Sunday, January 30, 2011

All Good Things Cakes, Bundts, and Loafs

Because all I want right now is cake.
Because I am too lazy to go make a cake in my kitchen and then clean up the mess.
Because all I want is for YOU to make ME a cake so I can eat it with you.
Any of the following cakes will suffice:

Rainbow Cake. Layers of colorful almond cake, raspberry jam, and a chocolate sprinkle top. Takes me back to childhood.

Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Rosemary. This cake screams Italian.

Pear and Cranberry Holiday Spice Cake. Moist. Studded with pears. Full of spicy sweetness.

Carrot Cake. What's the secret to the best carrot cake ever? Fresh ginger.

Meyer Lemon Yogurt Cake. Pretty pretty princess.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread. With melty choco chips? I'm so there.

Buttermilk Pound Loaf. She's a lady, wowowow, she's a lady...

Buttermilk Avocado Pound Loaf
. The mean green fighting machine.

Red Velvet Cupcake Cones. Cupcakes DEFINITELY count as cake.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Because Sometimes I Eat Dinner at My Desk: Sauteed Mushrooms, Etc.

They say don't eat at your desk. Don't eat in front of the television. Don't eat with distraction.

But we all do it.

This evening I had the pleasure of dinner for 1 at my desk. My desk is a big clutter blob. So sue me.

Below you will see an ugly picture of my delicious dinner:

Have you ever sauteed mushrooms only to find them juicing like crazy, leaving you with a big watery liquid mess in your skillet? I have found the solution. Heat your pan and place your sliced mushrooms onto the dry skillet. Let them cook, let them release their juices and then the juices will evaporate. Once your mushrooms are cooked, THEN add your butter, your oil, your fat of choice. This will leave you with flavorful mushrooms without that unappetizing liquid (Of course, you could always pour out the liquid and use it in addition to stock for soup etc., but who really does that or takes the time to do that?).

Sauteed Mushrooms, Etc.

serves 1-2

2 handfuls? of mushrooms, I used cremini
a small pat of butter and/or olive oil
1/4 of a chopped shallot, or about 1-2 tablespoons onion
1 chopped garlic clove
chopped parsley (optional)
dash of balsamic

(whole wheat) couscous

black beans

feta cheese

1. Prepare your couscous. Open up a can of black beans. Slice or crumble your feta. Set everything aside while you prepare the mushrooms.

2. Heat a pan. Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook until done-ish. Add some salt, butter/oil. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for about a minute or two more.

3. Take pan off heat and add a dash of balsamic and some parsley, for finishing.

3. Spoon some couscous into a bowl. Top with some black beans and the mushroom mixture. Finish with the feta.

4. Proceed to your desk (or not. not might be better).

**NOTE: Of course, as always in cooking, feel free to modify this loose recipe. i.e. goat cheese instead of feta, add some sauteed spinach, use brown rice or spaghetti instead of couscous, experiment with wild mushrooms...etc. etc. etc.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet

Oh yes, this dripping cone of chocolate heaven is SORBET. No cream, no milk, no egg yolks...but no skimping on the rich chocolate flavor. Oh no, no skimping. This is as pure as a frozen chocolate treat can get. Joanne Chang, the owner of a popular Boston bakery called Flour is responsible for this bittersweet chocolate sorbet recipe. She describes the taste perfectly: "It tastes like a frozen deep, dark chocolate bar." Oh, lordy I couldn't describe it better myself!

I was just in New York and discovered that there are some REALLY GOOD hot chocolates to drink out there. Like REALLY REALLY GOOD, especially when you dip a pretzel croissant into your hot chocolate. This sorbet tastes like the dark hot chocolates that I was drinking just a few weeks ago, but frozen.

I had some organic vegan ice cream cones on-hand that I used to make red velvet cupcake cones a short while ago, and these cones were a great way to enjoy this bittersweet chocolate sorbet (and the cones only have 25 calories, 0 fat, and 0 sugar!!!).

I do very much enjoy the process of making ice cream. I like the whole heat the milk, temper in the egg yolks, and pour into cold cream thing. But with this sorbet, I get to do the make a nice caramel, add some cocoa powder, and pour everything over chopped chocolate thing. I like this, too.

Chang provides a nice food-science explanation for using caramelized sugar instead of pure sugar in her bittersweet chocolate sorbet recipe:

"...caramelize the sugar before combining it with the sorbet base. Because there is no cream or milk in this recipe, it is a challenge to create a smooth, creamy texture. Caramelizing the sugar means you can use more sugar than you would normally (since straight sugar is pure sweet and the sweetness of the caramelized sugar is offset by its characteristic bitterness). The extra sugar-disguised-as-caramel helps to lower the freezing point of the sorbet base, which means it won't freeze solid. The result is a creamier, softer, not-icy treat."

Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet

from Joanne Chang's book, Flour

makes about 1 quart

1 cup (200 grams) sugar

3 1/2 cups (840 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

4 ounces (114 grams) bittersweet chocolate (60-70 % cacao), finely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Put the sugar in the bottom of a medium saucepan. Add 1/2 cup (120 grams) of the water and gently swirl the pan to moisten the sugar. Place the pan over high heat and leave it undisturbed until the contents come to a rolling boil. Then continue to boil rapidly without moving the pan until the sugar syrup starts to caramelize. This will take 3 to 4 minutes: the sugar syrup will boil furiously, then as it thickens it will boil more languidly, and then you will see some of the syrup start to color and darken around the edge of the pan.

When you see color in the pan, gently swirl it in a circular motion so the sugar caramelizes evenly, and then keep swirling gently until the caramel is a medium golden brown. Turn down the heat to low and slowly and carefully add the remaining 3 cups (720 grams) water. Be careful, because it will sputter and spatter when it hits the caramel. The caramel will harden at the bottom of the pan; turn up the heat to high, bring the mixture back to a boil, and whisk for a few minutes until the caramel fully dissolves. Then whisk in the cocoa powder until fully dissolved.

Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the hot caramelized liquid over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute, then whisk gently until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a container, and whisk in the vanilla and salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until cold.

Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Sorbet can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 week.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Maple Sesame Salmon with Whole Wheat Couscous and Sauteed Green Beans

Boy do I love the broiler. The broiler can melt cheese until it is gooey and golden brown and the broiler can char my fish until it has the perfect plum-color surface. Two very good things.

This salmon is marinated in a sweet and salty mixture of maple syrup, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. I added a few chili flakes for a mild kick. Into the oven on a high broiler setting (425-450 deg. F). I sprinkled sesame seeds atop the fillets just a few minutes before the salmon was finished baking.

Served on a bed of whole wheat couscous (only takes 5 min. to cook) and sauteed garlic green beans, I'd say this is a beautifully balanced meal.

Maple Sesame Salmon

From "And then I do the dishes"

Salmon fillets (enough for 4-6 people; have them de-bone the fish at the market)
3 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or Sriracha sauce

Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Mix all ingredients except the salmon and sesame seeds. Using either a bowl or a ziplock bag, place the salmon in the marinade and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (easy clean-up). Turn on the broiler to 425-450 deg F and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Place the salmon on the baking sheet (skin side up) and bake for 10-25 minutes (depending on your fish size and oven, just check it every so often). Baste every so often with the marinade. Flip the salmon over halfway through cooking. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top during the last few minutes of baking. The salmon will be ready when flaked with a fork and done on the inside (opaque flesh).

This makes great left-overs to take for lunch, too. So long lunch rut (for now, anyway).

Sauteed Garlic Green Beans

adapted from Eating Well

Olive oil
1 pound of green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup water
2 chopped garlic cloves
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Heat a pan with olive oil over med-high heat. Add the green beans and cook, stirring often, about 2-3 minutes until seared in spots. Reduce heat to medium, add water, cover, and cook about 3 minutes more. Take off the cover to ensure that all the water is evaporated. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Finish with balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper.

I'm in a Lunch Rut, So I Made Egg Salad

What to eat for lunch? What to pack for lunch? I can't tell you how many times I have eaten a pb&j or a turkey sandwich for lunch. School is about to start again and I need some new ideas to keep me fueled throughout my busy day.

Joy the Baker made egg salad look oh so tempting. So I made it. And now I have lunch for the next two days or so (I halved her recipe).

The first step is to hard-boil some eggs. If you don't have your own method, I recommend using this one.

With some nice herbs and aromatics and good mustard, egg salad can go from drab to dapper in no time. I even added a touch of minced preserved lemon that I canned a few weeks ago.

Egg Salad a la Joy The Baker

Makes roughly 2-3 servings worth

4 eggs hard-boiled, peeled, and cut in half (again use this as a reference)

2 tablespoons mayo

1/2 teaspoon mustard (Dijon, whole grain...)

1-2 teaspoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (feel free to use another herb if you prefer)

1 tablespoon minced shallot (again you could use red onion, scallion, green garlic...)

1 teaspoon lemon juice (I didn't have lemon juice so I used minced preserved lemon + a bit of vinegar, cider or white is good)

salt and pepper, to taste

bread, for sandwiches

1. Dump all ingredients into a bowl and break it up/mix with a fork until everything is incorporated to the consistency of your choice. Spoon onto (toasty) grainy bread for a nice sandwich.

Keeps up to 4 days in the fridge.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

More NY Eats

So I have done a LOT of eating in the last few weeks. I knocked off quite a few hot spots from my self-made restaurant list. There are still so many more places I have yet to eat in New York City, but, oh, I'll be back. Oh, and I've done a smidge of cooking/baking too...Spicy Chili, Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies...

Ippudo is currently at the top of my list for dinner in New York City. Ramen. Pork buns--gorgeous pillows filled with perfectly cooked and seasoned pork. Cute furniture made for those dining in two's. This place is busy its loud its soooooo good. They will tell you that you have to wait 2 hours on a Wednesday night, but just go around the corner for a beer and come back in 30 min. Stick it out, it won't take a whole 2 hours. I got in after 40 minutes. And it is sooo worth the wait. Just don't make the mistake of attempting to come here with 6 people. Stick to 2 people. Or come for lunch. But yes, Ippudo is my new favorite New York City dinner spot.

Let's talk coffee. Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Inside the Ace Hotel. Very trendy, extremely good coffee. There is a lobby inside the hotel where a slew of trendy New Yorkers sip their coffee (or at night their cocktails) and type away at their laptops, stick their nose into a good book, or chat with an old friend. Stumptown is originally from Portland, Oregon. Who's up for a road-trip to Portland?

Shake Shack.
I have no photo because I gobbled this thing up. Yes I ate a burger, a fast-food burger, outside in the snow after a yoga class. Fast food and yoga. Oh yes, I did it. And there was hardly a line, which is a rare occurrence at any Shake Shack location. This burger was good but nothing to rave about. The bun was indeed soft and buttery (compared to the toasty crisper In-N-Out bun). They have yummy shakes, too. My friend ordered a cold shake in the cold weather. And then this friend ordered a hot chocolate from Stumptown right after he finished his chocolate shake. This boy knows how to live right.

Speaking of burgers, have you been to 5 Napkin Burger yet? 10 oz of burger. 10 freaking ounces! Caramelized onions. Gruyere cheese. Absolutely no lettuce, no tomato, no pickle. This is a good place to go after seeing a matinee showing of Memphis.

'Wich Craft. Nice little spot for a sandwich. Grilled cheddar with smoked ham, pear, & mustard on cranberry-pecan bread.

Rue 57. I'm not crazy about Midtown/Times Square. It is too touristy, too crowded, and too corporate. But let's say you have a brother who works as a lawyer in Midtown. You meet him for dinner. Rue 57 is a fine place to dine. It is kind of funny in that it has Parisian cuisine, American classics, and sushi, but somehow it works. Below you will see a few of the many menu options at Rue 57.

Beet Salad: frisee, baby greens, sliced bosc pear, baked goat cheese, orange vinaigrette

Special: Baked clams with sun-dried tomatoes (I enjoyed the clams however my brother thought they were too rubbery; he's had better, he says)

Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass with Baby Spinach

E.A.T. Oh, the Upper East Side. You really are something. E.A.T. is a gourmet deli/restaurant and if you are itching to see a NYC celeb, I recommend going here for some good eats and good sees.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Chocolate Room, Brooklyn

(Above you see brother and mom, post-chocolate indulgence) Nestled next to a quaint movie theater in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, The Chocolate Room knows how to hit the spot on a cold, snowy day.

Immediately when you walk in a case of gorgeous chocolates will tempt you.

You can sit at the bar or go to the back and sit at a table (If you sit at a table there is a beautiful tall window with which to watch the snow flakes fall). The waitstaff hands you a menu and a little sample: almond cake drizzled with chocolate.

It is pretty much a given that you must order hot chocolate when the snow is falling and you are at a place called "The Chocolate Room." Oh, and please do order a homemade marshmallow to swim in your hot chocolate. The Chocolate Room also has a hot chocolate with a shot of espresso in it. It is called a Cafe Torino. My eyes just got a little brighter thinking about it.

So five of us "dined" at the Chocolate Room. We each got a drink and then shared two chocolate desserts. A flourless chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and whipped cream=dense and dreamy, and I loved the raspberry-chocolate combo.

Chocolate pudding cake with whipped mascarpone and brandied cherries. Rich and oozing chocolatey goodness. Definitely my favorite chocolate delight from The Chocolate Room.

Both of the desserts--the flourless chocolate cake and the chocolate pudding cake--were on the specials menu.

I feel like I have taken a chocolate and burger tour of New York. My stomach has never hurt so good.

The Chocolate Room
86 5th Avenue
New York, NY 11217
(718) 783-2900

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lunch at Eataly

Eataly is jam-packed with people and Italian food-goods.

There is everything from wine and cheese pairings to il pesce (fish) and la verdure (emphasis on produce). There is a beer garden, a panini stop, a pastry counter, and a coffee shop. You can purchase pastas, meat, bread, fish, cheese, liquor, produce, snacks, and desserts.

After tasting some wine and cheese (we were a quartet of mother-daughter duos), we headed over to dine on Eataly's homemade Neapolitan-style pizza and homemade lasagna.

On the website, Eataly's pizza is described as having a charred and elastic crust. I think that is a fitting description. The pizza we ordered was extremely simple; it had San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, and a about 2 basil leaves on top. Is it possible that the simple was almost too simple? Ok ok, the pizza was good. But I have definitely had better. And it sure took a long time to bring out this "simple" pizza.

We also shared a lasagna ("pasta al forno con zucca") with homemade noodles. It had pumpkin, butternut squash, and Pecorino cheese. This was quite good. It did sort of fall apart when you took a bite, but I liked the flavor and the creamy texture.

I will have to go back and try some of the other restaurant vendors at Eataly, or at least buy some groceries there. It will have to be after the crazy holiday season, though. I don't know how well I do with large crowds and a lot of noise while I am lunching...oh, everything is an experience in New York...

Eataly NY
200 5th AVENUE
NEW YORK, NY 10010
Entrances on 5th Avenue and 23rd Street

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Abraco Espresso

Of course I am halfway across the country and I find myself indulging in the familiar...

Abraco Espresso.

I will first let you read the little sum up of this tiny East Village espresso bar by the New York Times:

There are three things you need to know about Abraço Espresso: it’s tiny, it brews excellent coffee, and the little food that it serves is way beyond coffee-shop caliber.

(Also, it’s named for the Gilberto Gil song “Aquele Abraço,” which means “that hug.” That helps to explain why it has a record player and a sheaf of ’70s jazz and Tropicalia on vinyl.)

The coffee duties are split between two of the partners: Jamie McCormick, who moved back to New York after a decade-plus trip to the San Francisco area spent mostly at the restaurant Oliveto and partly at Blue Bottle Coffee, and Amy Linton, a barista formerly at Ninth Street Espresso.

Both fashion espresso drinks that rank the shop among the city’s finest. More distinctive still is the drip coffee, ground and prepared in a Melitta filter to order ($2.50). The extra few minutes the process takes produce a full-bodied cup with a distinctly fruity character and refreshing acidity.

Oliveto restaurant? Blue Bottle Coffee? These Bay Area spots are all too familiar with my leisure and work lives back home. I have to go to this New York espresso bar to check it out.

I went. I ordered an Americano and it was indeed "full-bodied...distinctly fruity...and [had] refreshing acidity." I stood at the tiny counter, sipping away whilst people-watching: Two young 20-something women, the artsy type, chatting away about books and bars all the while flirting with the barista. A man with his young daughter stop in for a mid-morning snack--pain perdu, a French-toast dolloped with pastry cream and chocolate spread, wrapped in paper to eat on-the-go. Couples, parents, friends, and soloists like myself all trickled in to Abraco for a little perk to their day.

Abraco Espresso

86 East 7th Street (right around the corner from Yoga to the People at St. Mark's Pl)

Closed Mondays

Post-caffeine, I headed around the corner to take a class at Yoga to the People. YTTP is a go-to yoga spot for me in the Bay Area. The original studio is right in the heart of New York City's Lower East Side. I shan't pass up the opportunity to attend a class and compare. Well folks, the New York class is exactly the same as the ones in the Bay Area, with a lot more people. Crowded. Get there early.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The City Bakery

The City Bakery.
I want.
I crave.
I think I found my new favorite bakery.
I think I need to move to New York City.
I think I need to live above The City Bakery.

Exhibit A: The Pretzel Croissant
Sprinkled with sesame seeds
Dipped into my hot chocolate drink

Exhibit B: Dark Hot Chocolate with a Homemade Marshmallow

Chocolate in the morning.
Makes me a happy lady.

Look at those muffins. Ooo tummy.

Bran muffin. A mountain of a muffin.

David Lebovitz turned me on to this bakery
. They have a salad bar at the bakery. Salad and pastries. No but really, the salad bar is supposed to be raging during lunch hour. But really no, just go get a pretzel croissant and dip it into your liquid chocolate drink.

The City Bakery

3 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 366-1414