Saturday, March 26, 2011

serious chocolate cookies

yes folks, these chocolate cookies are serious in their chocolosity.  Chocoliciousness.  Chocolaciousness.  You know.  The recipe is adapted from the joy of baking website.  Theirs look good, but I can't actually judge how they taste because of course I'm not capable of following someone else's recipe without tweaking it.  So, like I said, theirs look pretty good, but mine?  Mine are insane.

What you'll need:
450 grams semisweet chocolate
1/4 c. butter
4 eggs
1 1/3 c. sugar (I use raw sugar, just because it's what I have on hand)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (if you're lucky enough to be able to find it where you live.  The cookies work without it too)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Step 1: Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.  Lick spatula.  Grin.

Step 2: Beat eggs and sugar until pale yellow and thick enough to fall from the whisk in ribbons.  If you're doing this by hand, get tired and stop before you get that far.  Worry for a second, but then relax because you know these cookies are going to turn out stupendous anyway.

Step 3: Add the melted chocolate mixture and the vanilla extract to the egg mixture.  Stir.  Drool.  Grin.

 Step 4: Add the dry ingredients and mix gently until completely combined.

Change tools frequently so you have an excuse to lick the whisk, the spatula, and the spoon.  Grin.

Step 5: Here comes the hard part.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for minimum half an hour, ideally an hour or more so that it firms up.  That means no sticking your finger in for extra licking.  Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C) and try and distract yourself.

When it the dough comes out the texture will be much thicker, more mousse-like, and easy to scoop.

Step 6: Scoop it out with a small spoon onto a cookie tray with a silicone liner.  You could make them big, but they pack a pretty intense chocolately punch, so I like to make them really small.  That way also you can eat 10 and really it's only like you had 3.  If the dough is sticking too much, use a little warm water to moisten your fingers/the spoon.

Baking time varies a lot, so keep your eye on these guys.  I set the timer for 10 minutes and then watch like a hawk.  It'll depend a lot on how big you make them.  The tops will begin to crack and wrinkle, but they should still look very soft and doughy in the center.  We want these to come out chewy, not crispy like in the original recipe.

Step 7: Let them cool a little, otherwise they'll fall apart as you try to lift them.  Who are we kidding?  Just dig in!  And grin.

Note: even though you might not think it, with only 1/2 c of flour in them, this recipe will make a ton of little cookies.   Share them, give them away, eat them all yourself, I'm not judging.  Just saying. One thing I do is only bake half the batch, and save the dough for a day or two in the fridge.  It keeps pretty well, it hardens a lot more, but I don't think it has much effect on the final baked cookie.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

roasted red and golden beets with hazelnuts

One often reads that roasting brings out the sweetness in beets. I don't get it. Beets are sweet, period.  Also, their flavour is very strong, which is why I find it hard to combine with other stuff. But I gave it another try. I don't discern a difference in taste between red and golden beets, but it's prettier if you mix the two.

Roast red beets and golden beets at 400 F until soft.
Roast hazelnuts and chop them roughly. (Well, no, I didn't chop them. More on that later.)
Make a vinaigrette with orange juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Combine everything.

Pretty good. But then I think anything with hazelnuts is pretty good.

For chopped hazelnuts, I used one of my favourite kitchen tools, the meat pounder.

I grew up watching our big burly neighbourhood butcher pound slices of beef or lamb, using one that's 2-3 times bigger than mine, raising his arm high and coming down with a loud slap. OK, I don't really remember whether he was big and burly. But my memory of it is a loud, violent gesture resulting in a beautifully shaped, delicate piece of meat. So when I saw this meat pounder for sale on an online Turkish groceries site, I grabbed it. I don't pound meat much, but when I do, I have a tool that's so much better than those small cube-shaped mallet-like things they sell here. And for crushing nuts, it's perfect.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

chicken spinach crepes

Why oh why oh why did I learn how to make bechamel?  Now I can't stop...  And so I'm not alone in this, here's how to make delicious and not-so-good-for-you crepes.

First the crepes:
3 eggs
1 c. flour
a pinch of salt
enough milk to make the batter the right consistency

That may not seem like an accurate measurement, but it's the one my mama gave me, and I'm prety sure the one her mama used before her.  The right consistency is much more liquid than pancake batter, and a little bit more liquid than you think it should be.  How's that for precise.  This batch yielded 6 crepes.

Then the filling:
4 chicken breast filets sauteed and sliced

and separately:
4 strips of bacon, browned and crumbled
1 red onion diced and sauteed
a handful of mushrooms, diced and sauteed
and a ridiculous amount of fresh spinach, sauteed with everything else until it magically shrinks before your eyes to just barely enough.

And of course, the bechamel, to which I added a healthy does of smoked spanish paprika and a handful of grated emmental:
4 Tbs flour
4 Tbs melted butter
3 c. hot milk
salt to taste

Now you just load each crepe up with the chicken, the spinach mixture, and the bechamel, roll them up and top the whole thing off with some more grated cheese, and into the oven they go!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

the ultimate winter comfort food

This was my favorite, back in the day. Whenever my dad asked what I wanted for dinner, this was my request. Coming home from college for a visit, this was what I wanted. Got a cold and feeling pathetic, this was what I wanted. Basically any night he asked, this was what I wanted. People thought I was crazy because he could make some crazy intricate gourmet feasts, but this dish is just so creamy and gooey and cheesy and filling and comforting... I could never get enough. This is his recipe, not mine, but this is the first time I've ever tried to make it, and it had been about 10 years since I'd last eaten it. Curious to see if it lived up to my memories? So was I...

Start off with the pasta. I used whole wheat pasta, as if that could possibly make this a healthier dish. I know, I'm not fooling anyone, but it made me feel less guilty somehow. Then sautee chicken breast filets and portobello mushrooms, and chop it all up into little pieces. My dad used to make it with duck. Go figure.

Then start in on the bechamel. I'd never made bechamel before! Add 4 Tbs flour to 4Tbs melted butter, make a paste, and then add 3 cups of hot 2% milk (I'm guessing that's what I used. Here they call it "semi-nonfat". Ha!), stirring like a madwoman. I'd made this once with my dad, but in my memory it all sort of instantly thickened and turned into this gooey creamy goodness. Well, the reality was non-instantaneous enough to make me worry for a good 4-5 minutes that I'd screwed it up. But then the magic happens, and it thickens. I'm sure you all know this, but it was a pretty big moment for me. After the relief and joy of success of thickening, add 1 cup of grated cheese, I used a mixture of mozzarella and emmental. Even gooier.

Now it all gets tossed together. The sauce, the chicken, the mushrooms and the pasta. And dumped into a casserole dish. And yes, topped with yet more grated cheese.

Into the oven it all goes. 375 for about 40 minutes, but you'll know it's done because it goes golden brown and bubbly and you get so excited you can't stop salivating.

And was it as good as I remembered? Absolutely. Husband says it was the best dish I've ever made. Ever. Huge casserole dish devoured by the pair of us in just 2 days. Don't make this often, because even with whole wheat pasta and semi-non-fat milk, it's gotta be not great for you. But do make it. Cause it's damn good for the soul. Thanks dad.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

stuffed tomatoes

Made these a while back, along with tons of other stuff that I've photographed but not had the chance to actually sit down and write up. Suppose this is the bright side of being so sick for so long. Today I was able to take a shower and make myself some whole wheat pancakes, which definitely cheered me up. But still, no energy for venturing into the great outdoors, so here I am, catching up on the blogs.*        
These were inspired by my pal Lucia who always surprises me with her good cooking. Is it horrible of me that I would never have expected it of her? In any case, she made these once with ground beef and I flipped, so here's my version, with ground turkey instead, just cause.
It really is so simple it's almost embarrassing to write up, but it was just so damn good. I started off by sauteing onions and the ground turkey, along with the requisite salt and pepper and to be honest I can't even remember what else. Whatever you feel like throwing in at the moment. In the meantime I cut the tops off the tomatoes and scooped out the innards. Then I loaded them up with the meat
Then I topped them all off with a thick slab of goat cheese.  Yum.

Into the oven it all went, and came out once the cheese had all melted and oozed down inside the tomatoes. Delicious. I think maybe next time I'd peel the tomatoes and maybe put a bit of goat cheese in the bottom before the meat as well as on top. But even so, for a first run, I was happy.

*updated march 14, 2011.  Found more photos on husband's camera, and they were so nice I had to include them.  Please excuse the mix of quality, I'm working on getting better and more consistent with my photographs.