Category Archives: Dinner Party

Great Crumb – Celebration Cake!

I was looking for a simple yet festive cake to bake for my mom’s 70th birthday. I stumbled upon this recipe from Nigel Slater’s cookbook, Appetite, and I knew this was what I wanted to make. The author adapted this recipe from Tamasin Day-Lewis’s wholewheat chocolate cake, which apparently she adopted from her cousin. This cake gets around. Her recipe called for muscovado sugar, which Nigel didn’t have on hand so he used Demerara. I was headed to Minnesota from San Francisco to celebrate my mom’s birthday, so I figured I’d better bring my fancy sugar with me. I could’ve bought either type sugar at Canyon Market, my local Glen Park neighborhood store- they had quite an amazing array of sugars given the small size of their “corner market”- but I went with demerara out of an allegiance to Nigel. I thought I was going to be arrested going through airport security with this sugar. They were very, very suspicious of this sugar. Why was I traveling with sugar for chrissakes! the security’s face read. I was equally upset. Why wouldn’t I be traveling with ingredients for my mother’s cake. Please. Luckily I made it through security (they allowed my wrapped present to pass through too- whew!!), and it was all worth it because the cake was delicious. So good that I’m looking forward to making it for Christmas day. I think it’d be best if served warm with a little homemade whipped cream or ice cream.

PS. I’ve really bonded with the digital scale my boyfriend bought for ~$25. Baking via weight is highly satisfying and- as far as I know in my limited baking experience- it is recommended by the experts out there as more accurate (aka. will give you superior results).  Given my penchant for eyeballing ingredients in savory dishes (aka. I’m not a known baker despite my surname), I may not be the best one to advise on this front. Still- I’m just saying- you might want to investigate… I didn’t have a scale at my mom’s place, so I had to convert Nigel’s measurements. My conversions are included below. Happy Baking!

Serves 12 or a generous 8.

Ingredients:
butter – 250g (a generous cup // ~ 17.6 Tablespoons // ~ 2 1/4 sticks)
demerara sugar – 250g (~one heaping cup)
eggs – 4 large free range
espresso coffee a small one, or about 3 tablespoons
unbleached flour – 250g (~one heaping cup)
baking powder – 2 gently heaping teaspoons
skinned hazelnuts (filberts)- 200g, coarsely ground (~ generous 3/4 cup) ***
fine, dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli ~65%+) = 250g, coarsely chopped (like gravel)

Directions:
1) Line a 23 cm (9-10 inch spring form pan) with greaseproof paper or parchment paper regardless if you have a nonstick pan.

2) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (~355 degrees). Beat the butter and sugar until they are fluffy and pale. (Electric beater is best if you have one.) Add the eggs one at a time, beating lightly between each addition. You may find the mixture curdles a little but don’t worry, it will come good in the end. Stir in the coffee.

3) Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold them in, then fold in most of the hazelnuts and the chopped chocolate, keeping a little back for the top of the cake. The mixture should be quite firm; you may have to slide it off the spoon with your finger. Put it into the lined cake tin and gently smooth the top, scattering over the last of the chocolate and nuts.

4) Bake for an hour and twenty minutes or until the cake is springy (I think I only cooked an hour or so), testing for doneness by spearing the center with a toothpick. It should come out clean without any raw cake mixture on it. Leave the cake for half an hour or so before cutting.

***The most time-consuming part of this recipe is de-skinning the hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are a pain to skin. Don’t get caught up in perfection. I recommend toasting the nuts for 10-15 minutes in a toaster oven and then wrapping in a kitchen towel to let steam for ~1 minute. Rub nuts in the towel to remove loose skins and cool completely. Another site recommended shaking the nuts in a sieve after toasting at 350 degrees for the same effect. [Or substitute for almonds of walnuts (lightly toasted).]

Green Beans with Chard

This recipe is a nice variation on steamed green beans. The beans look pretty mingled with the chopped chard, and it makes a great side dish for dinner parties.

Ingredients:
1 generous bunch Swiss chard (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3-4 generous handfuls of green beans
2-3 shallots, outer skin removed and chopped
olive oil, butter
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
lemon juice or vinegar
toasted pine nuts (optional)

Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil while you prepare the chard. Fill a bowl with ice water. Tear the leaves from the stems and wash thoroughly in two changes of water. Discard the stems or set aside for another purpose.

2. When the water comes to a boil, add the Swiss chard leaves. Boil 1 minutes (from the time the water comes back to a boil) until tender but still bright green, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer and transfer to the ice water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside.

3. Wash green beans, cut off ends and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces.

4. Steam green beans until bright green and slightly softened, about 4-6 minutes.

5. Heat 1 T olive oil and 2 T butter in saucepan, about 30 seconds. Saute shallots, ~1-2 minutes.

6. Toss chard, beans and butter/shallot mix. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss with juice from 1/2 lemon. Add toasted pine nuts if desired.

(Alternative addition if in season: toss in 1 heirloom tomato, chopped.)

Michigan Cherry Cheesecake – A Totally Tasty Delight

Cheesecake

Hello out there, my name is Lauren, and I started blogging about food and such a few months ago; Ms. Heather kindly asked me if I would be interested in participating in the great things she has going on here at ‘gottaeatsf’ and I, of course, jumped at the chance. I would like to share the recipe for my sinfully delicious Michigan Cherry Cheesecake; it’s a great option for a holiday get together, dessert party or any event you want something rich and sweet. You can replace the cherries with any sort of fruit (candied or otherwise) you desire and there are endless options for adding different types of chocolate, nuts or whatever else may strike your fancy. That said, I really felt the dark chocolate and dried cherries paired very well together in this recipe as the high cocoa percentage in the chocolate did a nice job of balancing out the sweet cake filling and candy like cherries. I also liked the way the texture turned out as the fruit was void of any additional liquids that can at times, leave you with an otherwise soggy cake and/or crust.

If you’re interesting in reading more about the story behind the cake, please stop by sometime and check it out (www.knochknoch.blogspot.com). Thanks so much for your time and attention; I hope to be back again soon!

Michigan Cherry Cheesecake recipe (modified from Joy of Baking’s New York Cheesecake recipe)

Crust:

1 cup (100 grams) of graham wafer crumbs (process whole cookies in a food processor until they are crumbs)

1 cup (100 grams) of almond flour ( alternatively, toast almonds until they are fragrant then process in a food processor until they are crumbs)

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

1/2 cup (114 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

32 ounces (1 kg) (4 – 8 ounces packages) cream cheese, room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat free cream cheese)

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

3 tablespoons (35 grams) all purpose flour

5 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup (200 grams) diced cherries (or other dried and/or candied fruits)

1 cup (200 grams) dark chocolate chunks (more to taste)

Grease a 10 inch (23 cm) springform pan with cooking spray or butter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with rack in center of oven.

For Crust: In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, almond flour, sugar, and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and about 1 inch (2.5 cm) up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 5 minutes at 250 degrees then cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

For Filling: In bowl of your electric mixer place the cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes), scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the whipping cream, lemon zest, vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Finely dice cherries and stir into batter; once incorporated fold in the dark chocolate chunks. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan on a larger baking pan and place in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C) and continue to bake for about another 1 1/2 hours or until firm and only the center of the cheesecake looks a little wet and wobbly. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack, carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools).

Let cool before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating. This cheesecake tastes best after being refrigerated for at least a day (strongly recommend a full day as the flavors develop as it cools).

Makes one – 10 inch cheesecake.

Cheesecake with dried cherries

Enjoy- Lauren

Keep the Summer BBQ Stoked with 2 Smokin’ Steak Marinades and a Rub

Summertime isn’t over yet. We need to keep our barbecues rolling while we still can! There really is nothing quite like a grilled steak on a hot summer night. (Not that I’d know about hot summer nights given the present state of summer in San Francisco. But I can’t act surprised.)

Most of the time, I try not to eat meat. Blame it on Michael Pollan. Blame it on Food Inc.. Blame it on Harris Ranch, aka. “Cowschwitz,” the freaky smelling cattle processing plant near Coalinga, California. Then again, if I know that it comes from Marin Sun Farms, hey, I’ll eat that flank steak!

So, while I’m not one to promote eating meat, I do think it’s perfectly reasonable to enjoy an occasional steak, as long as you know it’s from a quality, sustainable source. If you’re not sure what meat to buy in your region, check out Eat Well, a directory for locally grown and sustainably produced food, or Eat Wild to find a pasture-based farm near you. Here in San Francisco, I tend to hit Drewes Bros. Meats on Church Street in Noe Valley. A friend of mine swears by Prather Ranch Meat Co. located in the Ferry Building.

And now, onto the marinade magic! I prescribe to the “simple is best” philosophy. Here are three easy options that can’t fail you.

First, a few notes. Most often I salt and pepper any steak before marinating it. (In the case of a rub, that goes without saying!) Steak can marinate overnight in the refrigerator or one to two hours at room temperature. If you refrigerate the steak, it’s always best to let it come to room temperature before throwing it on the ‘que. Flank steak is a personal favorite when cooking for a crowd.

1. Ginger and garlic

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar (any kind will do)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh, minced ginger

Combine ingredients. Place steak and marinade in ziplock bag, and let the marinating begin.

2. Basic onion

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2-1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
  • splash of wine or beer or whatever you’re drinking
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Combine and marinate.

3. The Simple Rub:

Sometimes all you need is to rub the steak with some spices for the good times to roll. Try this incredibly simple rub.

  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground (coarse) pepper
  • generous cumin

Rub meat generously with the above ingredients. Let meat rest for 10 minutes to two hours. Grill. Serve with chimichurri.

– hBru

[This slightly modified post originated from EcoSalon.]

Foolproof Hot Fudge Sauce

This hot fudge sauce recipe is always a hit. It’s the perfect classic fudge sauce. Served with vanilla ice cream, it’s an easy and crowd-pleasing dessert for small gatherings or to have around for family. It lasts a few days in the fridge- you’ll need to re-heat it to serve again, but it’s best when just freshly made.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light cream or evaporated milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation:

1. Melt butter and square of chocolate in saucepan.

2. Mix together cocoa and sugar and then add to butter mixture in saucepan.

3. Slowly stir in cream. Bring to a boil, and stir well with a wire whisk for 10 seconds. Remove from heat.

4. Blend in salt and vanilla, and serve over ice cream.

Making hot fudge sauce

Hot fudge sauce in the making

hot fudge sauce

Chicken with Garlic & Herbs, Green Beans & Zucchini with Salsa Verte, and Super Rich Chocolate Brownies

Chicken with Garlic and Herbs

I had a friend over for dinner the other night, and we enjoyed an extremely satisfying meal.

The dinner consisted of:

– Chicken with Garlic and Herbs

– Green Beans and Zucchini with Salsa Verte

– Blend of Wild Rices

– Deep Dark Brownies with Vanilla Ice Cream

There were three of us total, and we each made one dish. (The rice cooker made the fourth dish- a blend of wild rices from Berkeley Bowl.) These were great recipes that went well together.

The chicken recipe came from Nigel Slater’s cookbook, Appetite. It’s basically bone-in chicken parts cooked in a saucepan on the stove top with a wine sauce made from the leftover fat and cooked chicken bits. It’s simple to make and really good.

The Green Beans and Zucchini with Salsa Verte recipe came from the June 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.  The vegetables were briefly steamed in a saucepan and tossed with the “Salsa Verte”- a puree of herbs like a pesto made of basil, parsley, green onion, capers, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic and olive oil.

Regarding dessert: I used to make brownies all the time, but finally got tired of my recipes. I was therefore enthusiastic to try a new recipe I found through Food Buzz on The Peche food blog. I guess it originally came from a cookbook called The Chocolate Bar. Which explains a lot, as these brownies are extremely rich. Freshly baked that night, they were almost like the liquid chocolate cake you often get at restaurants. Very yummy with some vanilla ice cream.

Here’s the chicken recipe:

Chicken with Garlic and Herbs

Ingredients:

2 pieces chicken per person (I used thighs and drumsticks), with skin and bones
olive oil
butter – a thick slice
garlic – 6 large, sweet cloves
herbs – a small bunch of fresh parsley, plus thyme (or tarragon or chervil)
wine – a large glass white wine or dry vermouth

Directions:

Rub the chicken all over with a little oil and some black pepper. In a large pan- it can be high-sided or shalllow but it must have a lid- warm enough olive oil to give a small puddle in the bottom, then add the butter. once the butter starts to froth, put in the chicken pieces and keep the heat moderately high while they colour. A pale and relatively even gold is what you are after.

Meanwhile, put the whole unpeeled garlic cloves on a board and, with the flat blade of a knife, squash them so that they flatten but remain fairly intat. Throw them in with the chicken. Turn down the heat so that the fat under the chicken is gently fizzing, then add a little sea salt, cover the pan with a lid and leave to cook over a low to moderate heat. The time it takes to cook will depend on the thickness of your chicken joins, but you should expect them to need about forty minutes. You will have to turn them during cooking so that they colour on all sides.

While this is happening, pluck the leaves from the herbs and chop them roughly. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish or warm plates, then fish out the garlic (although the garlic has done its work, it may be tender and sweet and is worth adding to the plate, though the skin should be discarded at some point).

Tip off most of the fat from the pan – what you are after is the golden, caramelised juice stuck to the bottom – then turn up the heat, pour in the wine and add the herbs and let it bubble. Scrape away at any stuck bits in the pan, encouraging them to dissolve into the wine with a wooden spoon. Let this all bubble away for a minute or two until you have a thin liquor. It should be pale and interesting. Now taste the juice for seasoning – it may need salt, pepper or a squeeze of lemon juice – and spoon it over the chicken. (Add an extra pat of butter at the end when making the sauce if desired.)

Green Beans and Zucchini with Salsa Verte Recipe.
Super Dark, Chocolatey Brownies Recipe.
Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin from Nigel Slater’s book, Appetite.

Thai Steak Salad

I’ve made this Thai Steak salad on a few occasions, and it’s always a hit. Great for summer BBQ dinner parties or for gourmet car camping. When car camping,  pre-marinate the steak and bring along in a ziplock bag. Also, bring all the other ingredients in separate containers and then throw them together at the campsite picnic table last-minute-style as the steak is grilling. Amazing.

I found the recipe from Cooking Light back in August 2002. It doesn’t include a marinade for the steak, but simply a black peppercorn rub. This sounds like it would be tasty, especially if you follow the directions to drizzle with half the dressing after cooking. I’ve never actually followed this recipe exactly, but instead marinate the steak and grill it and then slice it to put on top of the salad. Flank steak marinade recipes forthcoming. Continue reading