stir to mix well and add the chicken wings. Transfer to a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate one hour or, preferably, overnight.

2.       Remove the wings and transfer the marinade to a small saucepan, adding the brown sugar. Stir to dissolve and reduce by a half or, if you want a thicker glaze, by two-thirds over a medium flame to create a glaze that should have a good balance of sweetness and heat. Taste and adjust for more sweetness if desired by adding another tablespoon of brown sugar.

3.      The wings can either be grilled on a barbecue or baked in a 350 F oven on a rack on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Turn every ten minutes. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

4.       Place the wings on a large plate of Asian noodles, steamed rice, or shredded lettuce. Just before serving, pour the hot glaze over the top.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dessert from the Garden: Strawberry Shortcake

My wife's favorite dessert is strawberry shortcake. The strawberries' bright, sweet taste evokes everything that is wonderful about warm summer days.
For Zesterdaily, I wrote a strawberry shortcake recipe using candied ginger in the batter to give the cakes a sweet-heat.  With strawberries available in such abundance, having strawberry shortcake isn't a luxury, it is one of summer's affordable and easy-to-make treats.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chocolates! Chocolates! Chocolates!

I am obsessed with chocolates. Milk chocolate. Bitter sweet chocolate. White chocolate. Ok, maybe not white chocolate.
So versatile.  Chocolate goes well with nuts. I've been experimenting with raw and caramelized almonds, hazelnuts and pecans. 

Chocolate with a bit of heat is delicious as well. A touch of cayenne or a  bit of crystallized ginger.
Dried fruit and chocolate are great too. Dried apricots with dark chocolate are a favorite.

CUSTOMIZE CHOCOLATES THE WAY YOU WANT THEM

What's most fun about making chocolates is I can customize them. A friend tried my milk and dark chocolate mini-bar with caramelized almonds and said, "I'd like to try them with just dark chocolate," so that's what he ordered.
Another friend wanted the almonds toasted but not caramelized. 

My wife said, "Use peanut butter" and those have become a big seller.

Email me at davidjlatt@earthlink.net and tell me what you would like and order as many as you want (with a three dozen minimum).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chocolate Mini-Candy Bars Make the Best Holiday Gifts

IF YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO MAKE THE CHOCOLATES, I'LL MAKE THEM FOR YOU

For the holidays I'm serving chocolate mini-candy bars at home and giving them as gifts. They're a lot of fun to make. They taste great and look so cool.
For everyone who doesn't have the time, I'm selling the mini-candy bars with almonds or hazelnuts and peanut butter chocolates. If you don't live in the LA area, I can mail them to you.  You can email me at davidjlatt@earthlink.net. You can customize your chocolates, making them exactly the way you like.


If you want to try your hand at being a chocolatier, I wrote an article for Zesterdaily with easy-to-follow directions.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes: Turkey, Stuffing, Appetizers, Side Dishes & Dessert

For Thanksgiving we keep it simple. We don't brine our turkey or do anything exotic with seasonings.

Friends and family contribute desserts. Cousin Leslie makes a pumpkin pie. Cousin Ron (hopefully) will make homemade ice cream. Our friends Clay and Lesli are having dinner with another friend this year so we'll miss her mixed berry fruit salad.
I've been making miniature chocolate bars, which I think are very cool, so I'll make those as an addition to the dessert table.

We'll straighten up around the house. I'll finally throw out those stacks of newspapers I wanted to go through.

If we have time, we'd like to find a new tablecloth for the dining room table. But if we can't find one, the old one will do since there will be so many platters of food, plates, glasses and silverware on the table you'll be hard pressed to see the tablecloth anyway.

We'll cover the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil so clean up after the meal is easier. Cleaning out the refrigerator makes room for the turkey after we pick it up from the grocery store and so there's space for all those delicious left-overs after the meal.

Besides shopping at the grocery store we'll visit our local farmers market to pick up fresh vegetables for the sides dishes: beets, sweet potatoes, lettuce, celery, carrots, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, corn, leeks, and onions.

We'll buy an organic turkey and use the neck, heart and gizzard to make stock for the gravy and the liver to make a mushroom-garlic pate.

Even though Thanksgiving is a lot of work, the key is organization. Writing up a menu is the first step, pulling out our favorite recipes, making a shopping list, and finally creating a time-line for the day before Thanksgiving and the day of the meal.

STUFFING, TURKEY AND GRAVY

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausages, Dried Apricots, and Pecans

The most important part of the meal is the turkey and no turkey is complete without great stuffing.

Over the years my wife has developed a crowd-pleasing stuffing with a contrast of textures: soft (corn bread), spicy (sausage), chewy (dried apricots), and crunchy (pecans).

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 boxes corn bread mix
3 celery stalks, washed, ends trimmed, leaves discarded
1 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter
1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock
4 Italian style sweet sausages
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the corn bread the night before and leave the pan on the counter so the corn bread dries out. Use any cornbread mix you like. My wife uses Jiffy. It's inexpensive and tastes great. The instructions are on the box.

Saute the sausages whole in a frying pan with a little olive oil until browned, remove, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Pour off the excess fat. Add the celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the pan with the stick of butter and saute. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, then add stock and summer 15 minutes.

Cut the cornbread into chunks and crumble into a large mixing bowl. Add the apricots, pecans, and the saute. Stir well and set aside until you're ready to stuff the turkey.

Roast Turkey

The most difficult part about cooking a turkey is size. Even a 15 pound turkey is larger than any roast you'll ever cook, so it's important to have somebody around to help strong-arm the turkey.
The rule of thumb about cooking time is 15-20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees but there are so many variables, you can also use a roasting thermometer and, our preferred method, jiggle-the-leg and if it almost comes off, the turkey's done.

Yield: 20-25 servings

Time: 7-8 hours

Ingredients

1 turkey, 23-25 pounds
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Unwrap the turkey. Remove the packet with the liver, neck, heart, and giblet. Use a pair of pliers to remove the piece of wire that holds the legs. It can be a real pain to get the wire off. Wash the turkey inside and out.  Pat dry on the outside.

Reserve the liver to make a turkey mushroom-garlic pate

Put the neck, heart, and giblet into a large saucepan with a lot of water, at least five inches higher than the turkey pieces. Replenish whatever water boils off. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat on the neck falls off if you touch it with a fork. Strain the stock and reserve to use for gravy. Pull the meat off the neck and save to make turkey soup. Use the giblets in the gravy.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

The next step is easier with a friend. Drizzle olive oil on the outside of the turkey. Using your hands spread the oil over the entire bird, front and back. Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper inside the cavity and on the outside.

To put in the stuffing, either my wife or I holds the turkey upright and steady while the other loosely packs the stuffing inside the large cavity, one handful at a time.

Use 8-12 metal skewers and kitchen string to close the large cavity. Carefully turn the turkey over so you can put stuffing into the top area. Use 6-8 skewers and string to close that cavity.

Use any kind of roasting pan. Whether you use a disposable aluminum foil pan or an expensive stainless steel roasting pan from William Sonoma, the result will be the same. The important thing to remember is the pan must be at least 2" wider than the turkey, otherwise as the bird cooks, its juices will drip onto the bottom of your stove and make a mess. To insure that the turkey browns evenly, you'll need a wire rack.

Place the turkey on the rack, breast down and put into the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

After that, every 30 minutes, baste the turkey with the fat that drips down into the pan. If the skin starts to brown too quickly, put an aluminum tent over the top.

After 3 hours, turn the turkey over. With a large bird this is easier said than done because now the turkey is not only heavy, it's very hot.

Another set of hands is a big help here. My wife and I have choreographed this crucial moment. I lift the roasting pan with the turkey out of the oven, placing it on the cutting board. Michelle stands at the ready with a pot holder in each hand. 

As I lift the rack with the turkey, she removes the pan. I flip the rack with the turkey onto the cutting board, having first put a kitchen towel along the edge to prevent juices from falling to the floor.

We pour all the juices and fat from the pan into a basting bowl, scrapping off the flavor bits on the bottom of the pan to make gravy.

The rack goes back into the pan. The turkey goes onto the rack, breast side up. After a good basting, the turkey goes back in the oven, covered with an aluminum foil tent.

As the turkey continues to cook, if the wing tips and drumstick ends brown too quickly, wrap them in aluminum foil.

Continue basting every 30 minutes. When the turkey is finished, remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Carve the turkey on a cutting board, removing the wings first, then the legs, thighs, and the breasts. Either place the pieces on the platter whole, to be carved at the table, or sliced for easy serving. Open the cavities and spoon out the stuffing.

Mushroom-Giblet Gravy

While the turkey is cooking, start the gravy.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 turkey giblet, cooked, grizzle removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, tarragon, or Italian parsley
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, finely chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups turkey stock made with the turkey heart, giblet and neck
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Place the turkey heart, giblet and neck into a large sauce pan and cover with water. Simmer for 3-4 hours or until the neck meat is falling off the bone. Add water as needed to keep the turkey parts covered. Reserve the giblet for the gravy. Pick the meat off the neck for the gravy as well. Discard the heart.

Sauté the giblet, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add turkey stock and the flavor bits you scraped off the roasting pan, simmer and reduce by 1/3. Taste and adjust the flavors. If too salty, add more stock and a pat of sweet (unsalted) butter.

Reheat before serving.

Turkey Stock

When you're eating Thanksgiving dinner, odds are you aren't thinking about your next meal, but I am. 

Admittedly, it's a bit obsessive, but before I sit down to join the dinner, all the bones and scraps go into a large stock pot filled with water. By the time we're clearing the table, the stock is finished.

Turkey stock is rich and flavorful. Perfect for making soups, stews, and pasta sauce, and like chicken stock, freezes beautifully.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 1 hour
Ingredients

1 turkey carcass, skin, scraps
Water

Method

Put the carcass into a large pot. If any of stuffing makes it into the pot, all the better for flavor and richness. Cover the bones with water. Simmer 1 hour. Strain and refrigerate. Pick the meat off the bones to use in a soup or stew.

The stock keeps in the freezer for six months.

SIDE DISHES

Side dishes need to be flavorful and easy to make.

Everyone has their favorites. Here are ours: Roasted Whole TomatoesArugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, and Avocadoes, Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad, Blackened Peppers with CapersRoasted Brussels Sprouts, and, my new favorite, baked sweet potatoes stuffed with a garlic-mushroom sauté.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sautéed Shallots, Garlic, and Mushrooms

I prefer sweet potatoes that have a bright orange flesh. Find ones that are slender, appropriate as a single serving. For a dinner party, pick ones that are about the same size.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients

4 sweet potatoes, washed, skins on
2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 cup shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves only, washed, finely chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Cayenne (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap each sweet potato in tin foil, place in the oven, turn every 30 minutes. Depending on your oven and the size of the sweet potatoes, they can take anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. When the sweet potatoes are soft to the touch, they are done.

While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, drizzle olive oil in a frying pan, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and sauté the shallots, garlic, parsley, and mushrooms until lightly browned.

Remove and discard the tin foil. Take a sharp paring knife and slice each sweet potato open the long way. Using your fingers, push the sweet potato in from the ends so the cut section opens like a flower. Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter and a light dusting of cayenne (optional). Top with the shallot-mushroom sauté and serve.

DESSERT

We always have a half dozen desserts, ranging from custards to apple pies with crystalized ginger crusts but my absolute favorite is a light and chocolaty banana cake.

Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

For a festive presentation we use a castle mould and dust the top with powdered sugar to give the cake a happy snowy look.
Yield: 8-10 servings
Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

4 ripe bananas
1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup half and half or 1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups white flour
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and paint the inside of a 9 x 3 round cake pan, then put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. (The frozen butter prevents the batter from sticking to the pan.) On a cookie sheet bake the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so; let cool, roughly chop, and set aside.

In a bowl mash the bananas with a fork, add the baking soda and vanilla. stir well and set aside. In a mixer use the whisk to cream together the softened butter and both sugars. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, half and half (or cream) and whisk until blended. Mix in the flour half a cup at a time, being careful not to over-beat. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to blend in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the buttered cake pan; it will only fill the pan half-way.

Bake the cake in a 350 oven for 60-70 minutes, turning the pan every 20 minutes so the cake cooks evenly.  Test to see if the cake is done by inserting a wooden skewer. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top. When the skewer comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven and place on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan, putting it back on the wire rack to finish cooling.

Just before serving, dust the top with powdered sugar and shaved chocolate. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.