June 19, 2013
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I learned about this salad recently when friends and I got together to cook Asparagus and Leek Quiche. It was a perfect compliment! I love both beets and fennel, so what’s not to like? It’s easy to put together once the beets are cooked. We thought you could add a little goat cheese and call it a main dish salad!
1 pound cooked beets, cut in small wedges
1 small fennel bulb, halved lengthwise then thinly sliced plus chopped fronds for garnish
about 6 cups lettuce, torn in small pieces or use spring mix
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like chives, parsley, dill or mint
To cook the beets you can either roast or cook stovetop. For stovetop, place the unpeeled, washed beetroots in water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer at a gentle boil for about 20-30 minutes for small beets and longer for larger ones. Here’s a great how-to for stovetop cooking of beets. Remove from heat, drain and let cool slightly. When cool enough, you can easily slip off the skin with your hands. Let cool completely and cut into small wedges.
Make the dressing by whisking the buttermilk and mayonnaise together until emulsified. Add the herbs and continue to whisk. Set aside.
Wash and dry the lettuce and spread on a platter. Place the sliced fennel bulb on top of the lettuces, then the beet wedges. Pour desired amount of dressing over the salad. Garnish with the fennel fronds.
June 12, 2013
I can’t believe I haven’t posted about this cake yet. I have made this cake more than any other…well, besides the old family stand-by. But this cake is SO GOOD. It has a really nice cocoa flavor, not super deep-rich chocolate, so it’s great for all palates. And the frosting is so fluffy and buttery, it just melts in your mouth. I’ve made this cake for numerous birthdays, get-togethers, and just because we want cake. It’s not super difficult, as far as cake recipes go. If you’re looking for a good, old-fashioned, super moist and chocolatey cake recipe, this is IT.
My mom gave me the recipe several years ago, in an article cut out of her local newspaper. It was literally called the “World’s Best Chocolate Cake” (I did not give it this ridiculous name). I don’t remember the specifics of the article…someone won a cake contest, or a cake connoisseur happened upon it at a dinner at a friend’s, or something along those lines. I tried to find the original article, to no avail, so I can’t tell you the real story. All I can remember is that the writer thought this cake was the best he had ever had, and I had to see for myself. It’s pretty darn good.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
For one, and this goes for most cakes I make, when sifting the dry ingredients, I use the following method: I cut two pieces of waxed paper, and set them side by side on the counter. I first sift the flour onto the first piece of paper, then put the sifter on the other paper and measure out the flour, putting it back into the sifter. Then I place the rest of the dry ingredients in the sifter with the flour and sift them all together onto the second piece of waxed paper. Then I just set that aside until I need to add it to the batter. It’s pretty easy to add it, just carefully picking up the paper at each edge, creating kind of a funnel, and slowly pour it into the mixer. Save your waxed paper for later…you can use one to sift your powdered sugar onto, and the other for my trick below.
Secondly, don’t be alarmed when the batter looks curdled after you add the water and vanilla. It will smooth back out after the addition of flour and buttermilk. No worries.
Third. When preparing to frost the cake, cut up one of the pieces of waxed paper and slide them under the first layer. It takes four strips, make sure the plate is completely covered. Then when you’re frosting the cake, the frosting isn’t getting on your serving plate. When you’re done frosting, carefully slide the strips out from under the cake and voila! Clean plate.
World’s Best Chocolate Cake
Have all your ingredients at room temperature. Line two 9″ round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with baking spray with flour (or butter and flour the pans). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa and salt, and set aside. Cream the butter in a bowl with an electric mixer (or use a stand mixer-my recommendation). Gradually add the sugar, and beat at medium speed for one minute, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each egg. Gradually add the water and vanilla on low speed, and then beat on medium for one minute more. With the mixer on low speed, add one third of the flour mixture, and beat on low until completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half of the buttermilk, beat on low, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then beat on low until completely combined again. Alternate the flour and buttermilk in this fashion, ending with the last third of flour mixture. Pour into pans, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on racks for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool on rack until completely cooled.
1 six oz. package high quality semisweet chocolate chips, or semisweet chocolate chopped up (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
Bowl of ice
Combine chocolate chips, whipping cream and butter in double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring constantly until smooth (I use a large mixing bowl set on top of a medium saucepan…less to clean up). Remove from heat and add powdered sugar. Set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice, and using an electric hand mixer, beat on high speed until the frosting holds its shape, about 10 minutes. Make sure you take it out of the bowl of ice immediately, so that the bottom of the frosting doesn’t freeze.
June 9, 2013
I love pesto, but I’ve been wanting to try new things besides basil pesto. This kale pesto is really yummy, and can be used in a number of ways: on a sandwich, in an egg scramble, on chicken or fish, on pizza (which we did the night after we had it on pasta…yum!), or, of course, on pasta. This recipe is enough to cover a pound of pasta, plus extra for other things on later days. It really freezes well, too!
1 bunch kale, stems removed
1/3 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts
1 clove garlic
zest and juice from one lemon
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup or more olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to boil, add kale and boil for about 30 seconds. Immediately drain kale and run cold water over it to cool it off. Squeeze off excess water and put in food processor, along with nuts, garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Process for about 30 seconds, until its all ground to a fine meal. Scrape down the sides and pulse a few more times. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Scrape down the sides again, taste, and add more olive oil if needed (and salt and pepper), and pulse a few more times. The consistency isn’t as creamy as basil pesto, and I found that I needed more olive oil than with basil pesto. I think I used almost 1/3 cup.
If making pasta, cook your desired type of noodle to al dente and place it in a large bowl, reserving some of the pasta water. Add about half the pesto to the pasta, and combine thoroughly, adding up to 1/2 cup pasta water as needed. Serve immediately, topping with parmesan cheese, and maybe a little toasted walnuts for garnish. It’s also really good with some halved cherry tomatoes stirred in.
June 4, 2013
I’m kind of a salad fanatic, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about having warm weather finally! So far I’ve made this pasta salad, several quinoa salads, including this one and this (which is one of my favorites), and I can’t wait to make potato salads, especially this one. Platter salads are another favorite for us, and we’ve already had my favorite Cobb salad, even when it wasn’t that warm yet. I couldn’t wait.
This is a salad that has become kind of a summer standard here over the past few years. When my son was an infant and I was stuck to the couch for hours on end either nursing him or “napping” with him, I would watch endless amounts of TV, a lot of that being the Food Network. I’ve always liked cooking, but I think that’s when I really got my love of cooking, and I would try out tons of the recipes I saw on TV. This was one of them, on “The Neely’s” (a show I didn’t often watch, by the way, but I’m glad I caught this episode). I don’t really ever watch Food Network anymore, but I’m glad I did because a lot of my standard recipes came from that year of watching.
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar (I have also used white wine vinegar)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained (or 4 cups soaked dried beans…I think that’s about a cup and a half of dried)
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the rice wine vinegar, canola oil, sugar, and salt and pepper.
Toss all together and let marinate for at up to 8 hours in the refrigerator before serving.
June 2, 2013
In the warmer months, we eat a quinoa salad at least once a week. Everyone loves it…including my picky son, it’s super quick and easy, and nice and healthy. I should really call this one “clean out the fridge” salad, because I often make it when I really need to go shopping and I have to just use up whatever is left in the fridge. We always have most of these things on hand because they’re all favorites of my son. I find that you can add or subtract any ingredient, based on what you might have on hand. Some other things that would be good tossed into this are avocado, parsley, chopped fresh spinach, mint, celery, zucchini, green onion, radishes, pine nuts or white beans.
Greek Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1/4 red onion, fine chop
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (leave out for vegan)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Rinse and drain quinoa. Add water and quinoa to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as it starts boiling, cover, run down heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes. Dump immediately into a large serving bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, chop your veggies. When the quinoa is cool, add all veggies and beans to it and mix.
Make dressing: Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over salad and mix well. Carefully stir in feta. Serve at room temperature with warmed pita and white wine as a main dish. Also great as a side at a BBQ, or with chicken.
May 15, 2013
I saw this recipe from Bon Appetit while planning a family trip to Illinois. I sent it to Margaux’s Mom Kathleen where I’m staying and she gave it a thumbs up . . . and that was only on paper . I made this a couple of days ago and we both agreed it’s a Wow! A pretty fast and easy wow at that. We served with a green salad and a Sauvignon Blanc. My niece Malory’s kids are sick so I asked if I could get her some groceries, and she requested most of the ingredients in this recipe. So I shared it with her and she made it last night – so not only did adults like this but it has been kid-tested also. And, thanks for the photo, Malory!
Malory says . . .
As Aunt Suzy mentioned I have three sick kiddos, ages 5 and under, so as you may be able to imagine I am a little worn out! Deciding what’s for dinner is never an easy task and the same recipes can get very monotonous. What I love most about this simple recipe is that it takes the same ingredients I usually have on hand and mixes it up for a great flavorful dish! My tastebuds were in heaven! My kids loved it too and even asked for seconds. Next time I will definitely be doubling this recipe!
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups brown rice
3 cups water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
2 jalapeños or Fresno chiles (red preferred if available), stemmed, halved, seeded
1-2 garlic cloves
1 rounded tablespoon chopped peeled ginger
zest and juice of one lime
1 avocado, halved, pitted, chopped
1/2 cup or more coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup or more crumbled Cotija or feta cheese
lime wedges (for serving)
Cook the rice: Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan. Saute about 1/4 of the chopped onion till soft then add the rice and saute until it has a nutty aroma. Add the 3 cups of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes until water is completely absorbed. When done, add a handful of cilantro if you wish. While the rice is cooking . . .
Cook the beans: Saute about 1/3 of the remaining chopped onion in one tablespoon olive oil till soft. Add the spices and saute a minute more. Add the beans and water, bring to a bubble, turn down the heat and simmer 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and mashing a few beans. Take off heat and set aside.
Make the salsa: Place the remaining onion, chiles, garlic, ginger and lime zest/juice in a blender container. Pulse to a chunky consistency. Pour salsa into a bowl.
Assemble the dish: For each serving, place rice into a bowl and top with some beans. Sprinkle with cilantro, some avocado and cheese. Top with the ginger-lime salsa. Pass the lime wedges.
April 20, 2013
Aunt Suzy says . . .
Margaux and I are on the lookout for good recipes using shredded chicken. I was looking for something new to make but that would be fast and easy on a busy Sunday. I love all the flavors in this stew, so thought I’d give it a whirl. It was a hit! Randy and I both agreed that I should double the recipe next time – we barely had a small lunch portion left after eating. We served it with a salad, baguette and some a Pinot Gris wine. Since spring is seeming like it is not going to show up this year, this warming dish was especially welcome on a cold and snowy day.
Margaux says . . .
This dish was a hit in our house, too! We always love bean stews, so I knew it would probably get gobbled up. At Aunt Suzy’s suggestion, I made a double recipe, and I’m glad I did. It was the perfect amount for dinner and then lunch for Desi and me the next day.
When I made this, I misread the recipe and used bone-in chicken, and it was really good, if a little greasy. I just skimmed as much of the extra fat off the top as I could. This would be a great recipe to use for leftover shredded chicken, I would just use chicken broth instead of water, and add the chicken at the end with the red peppers, etc. It would also be good vegetarian, eliminating the chicken altogether. In that case, I would maybe use more red pepper.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
4 cups water or chicken stock or a combination
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup roasted red peppers from a jar, drained and sliced into 1-inch pieces
Juice of ½ lemon, or more
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to the pot and cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to low and let oil cool slightly; add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30–60 seconds. Add cumin, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute. Add the liquid, the reserved chicken with any accumulated juices and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, occasionally stirring, until chicken is tender, about 20 minutes.
Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool slightly. Add chickpeas to pot; bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Shred the chicken. Add the chicken, red peppers, half the herbs and lemon juice; simmer for a couple of minutes until heated through. Season with salt and more lemon juice, if desired. Ladle soup over into bowls and garnish with more of the herbs.