Friday, December 21, 2007

#61: Green Bean Salad with Toasted Pecans

Even though the Toasted Pecans are highlighted in the title of this recipe, it's the prosciutto that really makes the dish. Blogger Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini created this recipe for Green Bean Salad with Toasted Pecans and published it in her cookbook released this year. Food & Wine magazine was impressed and listed it as #61 on their 100 Tastes to Try list.

I used fresh green beans so it took a while to get them all trimmed. But after that this recipe went together very quickly.

This recipe got thumbs up from everyone I served it to. We really like how fresh the green beans still were and how well the prosciutto complimented them. The flavors and textures go very well together.

Green Bean Salad with Pecans and Dry-Cured Ham
(serves 4 as a main course, 6 to 8 as a starter)

1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed (substitute frozen - no need to them them - but not canned)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup (loosely packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

3 ounces dry-cured ham, thinly sliced and shredded in 1-inch strips (use jambon d'Ardeche, prosciutto, Parma or Serrano ham)

1/3 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

Steam the beans for 10 minutes (12 if they are frozen), until cooked through but still crisp (if your steamer is small, work in two batches to ensure even cooking). Dump the beans in a large bowl of ice-cold water, to stop the cooking and preserve the beans' color. Drain thoroughly.

In a medium salad bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar. Season with a little salt - no too much, as dry-cured ham is quite salty - and a generous grind of pepper. Add the beans and parsley, and toss gently to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Arrange the ham and pecans over the beans. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to a day. Remove from the fridge half an hour before eating. (You can also plate the salad individually: divide the beans among plates, and top with ham and pecans.)

Variations: Use sugar snap peas instead of green beans, or walnuts instead of pecans.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

#24: Grosset's 2006 Polish Hill Riesling

I had a very hard time find Grosset's 2006 Polish Hill Riesling which was the suggested Boutique Aussie Wine listed at #24 on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try. I spent the first half of the year calling distributors and wine warehouses in Tampa trying to get someone to order some for me. It wasn't until I moved back to Chicago that I asked about it at my favorite wine store, Sam's Wine and Spirits, that I got my hands on it. They looked it up in their computer and told me they had some in stock. A "wine guy" took me over and it was the last bottle on the shelf! They had other years but this was the last 2006. I was SO HAPPY! Truth be told, these little quests are part of the fun of doing this list. But I was quite discouraged that I was never going to find this wine.

Since I did get a hold of it, I saved it for my sister. She is a BIG Riesling fan. So I made a big deal about this special wine and don't you know it - she didn't like it. It got a big thumbs down from her. I think this is because she likes sweet Riesling and Polish Hill is dry. It reminded me more of a Pinot Grigio than a Riesling but it was good to me. In fact, I think it was amazing! I am really happy I found it and got to try it this year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cubano Chicken

I enjoyed making this recipe for Cubano Chicken Legs with Peppers, Tomatoes and Citrus from Daniel Boulud's Braise for several reasons. First of all, the recipe includes the chicken recipe as well as the accompanying Cucumber, Jicama and Avocado Salad - so you get an entire meal all put together. Second, you do most of the work for the chicken part the night before. And finally, I was excited to try something from Daniel Boulud.

A few of the ingredients in this recipe are a bit exotic. Cuban oregano, which is purple, was impossible for me to find. But I just substituted with regular fresh oregano. The piquillo peppers were really hard for me to find. They ended up being available at the olive bar at my local Whole Foods Market. They are really small and I don't see how the four little ones really added any flavor so I suggest giving this recipe a try even if you can't find the piquillo peppers - just leave them out.

I fed this to my mother and her boyfriend and they both raved about it. My mother rarely eats chicken because she had so much of it while she was raising her children. She was wrinkling her nose when I told her I was preparing chicken for dinner. To my pleasure she was so surprised and how tender and flavorful the chicken turned out. I was pretty confident we would all like it because of the combination of marinading over-night and cooking them slowly. Also, I absolutely love chicken legs/thighs. But it was the vegetable combination was what was really fantastic. I know this one will be asked for again and again.

As for the braising, I am excited to have an entire cookbook dedicated to the technique. Braise has recipes for so many different types of meat that I know I will not get sick of it. Even the seafood section looks promising!

Cubano Chicken Legs with Peppers, Tomatoes, and Citrus
(makes 4 servings)

4 chicken legs, thigh attached (about 2 pounds)

Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced paper-thin (use a mandoline, if you have one)

Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 large oranges

Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, preferably Cuban

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 (15 1/2-ounce) can chickpeas, drained

4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

4 piquillo peppers, sliced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Cucumber, Jicama, and Avocado Salad (see additional recipe below)

The night before you plan to serve this dish, season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in a nonreactive pan (Pyrex is perfect for this). In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, the orange and lime juice and zest, and the oregano and pour the mixture over the chicken legs to coat them evenly. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Heat the oil in a medium cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove the chicken legs from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Pat the legs dry and sear until well browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. When the chicken is golden brown, transfer to a platter. Add the bell peppers and onion to the pot and cook, stirring until the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pot, along with the reserved marinade and the chickpeas, plum tomatoes, and piquillo peppers. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven to braise until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve with the Cucumber, Jicama, and Avocado Salad.

Cucumber, Jicama and Avocado Salad

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small unpeeled English cucumber
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1 small head iceberg lettuce, cored and chopped
1/2 pound jicama, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks
1/4 cup celery leaves, taken from the heart of the celery

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lime juice. Season to taste with sale and pepper and set aside until needed.

Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut the cucumber into paper-thin slices and place in a medium bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the avocado into thin strips and add to the bowl, tossing with a bit of the vinaigrette to keep the avocado from darkening. Add the lettuce, jicama matchsticks, and celery leaves and toss to combine.

To serve, whisk the vinaigrette and pour over the salad, tossing until the vinaigrette coats the salad evenly.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tres Leches: Three Milk Cake

My mother discovered Tres Leches Cake at a restaurant in Park Ridge, IL called Piano Piano. They did not custom make it, they bought it from a bakery. My aunt later tracked down the bakery and bought the cake for a party. The bakery told her it was very easy to make so she went online and found a recipe that starts with a box mix. What is better than that.

Tres Leches Cake is made with three different types of milk: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. There are poured over the cake after it is completely cooked. This adds a unique moisture to the cake. Surprisingly, the cake lasts for several days - if you can hold off from eating it all!

Tres Leches: Three Milk Cake

1 yellow cake mix (with pudding) baked as directed in 13 by 9-inch pan

For topping mixture:
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup rum (or to taste)

To finish:
Whipped cream, to cover cake
5 ounces sweetened coconut

Poke holes in the cake with a fork all over. Pour topping mixture over cake. Let mixture absorb completely in refrigerator.

Cover with whipped cream or cool whip and sprinkle sweetened coconut over top of cake.

OPTIONAL: Add macadamia nuts, cherries and/or pineapple.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

#10: Argentine Malbec

It's funny. I have been scared to try Malbec. I bought some early in 2007 because Argentine Malbec is listed as #10 on Food & Wine's 100 tastes to try for the year. While I shopped for wine throughout the year I saw some write ups for other Malbecs and I ended up owning three different bottles.

The first one I dared try was the La Posta which received a Wine Spectator rating of 90.

A heady, ambitious style, with thickly layered black currant paste, fig, cocoa and mocha notes carried by the muscular, well-rounded structure. The finish is long and opulent. Best from 2008 through 2010. 5,000 cases made.

I brought it over to my friend's as a "housewarming" bottle which just meant that we would open it up right away. We drank most of the bottle while noshing on cheese and crackers before we went to dinner at May Street Market. We both enjoyed it a lot and I thought it tasted very similar to a good Pinot Noir. It's not as heavy as a Cabernet. I will say that the La Posta spoiled it a bit for me -- the other two Malbecs that I had since then didn't taste nearly as good. However it was fun to try it because know I know that I will order a malbec while out for dinner.

Monday, December 10, 2007

#23: Maple Flakes

Maple Flakes are listed as #23 on Food and Wine's 100 Tastes to Try this year. They were hard for me to get a hold of. When I first started searching in the beginning of the year, they were only available in Canada! I did have a trip planned to Vancouver and was going to try and figure out how to order them and have them delivered to my hotel. But thankfully I didn't have to go to that extreme to get a hold of these. started selling them around the middle of the year.

So what are maple flakes anyways? They are similar to sugar. Except they are made from maple syrup. You can get regular or cranberry flavored. I got both. Food & Wine suggested that you spread them on cereal or over ice cream. I went to the company website and found some recipes there. When I saw the recipe for Red Tuna Tartare I was intrigued. Tuna and sugar? But the cranberry maple flakes just added some crunch. I suppose you could add some more if you really want to taste the sweetness.

Red Tuna Tartare
1/2 lb. sushi-grade ahi tuna
drizzle of olive oil
few drops of lemon juice
2 Tbsp. finely chopped chives
Fleur del Sel (to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1 Tbsp Cranberry Organic Maple Flakes

All the ingredients can be prepared in advance, but do not mix until right before serving so the flakes stay nice and crunchy.

Cut the tuna into small cubes, then season with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, finely chopped chives, fleur de sel, a little freshly ground pepper, and maple flakes. Blend quickly and serve. The texture of the fresh tuna cubes with a sprinkling of maple flakes is sensational.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

#83: Feta Cheesecake

This Feta Cheesecake always seemed to be one of the most interesting items on Food and Wine's 100 tastes to try in 2007. Coming in at #83, for deserts using pungent cheese, I went so far as to order French feta online while I lived in Florida. Something happened - maybe that was when my back went out - that caused me to not be able to make the cake.

It all worked out for the best though because I got to make it for a family dinner. It really did take about 5 hours from start to finish as I spent most of the day on it. This time I was lucky to find FRESH French Feta at my local Whole Foods Market. It is such a fabulous cheese I will buy it in the future just to munch on.

As you can see by the online recipe, it is not a traditional cheesecake. Instead, you stack a 3-inch square of cheese cake in between two layers of baked phyllo dough. It adds a wonderful flavor and crunch. Top it off with your desired amount of wine-poached date sauce and you are in for a fabulous dessert.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sweet Breakfast Tabouli

Couscous made with apple juice? Mint for breakfast? These two things sent me straight to the store last night so that I could make Sweet Breakfast Tabouli with Dried Plums this morning.

Unfortunately, the whole thing turned out a bit TOO sweet for me! It was interesting to make, but I think my use of really high quality, fresh, organic ingredients maybe added too much flavor . . . The plums are sweet enough. Tasting the mix of the couscous, mint and diced plums it was pretty good. But the african honey I used is really intense and I think it over-killed the flavors. I will try to make this again but this time I will really only drizzle a little bit of the sauce on top . . . I poured the entire thing on there this morning!

Sweet Breakfast Tabouli with Dried Plums

1/2 cup dried plums or other dried fruit
2 Tbsp dried mint flakes or 1/2 cup fresh mint
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup bulgur or whole wheat couscous
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. flax oil or rice bran oil

Chop the dried plums (or other fruit and the fresh mint, if using). In a storage tub or small casserole with a tight-fitting lid, mix the chopped plums and dried mint.

In a small saucepan, bring the apple juice to boil and add the bulgur. Return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover tightly. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the juice is absorbed and the bulgur is tender. (If using couscous, pour the couscous into the boiling juice, stir, and take off the heat.) Let stand to steam for 10 minutes. Scrape the bulgur into the tub with the plums and mint. Stir, and cover to steam the fruit. Chill for later use, or serve warm.

To serve, in a small cup, stir together the lemon juice, honey, and oil. Drizzle over the bulgur and fluff to mix.

Friday, December 7, 2007

#68: 2006 Savignon Blancs from New Zealand

Food and Wine Magazine highlighted the 2006 Savignon Blancs from New Zealand as some great wine to try this year and was #68 on the list. The article specifially suggested that Brancott's 2006 Savignon Blanc is the best deal of the year. I was thrilled when I found it! And we all loved it so much that I am going to buy another half a case, or maybe even a whole one. I got the wine for $9.99 a bottle. This wine is crisp, fresh, fruity . . .

Streamlined, with very good concentration to lime juice, grass and guava flavors highlighted by wet stone character. Drink now. 60,000 cases imported.

- Wine Spectator

I usually like chardonnay or pinot grigio and I was a bit cautious when trying this Sauvignon Blanc because I thought it would be very dry. It is not - it is super flavorful! We drank the bottle with tuna tartare . . . YUM!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

#62: Pea and Mint Risotto

Market Fresh Recipes is really #62 on Food and Wine's 100 Tastes to Try for 2007 but they specifically mention Pea and Mint Risotto (recipe is online). The recipe is from Vegetable Harvest, the new book from Patricia Wells. I bought the book but this is the only think I have made from it so far.

I actually waited until the end of the year to make this because I didn't think I would like it. It sounded kind of boring to me . . . pea and mint? Didn't seem to special. How wrong I was!

While this recipe is probably best in the Spring, I used frozen peas and they were just as fresh and were perfect with this recipe. The fresh peas and mint combined with rich and creamy risotto is unbelievably good. I ate this as a main course but I think it would go fabulous with lamb chops! And the leftover were just as good as the original. I kept eating it for two days after I first made it. I usually don't eat leftover more than once but I this batch a total of 5 times!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

#54: Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen Blue

I love blue cheese so I was excited to see Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen Blue listed one of the suggestions for #54 American Raw-milk Cheeses on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007. I don't know much about cheese tasting. I either like them or I don't. I have read that this Jasper Hill cheese is supposed to be one of the best blue cheeses. I liked it well enough. It's got a strong taste and isn't as creamy as the blue cheese I am used to. But I ate it quite often with slices of tomatoes. It made a great snack.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

#73: Wild Artichokes

These wild artichokes listed as #73 on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007 was the hardest thing for me to get a hold of. They can be purchases at Zingerman's but they were sold out for most of the year. But I FINALLY got them!

A small jar costs $20. As soon as I got them I cracked opened the jar and took a bite. Um, not what I expected. I LOVE artichokes but these tasted very EARTHY. You can tell that these are no machine processed artichokes. Some of the small fibrous pieces were still attached. It looks like they were hand trimmed. And with the strong organic taste, I was not impressed.

Today my opinion changed. I read something that suggested pairing these artichokes with liver. I didn't have any liver (nor do I like it) but I did have some liverwurst! I sliced the artichokes and then pan fried them. What a difference! I'd put these sauteed artichokes on anything - they are so good. I had them with some fresh tomatoes, slices of liverwurst and lots of salt. It was a REALLY yummy lunch.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

#79: Marques de Riscal Rioja

I've had this wine as least twice now. The first time I brought it to Tango Sur, Argentinian steakhouse which is a BYOB restaurant. There were four of us at dinner, three of which did not really like red wine. But we had two converters because two of the gals really liked it - as did I.

Marques de Riscal Rioja is listed as #79 on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007. Actually, the wine itself is not listed, going to their new hotel and spa is. But you only notice that if you read the fine print so I'm going to count it just the same.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

#99: Le Demon Vert

I specifically purchased The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by Classics just because Le Demon Vert was listed as #99 on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try. I also don't have a cocktail recipe book and I thought this would be a fun on to add to my collections. I'm not sure if all cocktail books are like this or not, but this particular book has a lot of random ingredients in the drinks. It can get really expensive to buy all these different types of liquor. I spent about $50 on the fixin's to be able to make Le Demon Vert. I decided to make it at Thanksgiving so other's would be around. The problem was nobody liked black licorice! And this drink tastes like black licorice with burning aftertaste (like the sensation you get after drinking straight vodka). We made one and passed it around - everyone took a sip. Unfortunately it didn't go over well as we all decided to keep drinking beer or wine.

Even though this drink was a dud, I'm glad I got the book. There are lots of other interesting recipes in there which I look forward to trying out next time I want to play mixologist.

Le Demon Vert

1 1/2 ounces Broker’s gin
1/2 ounce Absente
1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 black licorice stick

Combine 1 1/2 ounces of Broker's gin, 1/2 ounce of Absente, 1/2 ounce of Velvet Falernum and 1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice in an ice-filled shaker and shake until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a black licorice stick.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

#100: Bruleed Key Lime Tarts

My mom LOVES key lime pie. So she was nervously excited that I was going to make this recipe for Bruleed Key Lime Tarts which is listed as #100 on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007. Nervous because it was not a traditional key lime pie and she like it. Excited because I was going to use the new tart pans and blow torch I just bought from Sur La Table. The recipe claims to take 3.5 hours to complete, even though only 25 minutes of that is working time. But it still takes half a day before you can eat it!

I thought that key limes and kaffir lime leaves would be hard to find, but luckily my local whole foods carries them both! I could take a bath in the kaffir lime leaves - they smell so good. Almost like citronella - VERY clean smelling.

I had never "bruleed" anything before so it wasn't until about the 3rd one that I figured out how to melt the sugar with the blowtorch. But the flavors of the oreo crust, rich key lime and crispy sugar were amazing! And the whole thing was fun to make. They are very impressive and would be great for company. These are big and rich so actually two people can share one.

Food & Wine claims that this is a cocktail friendly dessert and that one should pair this with an Elderflower Martini. Do you know what that is because I don't!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Harissa-Roasted Turkey Breast and Stuffing

I know it is the week before Thanksgiving, but I decided to make turkey anyways. However this recipe for Harissa-Roasted Turkey Breast and Stuffing from The Soul of a New Cuisine, from Marcus Samuelsson is nothing like the traditional turkey we will have for Thanksgiving. An entire African dinner is something we have never had before.

This dinner presented a few challenges. I had to make the harissa from scratch . . . I couldn't find quinces at the store so I substituted apples in the stuffing. I also made the suggested Beet-Ginger Chutney as an accompaniment which is suggested by Marcus Samuelsson. Yes, I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, but the end results were very tasty and nothing like any of us had ever had before. AND there are bunches leftover!
Harissa-Roasted Turkey Breast
(6 to 8 servings)

One 6-pound bone-in turkey breast (skin on)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup Harissa

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle on all sides with salt and pepper. Stuff the garlic cloves, cinnamon sticks, and onion into the neck cavity, and seal it closed with a wooden skewer or toothpick. Generously rub the harissa over and under the skin.

Place the turkey breast skin side up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan and cover with foil. Roast, basting occasionally with the juices that accumulate in the bottom of the pan, until and instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast reads 160 degrees and the juices run clear, about 1 1/2 hours. during the last 20 minutes of cooking remove the foil to brown the skin. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Serve with stuffing and Beet-Ginger Chutney.

1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp. lightly crushed almonds
1/2 loaf white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cup into 1-inch cubes
2 cinnamon sticks
3 garlic cloves, cut in half
3 shallots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 quinces, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp. Harissa
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. chopped thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the almonds and bread crumbs and saute for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Add the parsnips and cinnamon sticks and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, shallots, quinces, and harissa and saute until the garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, orange juice, and honey, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the thyme, salt raisins, and almonds and bread cubes and stir until well combined. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until heated through. Stir in the chopped parsley.

# 53: African Spice - Harissa

Food and Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007 lists African spices and tea as #53:

What happens when intellectuals get together to save native plants, develop local business and help impoverished communities in Africa? They launch a line of spices and herbal teas called Mpuntu. The vanilla-scented mondia whitei spice is exotic; the lemongrass tea from Zambia is soothingly familiar (

I could not figure out how to order anything from the listed website but I was lucky to find several African spice mixes in The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson. I made a batch of Harissa which Marcus describes as "a fiery red paste that can be found in virtually every Tunisian kitchen. It's the hottest spice mix in the region." And spicy it is! I used it for his Harissa Roasted Turkey and Stuffing recipe. I'm not sure what else I would use it for - the cookbook suggests an accompaniment to couscous or as a flavoring for spice and stews.
(makes 1 1/4 cups)

3/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground caraway
1 cup mild chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. chopped mint

Heat the oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and saute until golden, about 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the caraway, chili powder, coriander, salt and mint and stir to combine. Let cool.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

#48: Syrah from South Africa

Since we were eating a dinner filled with recipes from my favorite African cookbook, The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson, I figured it would be a good time to try #48 on Food and Wine's 100 Tastes to try for 2007: Syrah from South Africa.

I could not find one of the five suggested wines, but I was able to find 2005 Porcupine Ridge Syrah from Cape of Good Hope South Africa.

We all really enjoyed this wine. It was nice and light, but it did leave a little bit of a deep taste lingering. lists the winemaker notes for 2005 Porcupine Ridge Syrah as:

A rich warm ruby colour with generous viscosity combines with our typical spicy, aromatic profile. This wine is dominated by spicey tones yet supported by dark fruit flavours. The palate is generous and extends to a lengthy finish with the focus being on fruit profile as opposed to oaking detail. Drink now or enjoy over next 3 – 5 years.

I did enjoy it and I wish I ordered a few more bottles!

Beet-Ginger Chutney

I have just discovered the wonder of chutneys! I have never made a chutney before and have never really even ordered some in a restaurant. I am big on salsa though and am a big fan of the veggie/saucy flavor enhancer it can be. So when Marcus Samuelsson suggested serving this Beet-Ginger Chutney as a side to his Hariassa-Roasted Turkey, I decided to take his advice.

This would be a great addition to the Thanksgiving table instead of cranberries. I personally really enjoy beets and rarely cook anything with them so I was excited to work with this vegetable. The end result sweet due to the honey and sugar, but the beets are still solid and have a natural taste.
Beet-Ginger Chutney
(makes 2 cups)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Two 3-inch pieces ginger, peeled and sliced
4 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp. honey
4 cardamom pods
2 thyme sprigs
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat the oil in a large deep saute pan over high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger and beets, reduce the heat to low, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the honey, cardamom, thyme, sugar and butter and stir over low heat for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer until beets are tender, 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove the cardamom, thyme, and ginger from the chutney and stir in the salt. Let cool.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Monday, November 12, 2007

#40: Southern Italian Wine - Taurasi

I have never heard or Taurasi before. But a new (to me) kind of wine, I'm all game. Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try lists Southern Italian Wine as #40 on it's list so I had to hunt it down.

No single wine may better symbolize the renaissance of southern Italian wine than Taurasi, the noble red of Campania. Made from the Aglianico grape, it’s a conundrum—rustic yet refined, long-lived yet often accessible in its youth. Seek out the 2001 Villa Raiano and the voluptuous 2002 Feudi di San Gregorio.

I sought out the Feudi di San Gregorio. I could have sworn I ordered the 2002 online, but they delivered the 1998 to me. It still cost $40! So my mother and I dove in and attempted to "taste" and describe - we had know idea what we were talking about. We decided that it is smooth and does not have an aftertaste which nice in a red wine. But it has some very strong taste - of what we are not sure. We like it though and drank it with some broiled lamb chops and buttered peas. It was nice on a fall night because of the warmth you get while drinking it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Basil Roasted Vegetables Over Couscous

I have been wanting to make couscous for a while now. Not as a side dish, but as a main course. I used to have some fabulous couscous salads with fresh cucumber and tomatoes, but I enjoy those in summer time. Fall is upon us and I wanted something warm and hearty. While I have plenty of cookbooks to choose from, I just couldn't find what I was looking for. So I looked into my "recipes" folder on my computer. I have been carrying around this recipe (saved in notepad) from the June 1996 issue of Cooking Light. But it is still just as good as it was ten years ago. And my family agrees as well! Most of them were afraid of the goat cheese but once they tasted it the realized that it really made this dish special.

Basil Roasted Vegetables Over Couscous

According to folklore, basil is a harbinger of romance. Should a man give a sprig to a woman, she will fall in love with him and never, ever leave him. In Italy, if a woman puts a pot of basil on her windowsill, it means she is ready to receive her suitor. She might have many suitors if she serves this recipe, too.

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch slices
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 (8-ounce) package mushrooms
3 cups hot cooked couscous
1 (3-ounce) package basil-flavored chèvre (goat cheese), crumbled
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Fresh basil sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well. Add zucchini, bell peppers, onion, and mushrooms; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetables in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan. Bake at 425° for 35 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring occasionally.

Spoon roasted vegetables over couscous, and top with cheese. Sprinkle with pepper. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup vegetables, 3/4 cup couscous, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese)

CALORIES 65(3% from fat); FAT 0.2g (sat 0.1g,mono 0.1g,poly 0.0g); PROTEIN 2.5g; CHOLESTEROL 1mg; CALCIUM 67mg; SODIUM 59mg; FIBER 0.0g; IRON 0.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 13.3g

Monday, October 22, 2007

Roast Leg of Lamb

My mother surprised me and brought me a 5 lb. roast leg of lamb that I could "do something with" for dinner. While I really appreciated the gesture (and challenge) this had me pulling my hair out! I am used to cooking based on recipes . . . not buying the main ingredient first. I spent a good hour scouring my cookbooks for lamb recipes that seemed basic and used the leg of the lamb - with the bone in. I ended up turning to the well trusted Joy of Cooking. Actually, I have not made too many things from this cookbook but I figured I was making a basic roast and this would be the book to turn too.

The recipe calls for adding slices of garlic into slits in the roast - YUM! It added a really great flavor. This was fed to five people with different tastes and everyone raved about it. I did struggle with cooking time a bit because my roast was 2 lbs. smaller than recommended in the recipe and somehow it still took LONGER too cook than the suggested cooking time. But I relied on the temperature and everything came out perfect.

I chose to make a Lemon Egg Sauce which was one of the suggested sauces in Joy of Cooking. Only one person didn't like this because they were used to eating roast with brown gravy. But I thought it gave the roast a more exotic taste and besides - people didn't HAVE to add it. The meat was good enough to stand alone.

Roast Leg of Lamb
(10 servings)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pat dry, trim, and prepare:
    1 whole bone-in leg of lamb (7 to 8 pounds)
Combine in a small bowl:
    1 Tbsp. black pepper
    2 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp. finely crumbled dried rosemary

Rub the wide end of the leg with half of the seasoning mixture. Add to the remaining seasoning mixture and toss to coat:
    2 large garlic cloves, cut lengthwise into slivers or slices
Cut 15 to 20 evenly spaced slits in the roast, and insert the seasoned garlic slivers. Rub the surface of the roast with:
    3 Tbsp. olive oil
Rub any remaining seasoning mixture over the roast, and arrange it meatier side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Place it in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat reads 140 degrees for medium-rare, or 160 degrees for medium, 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours (the temperature will rise about 5 degrees out of the oven). Remove from the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

Lemon Egg Sauce (Avgolemono Sauce)
(2 1/4 cups)

This favorite Greek sauce is good with lamb or green vegetables, or it can be added to soups, stews, and casseroles - anything, say the Greeks, that is not made with garlic or tomatoes.

Bring to a simmer and keep warm:
    1 cup vegetable or chicken stock or broth
Beat with an electric mixer in a bow until thickened:
    3 large eggs
Beat in:
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Beat half of the hot stock into the egg mixture, then whisk this mixture back into the remaining stock. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the sauce is thick and creamy and coats the back of the spoon; do not let the sauce boil, or it will curdle. Remove from the heat and season to taste with:
    Salt and black pepper
Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Anginares Me Araka (Stewed Artichokes and Peas)

I finally made something from my Modern Greek cookbook. I wanted to find a vegetable side dish I could serve with the Baked Shrimp with Feta, so I chose Anginares Me Araka which is Stewed Artichokes and Peas.

I'm not sure this dish goes well with the Shrimp and Feta, but I thought it was excellent. I have a bunch left over and I think it will be good cold as a light lunch tomorrow. The flavors are excellent. My mother thought the peas were over-cooked since they weren't bright green, but I like the softness of them with the artichokes (it is supposed to be a stewed dish after all).

This recipe calls for both fresh shelled peas and artichoke hearts - I used neither. I bought organic artichoke hears in the can and a bag frozen organic peas from the freezer section. It might have been better if all were fresh, but I thought it was tasty as is. This dish might go really well as a side dish for a roast or even as a vegetarian option as part of a buffet.

Anginares Me Araka
Stewed Artichokes and Peas
(servers 4)

8 fresh artichoke hearts with stems trimmed, quartered
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely diced
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
1 pound fresh peas, shelled
Freshly ground pepper

Place the artichoke hearts in a bowl of acidulated water until ready to use. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic for 10 minutes or until softened. Add the tomatoes and mint and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the peas and drained artichokes and continue to cook, stirring well, for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add enough water to just cover the mixture and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Serve either hot or cold.

Baked Shrimp and Feta

I know I just made something from the October issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, but when I saw this recipe for Baked Shrimp with Feta I just HAD to make it. And I'm so glad I did. I served it tonight to my mother and sister and their guys - all gave it rave reviews. It was even suggested as a dish to prepare for our next dinner party . . .

Baked Shrimp and Feta
6 to 8 servings

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the shrimp with the lemon juice and arrange in a single layer. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato puree, oregano, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf and pour the sauce over the shrimp; sprinkle the feta on top. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then place under the broiler until the feta is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Zucchini, Potato and Ham Soup

I'm back! I'm back and in a new place. A new, old place actually. I have moved back to Chicago. I spent the last two weeks driving up here and getting unpacked. Now I have my cookbooks all up on the shelf and all of my cooking utensils unpacked - so I'm ready to go! It's been about 6 months since I've been actively cooking. So much has gone on in my life. But now I am home and I have people to cook for so I am so excited! Tonight was my first night in the kitchen after a long time - and it was a new kitchen to boot. But, I have a Whole Foods right down the street from me and I am in Heaven.

I knew I wanted to cook tonight but I have not gone through my cookbooks to pick out something special yet. I turned to the October issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine and flipped to the "7 days, 7 dinners" section and picked something out. I chose the Zucchini, Potato and Ham Soup because it seemed quick and tasty. And I wanted to make sure I got in an entry for The Doubly Delicious Two Year Celebration of Weekend Herb Blogging. It just cooled off here in Chicago so soup was the perfect thing for me to prepare.

This soup feature fresh dill. I LOVE the smell of Dill. I haven't found it to be an very versatile herb because if something contains dill you usually know it distinctly. However zucchini is one of the most versatile ingredients out there. Use it raw in salads, roast it up, puree it to make bread . . . the possibilities are endless! And according to the entry in Wikipedia, "In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the Zucchini to be the Britain's 10th favorite culinary vegetable." I'm not surprised at all!

This Zucchini, Potato and Ham Soup is super easy to make. The hardest part was peeling the potatoes - I used a mandolin to slice the potatoes and zucchini and a chopper for the onions. My mom and I had it for dinner tonight with nothing else but the suggested Pumpernickel bread and a glass of Syrah. My mother is a much more cautious cook than I am. She'll try anything at a restaurant but she tends to prepare old standards of meat and potatoes at home. The first thing she told me when she saw me cooking tonight was that she usually doesn't like creamed soups (but she'll try whatever I make). I explained to her that this soup doesn't have any cream in it and that it is very healthy. She watched me break out the immersion blender and was impressed with the results. She commented at least five times how much she liked this soup. I thought it was a tasty and healthy dinner to enjoy on a cool night. Perfect for fall.

Zucchini, Potato and Ham Soup
1 tablespoon butter
2 onions, chopped
2 large yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon gold (about 1 pound total), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 zucchini (about 1 pound total), sliced 1/4 inch thick
One 32-ounce container (4 cups) chicken broth
Two 1/4-inch-thick slices cooked ham (about 8 ounces), finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Pinch nutmeg
Pumpernickel bread, for serving
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add the potatoes and zucchini and season with salt. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil; cover, lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a blender, partially puree the soup, leaving some chunks. Stir in the ham, dill and nutmeg and serve with the bread.

Check out the round-up for the The Doubly Delicious Two Year Celebration of Weekend Herb Blogging by the gal who started it all at Kalyn's Kitchen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Foodie Transitions

I can't believed how I've slacked in my foodie blogging! I've been doing lots of foodie things, but not cooking. Summer has come and gone and I never grilled one thing. I did get to take a few trips though which have allowed me to cross off a few more things on foodie project. I've been to Vancouver, Alaska and Chicago and have had lots of good food and wine at some really great restaurants.

I still have two food-blogging blockers right now . . . 1) My camera is broken; and 2) I'm moving out of state. Back to Chicago I go, just in time for fall. So since I'm in the process of moving, and it's been a fluctuating date, I haven't been keeping much food in my house. But now I'm definitely set on the 3rd week of September. And the best part about that is there will be a Whole Foods two blocks from my house!

On another note, I have changed my eating habits quite a bit. After reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and Skinny Bitch this past year, I'm eating mostly vegan. Not that I won't eat meat or dairy or eggs, but I'm focusing on organics if I do. And for now I'm eating lots of veggies and beans.

So the fun part is that now I'm going through all my existing cookbooks and looking at all the veggie recipes with a different point of view. Lots of good things to cook! I can't wait to get to Chicago and get settled and START COOKING!

Monday, August 6, 2007

#29: A Chicago Power Meal at Aigre Doux

Yes, this photo is from my cell phone. My new cellphone which I forgot to take the little plastic thing of the lens! Oh well, you get the idea.

I tried to go to Aigre Doux back in July and had a hard time. I was on a mission to go for lunch at this particular restaurant because it is listed as #29 A Chicago Power Meal on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007. I was on the North-side so I called and found out they were open for lunch until 2pm. They told me that as long as I got there by 1:45pm they would be able to seat me. We got there at 1:20 and I was informed that the kitchen had just closed! I was REALLY pissed.

Luckily, I was in Chicago this past weekend for Lollapalooza and Tiffany and I decided to try Aigre Doux for lunch again before she dropped me off at the airport. Aside from our frustrating experience trying to get a meal here, the food is great! For an appetizer we had Ahi Tuna which was a bit different because they served it with Jicama - yum! For lunch I had the Roasted Lobster Bucatini ($18) which was SUPER good but was heavy enough to eat for dinner. Of course we had to try the Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert and that is one thing I want to learn to make. It was SO GOOD! Thank God I was getting on a plane so I could take a nap after that filling meal! I will definitely go to this restaurant again, however I think most of my friends will think I is way to expensive for lunch.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

#32: The Whole Tree

Okay, attempting to "taste" #32 The Whole Tree on Food and Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007 was impossible for me. AND it cost me a fortune.

32 The Whole Tree

It’s the herbivore’s version of head-to-tail eating. Consider how three Chicago restaurants are using various parts of the peach tree:

Peach Leaves MK the Restaurant infuses ice cream with peach leaves.

Unripe Fruit It flavors a salsa for smoked trout and a vinaigrette at HotChocolate.

Wood Osteria di Tramonto smokes pork shanks over peach wood.

When I went to HotChocolate the restaurantaurs had no idea what I was talking about. I went for brunch on a weekend and we still had an amazing brunch, but I didn't get to taste any part of a peach tree. I will say that their tea was amazing even though that they must be know for their Hot Chocolate, based on the name. We were asking so many questions I think they knew we were going to write something about them because they offered my friend and I each complimentary hot chocolates. They were the BEST we ever had. Homemade marshmallows! I had the mexican version and she had the traditional version. We will definitely be headed back there when it turns cold.

We later went to MK which is a very expensive restaurant. Unfortunately, the menu changes seasonally and there was no peach ice cream anywhere on the menu. So I did attempt it, and we did end up with an AMAZING dinner, but didn't accomplish my goal.

Over all, I spent over $200 and never got to taste any part of a peach tree :(

Friday, July 6, 2007

#1: Langoustines

I came into Chicago to go to The Police Concert at Wrigley Field with my friend Tiffany. We were tried to go for a Chicago Power Meal, but they were closed for lunch by the time we got there. Next we tried to eat The Whole Tree at HotChocolate but they were closed too! So we wandered to a Mexican restaurant down the block and much to my surprise I was able to order Langoustines which are #1 on the F&W 100 Tastes to Try list!

Langoustines are very similar to shrimp and are also known as Norway Lobster, Dublin Bay prawns or Scampi "found in the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean and North Sea as far north as Iceland and northern Norway, and south to Portugal". Normally I would not have ordered these because they came with the shells on and I do not like doing the peel and eat thing. However, they just happened to be on the menu so I went for it. They were very good. Sweeter than shrimp and it seemed that most of the meat was up in the head area which might gross some people out.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

#16: Great Canadian Wines from the Okanagan Valley

#16 on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007 is Great Canadian Wines from the Okanagan Valley and I think it was my favorite "taste" of all. I got to sample many wines on our trip to the Pacific Northwest earlier this year. We spent a long weekend in Vancouver and every place we went I asked for wine from the Okanagan Valley. Luckily, there were several chardonnay and other white wines. This was great because it was warm in Vancouver and a cold glass of white wine hit the spot every time we took a break.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging Roundup

A whole bunch of people submitted entries for this past weekend's Weekend Herb Blogging event. Sorry to all for the delay in getting these all posted! Now here's the roundup:

Katerina from Daily Unadventures in Cooking used lemongrass in a thai soup called Tom Yum Gung (Shrimp in Hot Lime Broth).

Shawnda from Confections of a Foodie Bride used cilantro in her pico de gallo recipe.

Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen highlighted radishes in her Roasted Radishes Recipe with Soy Sauce and Toasted Sesame Seeds.

Sara from I Like to Cook used zucchini to make Grilled Zucchini and Proscuitto Pizza with Sage.

Burcu from Almost Turkish Recipes used okra in her Baked Okra (Fırında Bamya).

Katie of Thyme for Cooking, the Blog used ingredients other than cilantro in her Tomato Olive Salsa.

Peter of Kalofagas - In Pursuit of Delicious Foods used lemon verbena in a Mojito Cocktail.

Alysha from The Savory Notebook users her fresh grown basil in a recipe for Lemon Basil Vinaigrette.

Sarina from The TriniGourmet highlights coconut in her entry.

Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook used haricot verts in her own recipe for The Ultimate Almondine.

Zorra from 1x umruehren bitte aka kochtopf used rosemary in her marinated feta.

Ulrike of Küchenlatein used mint in her strawberry jam with mint which she made in the microwave.

Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything used Buddha's Hand in her Candied Buddha Fingers.

Genie from The Inadvertent Gardener used dried lavender in a recipe for Lavender Coolers.

Sher from What Did You Eat? featured mint in an Asian-Style Cole Slaw.

Anna from Morsels & Musings used oregano in her pita pizza.

Angie from My Kitchen: My Laboratory uses adzuki beans in an original dessert soup.

Anh from Food Lover's Journey used chive in the recipe for Individual Tomato Tarts with Chive Ricotta.

Pille of Nami-nami used stinging nettle in a recipe for Nettle Soup with Eggs & Herbs.

Sra from When My Soup Came Alive used Malabar Spinach in an interesting stir-fry.

Emily of Superspark used some gorgeous yellow stuffed blossoms in her recipe for stuffed squash blossoms.

Eve from In Mol Araan used thyme in her recipe for White Beans and Thyme.

Kate from Veggie Friendly used nori in her recipe for Vegetarian Sushi.

Nicole from Pinch My Salt used fresh mint in her recipe in a Tzatziki Sauce.

Astrid from Paulchen's Food Blog made a Flowery Herb Mix.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Favorites from the Pacific Northwest

The month of May has come and gone in a quick blur. I injured my back and was out of commission for the first half of the month. I had to get better so that I could go on vacation for the second half. I just got back from an Alaskan cruise with additional days in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. It was a really great time.

I was really excited to each Alaskan King Crab Legs right there in Alaska. Our breakfast waiter recommended Twisted Fish Company in Juneau. We went there after our tour and had to wait over an hour. By the time they got seated they told us they were out of crab legs! The only ones they had left were the legs with the claws. We said that was fine with us! They were good but nothing special. In fact, we later found out that all crab legs get frozen immediately so the we ate the same freshness of crab there in Alaska that I do in Chicago or Tampa. But at least we got to say we at crab in Alaska.

Some of my top foodie highlights from my trip:

The June tasting menu at Raincity Grill in Vancouver, which is known for their seasonal local food.

Poached Pot for breakfast to Mosaic Bar & Grille in the Vancouver Hyatt. This consisted of ham, asparagus, spinach, stewed tomatoes and poached eggs.

Noshing at the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver. My mom got the freshest cherries we had even eaten! I got an amazing beer shrimp salad and a few other things. I really wished I lived there so I could shop and use all the fresh food in my own kitchen.

Fresh oyster's at Twisted Fish in Juneau. They were from local waters and the best I have ever eaten.

Tea time on the cruise ship. I'm very easy to please when you give me cucumber sandwiches and scones.

Fish and chips made with fresh cod at Steamer's in Ketchikan.

Eating spicy Indian food on the balcony at Moxie's in Vancouver.

Ice cream in Butchart Gardens in Victoria. Not that the ice cream was anything special, but it was a beautiful place and pretty hot, so an ice cream cone was perfect.

Wine and Thai peanut legs at Milestone's in Victoria overlooking the harbor.

Buying tea and wandering through the market in Vancouver's Chinatown.

Indulging in the Tasting Menu at CinCin in Vancouver where we spent as much per person and we should have for the entire meal.

I also can back with a The New Alaska Cookbook: Recipes from the Last Frontier's Best Chefs. I can't wait to get back in the kitchen and get cooking!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Pizza and Chocolate Cake

Can you believe I have not cooked one thing in over 10 days. I'm freaking out about it. My bank statement has charges from places like Sonic, Quizno's, the Chinese food place and the cafeteria at my office. Life has been so busy. Last week I bought a new car which was a lot of fun but included a few nights of test driving and all of that. I also had a friend's wedding and we had plenty of weekend wedding activities. Last night I finally whipped out my cookbooks and put together a grocery list for some things I want to make. I was going to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work, but I got a disturbing call in the middle of the day. I have some plumbing problems. Long story short, no cooking until this gets resolved. So tonight, it's pizza and chocolate cake. Oh, and buffalo wings too.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chocolate Banana Bread

I love banana bread so was excited to see a recipe for Chocolate Banana Bread in Tyler's Ultimate cookbook. And I thought it would be a perfect entry for this month's Waiter, There's Something in My . . . Bread hosted by Andrew at Spitoon Extra. I just had to sit around for a week waiting for the bananas to ripen enough to use for the recipe.

Chocolate Banana Bread

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 large eggs
3 very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. Mix together th flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt ina large bowl. IN another bowl, cream the butter until lightened, then beat in the chocolate, eggs, bananas, and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients just until combined; do not overbeat.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick stuck into the center of the bread comes out almost clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for at least 15 minutes before unmolding.