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).]

A Shakshuka Brunch – North African Fried Eggs

Ever since I received Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook for my birthday, Plenty, I’ve been obsessing. I think I could happily make a recipe from it each day until I’d made it through cover to cover. While I am not a vegetarian, I love cooking vegetarian fare and heartily believe it’s possible to develop deeply satisfying flavors without meat. It makes sense then that Ottolenghi’s book resonates for me as it is a “vegetables-only” cookbook (from a chef who is not a vegetarian) with recipes that combine unique flavors and techniques from around the world.

This recipe he calls Shakshuka, named for the man who served it in a tiny restaurant Ottolenghi found in Jaffa. This North African dish is fantastic and the author’s version shows once again his mastery of melding a multitude of flavors and spices such that no one flavor overpowers. That said, I think it’s the saffron that ultimately lends this fried egg dish a bit of an exotic aura.

I halved the recipe, and it serves a 4 or a generous 2. I don’t have more than one large cast iron dish, so was unable to fry up the portions individually as described in the recipe, but it was no problem to do all the eggs in one pan. I also didn’t have fresh tomatoes since they’re no longer in season, so I used a jar of my own canned tomatoes, plus I threw in a handful of cherry tomatoes I’d recently frozen (slightly defrosted in the microwave first). I didn’t have muscovado sugar on hand, so threw in a couple pinches of demerara sugar. Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you. Most don’t take long to prepare and you can start cooking down the onions while you prep the herbs. Serve with fresh hunks of toasted, crusty bread. Combined prepping and cooking time is about 40-45 minutes.

Recipe Ingredients:
Serves a generous 2.
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
Generous 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 tsps muscovado sugar (or 2 pinches of demerara)
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
3 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped (or 1 jar canned organic tomatoes chopped)
1/4 tsp saffron threads
pinch of cayenne peppers
salt and black pepper
up to 1/2 cup water
4 eggs

Directions:
1. In a large cast iron pan, dry roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, and herbs and continue cooking on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice color.

2. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. (I didn’t add much water here, but the canned tomatoes were already quite watery.) Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorful. (You can prepare this mix well in advance.)

3. Remove the bay leaf, then divide the pepper mix among four deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion. Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the peppers mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very (!) gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Yum! Below a photo from the cookbook showing the individually cooked portions.

Italian Plum Cake that Rocks.

Plum Cake that rocksAutumn has arrived! The farmers’ markets here in the Bay Area are going off. Plums are in season, and my boyfriend’s mom introduced me to this amazing rustic plum cake recipe. It’s great served at brunch, dessert or as an anytime snack, and is particularly fantastic served just 30 minutes out of the oven. (But what isn’t fabulous straight out of the oven, really.) Infusing the plums with the brandy and jam makes for a rich flavor, which pairs perfectly with the moist, yet somewhat crumby, sugary cake.

I saw some small plums at the Alemany Farmers Market, and bought them as I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find Italian prune plums. As it turns out, it really is plum season, and as soon as I was on the look-out, I began seeing Italian plums everywhere. I had already bought and prepared the first round of plums, but when I later saw the real deal Italian prune plums at the Glen Park farmers market, I decided I had to make two cakes, so I could try these out. It took serious will-power to resist buying a third variety of Italian plums I then subsequently saw at Canyon Market, which looked remarkably different (much smaller, more like cherries, and more red in color than the prune plums). I convinced myself a third cake was probably unnecessary. (Then again, if they’re still available next week…) I was intrigued by these smaller ones in part because you can also apparently use Bing Cherries in this recipe, and smaller is better because you can fit more on the cake. If you have larger plums, it’s probably a good idea to cut them into slices instead of leaving them whole. (I did not do this with the larger plums I had- they were probably a hair on the large side, and didn’t cook down quite as well.)

Two versions

You can place the plums right on top of the cake batter, and then the cake puffs up around them. (Above- the cake on the right is actually the larger sized plums. Because there were fewer plums, the cake rose up even more around them.) Also, I reserved the extra juice / syrup from the plum preparation- would probably be tasty served over the cake as a drizzled sauce or possibly on ice cream later on? Mmmm… I’ve got a serious case of Plums-on-the-mind.

This recipe originates from Cooks Illustrated magazine, the July/August 2007 issue. I highly recommend it! In a nutshell- it rocks.

Rustic Plum Cake

Rustic Plum Cake
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons red currant or seedless raspberry jam
3 Tablespoons brandy
1 pound (about 10 large or 14 small) Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk, room temperature
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used 2)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional- I did not include)
Confectioners’ sugar for serving, if desired

Directions:
1. Cook jam and brandy in ~10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until reduced to thick syrup, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and place plums cut-side down in syrup. Return skillet to medium heat and cook until plums shed their juices and thick syrup is again formed, about 5 minutes, shaking pan to prevent plums from sticking. (If using larger sized plums, stir a few times along the way.) Cool plums in pan, about 20 minutes.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch springform pan. Process sugar and almonds in food processor until nuts are finely ground, about 1 minute. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract if using) and process until smooth, about 5 seconds, scraping the bowl once if needed (batter will be very thick and heavy).
3. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Stir plums to coat with syrup. Arrange plum halves, skin-side down (oops, I did skin side up) evenly over surface of batter. Bake until cake is golden brown and wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 40-50 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Cool in pan on wire rack until just warm or to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve.

Italian Plum CakePS. I couldn’t help but notice that this cake looks amazingly reminiscent of one of my paintings from a few years back. ;)

Painting that looks like the plum cake I made

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, Sage and Celery

Stuffed and Roasted Acorn Squash

This recipe is a delicious combination of flavors, it’s filling and comforting yet healthy and a a great way to utilize wintertime squash. The recipe calls for wild rice- I actually used a blend of wild rices that I threw in my rice cooker w/ the chicken stock. (Wild rices usually cook at a ratio of rice to water of 1:3.) I decided to use toasted pecans and fresh thyme in place of walnuts and sage since that’s what I had on hand. The trick with this recipe is to be sure to roast the acorn squash until it is basically fully cooked. Then stuff with the rice, bake another 10 minutes or so, and serve hot. I usually end up with extra rice, which makes a tasty lunch served on top of a bed of mixed lettuce or arugula the next day.

roasted acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, Sage, and Celery

2 acorn squash, halved top to bottom, seeds and strings removed
1 1/2 cups wild rice, rinsed
4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 small apple, peeled, cored, chopped
1 onion, chopped small
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
Small handful of chopped fresh sage leaves
Olive oil to brush or drizzle lightly on squash &/or to saute the vegetables
1 to 1 1/2 cup walnut halves or 3/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
4 tablespoon butter, divided
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
salt, pepper

Directions:
1. Bring stock to a boil.  Add uncooked wild rice, reduce heat and simmer about 50-60 minutes or until tender. Let sit.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Score the insides of the squash several times. Put the squash cut side up on a baking pan and drizzle olive oil lightly on top OR coat the inside with 1/2 Tbsp butter and drizzle with a touch of maple syrup. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for about 1 hour until soft and the tops are browning.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium high heat, melt two tablespoons of butter (or olive oil), and saute the onions and celery until becoming soft, around 7 minutes. Add the apples, sage, and walnuts or pine nuts. After about five minutes, add the brown sugar and toss to coat. Continue to saute until the celery and apples begin to soften. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

4. Mix the skillet contents with the wild rice in a big bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Pull the acorn squash out of the oven when it’s ready. Fill the squash with rice stuffing, drizzle each with olive oil or butter and salt, if needed.  Return to oven for 10 minutes or until a knife goes easily into the flesh of the squash along the top. (If any rice mix is left you can bake it in a separate bowl or heat it in a skillet and serve alongside.)

7. Pull the squash out the oven.  Serve when cool enough to eat.

8. You can make the rice stuffing beforehand or even pre-bake the squash in advance leaving the final 10-15 minute bake before serving.

roasted acorn squashServe this heart-shaped acorn squash on Valentine’s Day! ;)

acorn squash

Serve leftovers with lightly dressed arugula for lunch.

Tomato Soup with Two Fennels

Tomato soup with fennelMy sister gave me a lovely book called “The Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg, who created a food blog called Orangette awhile back. The book is written in the style of a blog and recipes are included with every chapter. The author seems particularly fond of fennel, and this recipe stood out to me as an interesting twist on tomato soup. I decided to give it a try as I was curious to find out if one can make a decent soup from canned tomatoes as the recipe calls for. Besides…then I could use my new Le Creuset Dutch oven again! (No, I’m not being paid to use their name, although I can see why you might wonder.)

A Homemade LifeMolly mentions in the text of the book that when trying a recipe for the first time, it should be followed exactly and then after that, it’s do-what-you-will. I prescribe to this philosophy as well, except that I’m not capable of living by it. I simply cannot cook from a recipe without making some immediate modifications. I’ve honestly tried, but inevitably, I have something in my fridge I’d like to use up or I just have to add another vegetable or spice or maybe I should try increasing the temperature by another 25 degrees?

Actually, I think the only modification I made here was to use a bit of homemade chicken stock with the water. Also, I canned tomatoes myself this fall, so used four pints of home-canned chopped tomatoes. I really enjoyed the recipe. My boyfriend thought it was “very strange” and wasn’t sure he liked “tomato soup that tastes like licorice.” Still, that didn’t seem to stop him from finishing the bowl. Serve with thick slices of toasted wheat levain with fresh avocado spread like butter. The flavors do meld over time, so enjoy a day or two later as it makes a fair bit. I also saved a pint in the freezer for lunch another day.

Tomato Soup with Two Fennels Recipe

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed, quartered from root to stalk, and thinky sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Two 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
Water
3/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Sugar, to taste
Red wine vinegar, to taste

Directions:
1. In a large (5-quart) pot or Dutch oven, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and fennel, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion just starts to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently for another minute or so. Add the thyme and fennel seeds and cook until fragrant, stirring, about 2 minutes.
2. Using your hand to hold back the tomatoes, pour the liquid from the tomato cans into the pot. Stir well. Crush the tomatoes in thier cans, using your hands or a potato masher to tear and mash them into small chunks. Add the tomatoes to the pot. Then fill 1 empty tomato can with cold water and pour it in, too. Bring to a boil. Then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.
3. The soup is ready when the fennel is very tender and a spoonful of the tomatoey broth tastes like a good, full-bodied soup. (If it hasn’t cooked long enough, i twill taste watery and raw, like tomatoes straight from the can.) Add the salt. Taste and adjust as needed. If the tomatoes need a little sweetness, add a pinch or two of sugar. If the soup tastes a little bland, add a small splash of vinegar. I often add a bit of both. Serve hot.

winter tomato stew

Lamb & Flageolets Stew with Cilantro Relish from “Heirloom Beans”

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m enamored with the cookbook, Heirloom Beans. In perusing the recipes, I had to resist bookmarking every other page. Given the cold winter days we’re experiencing in San Francisco right now, somehow a lamb stew seemed to make the most sense, and I knew this meant I could break out the new Le Creuset. I’m embarrassed to admit, however, after all my excitement for cooking with heirloom beans I ended up using cannellini beans that I already had in my pantry. (Hey, I’m trying  to honor my recent vow to use up the stores I already have.) So, I can’t really vouch for the wonder of flageolet beans, although I swear the next time around I will use the beans according to the recipe. After all, what’s better than an excuse to head down to Bi-Rite? (Even more ridiculous is I bought the lamb at Bi-Rite, but didn’t realize they sold Rancho Gordo beans there at the time. Argh!)

Steve Sando has made me reconsider the non-soaking methods of cooking beans. He is a strong proponent of soaking the beans for even an hour before cooking, but recommends 2-6 hours of soaking. Apparently this helps the beans keep their shape, and I figure this guy knows his stuff. I soaked the beans for 5 hours and was very happy with the results. I recommend making this recipe on a weekend snowy/rainy day. First thing in the morning, throw the beans in cold water to soak, catch up on the news and your laundry, start the simmering in the early afternoon, and you’ll be eating a fabulous early dinner.

I usually associate lamb with rosemary or mint, but I was looking forward to trying this recipe since it calls for a cilantro & lemon relish. Intriguing! I wasn’t disappointed. I also sauteed some chopped Swiss chard with shallot and garlic to serve on the side, but ended up adding it right in along with everything else. Since I normally squeeze a touch of lemon on sauteed chard anyway, the flavor profile fit right in with the relish.

Prather Ranch Spring Lamb with Flageolets and Fay’s Relish
Serves 6.

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
2 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder steaks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 pound flageolet beans, rinsed thoroughly and soaked 2-6 hours (can also substitute with cellini or runner cannellini beans)

Directions:
1. In large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches if necessary, add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning once, until well browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from plate.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add more oil if the vegetables stick and splash of water to help release the browned bits.

3. Add the beans and their soaking water to the pot. bring to a boil, skimming off any impurities that rise the top, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly until the beans and lamb are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Fay’s Relish Ingredients:
1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 medium shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

To make the relish: In a small bowl, stir together the cilantro, shallot, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil.

Remove the lamb from the pot and cut into bite-sized pieces, trimming off excess fat and removing the bones. If you prefer a thicker stew, transfer 1 cup of beans and broth to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth and return to the pot. Return the lamb to the pot, stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 10 minutes and adjust the seasonings.

Serve in warmed shallow bowls and garnish with the relish.

For the sauteed Swiss chard:
1 bunch Swiss chard, thoroughly cleaned, de-stemmed and leaves cut into small pieces
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons water
Salt and pepper
Splash of fresh lemon juice

Directions: Heat olive oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallot and garlic briefly, 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix in the chard well into the oil and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the water, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened, but still bright, dark green. When cooked, remove from heat and push chard to the side, squeezing and pouring out excess water. Season well with salt and pepper and a splash of lemon juice. Serve on the side or mix into serving bowls of stew.

Prather Ranch Spring Lamb with Flageolet Beans

Prather Ranch Lamb with Flageolet Heirloom Beans

Le Creuset, Heirloom Beans & Stews on the Mind

Le Creuset Dutch OvenThe holidays have come and gone, and many a new recipe awaits. I was the lucky recipient of multiple cookbooks this year, and I have to admit initially I was feeling a little overwhelmed by all the options. But then, the gift of the Le Creuset dutch oven- my very first!- came to the rescue. Suddenly it seemed every recipe I saw was a perfect candidate for the Le Creuset. So I fired her right up with stews on the mind.

Heirloom Beans cookbook by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington

The first recipe I decided to try was a lamb stew from a fantastic cookbook called Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington. Inspired by my other current favorite cookbook, D.I.Y. Delicious, also by Vanessa an acquaintance from EcoSalon, I decided to check out this earlier book of hers. As you may have figured out by now if you’ve been perusing the recipes posted on this blog, I have taken a keen interest in cooking with dried beans. With all the nuances associated with soaking, flavoring and cooking the beans, what’s not to love?!

It’s amazing what happens to one’s cooking habits when working from home. While the stay-at-home-contractor-job has its pluses and minuses, one bonus is the ability to slow-cook food, prepping through-out the day. Not so surprising then that I’ve taken no issue with recipes requiring hours of soaking and simmering. No problem! There’s nothing so satisfying as a “bean-stirring-work-break” not to mention the perk of the delectable food that comes with it. (Flatulence aside, ahem.)

So, moving on, back to the heirloom beans. I had no idea about all these incredible heirloom beans- I’m dying to try them all. Here I’ve been cooking with the old boring standards, cannellini, black and pinto. Whatever. I could be making dishes with “Eye of the Goat Beans,” “Good Mother Stallard Beans,” or “Flor de Mayo Beans.” Now that sounds much more enticing. Even better is I discovered that Steve Sando founder of Rancho Gordo, who grows and sells heirloom beans (hence the book), sells them at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market in San Francisco. Yay. I will definitely be making my way there soon. (They’re also available at Bi-Rite on 18th-nice!- or order them online.) Once I have a place with a garden again I may try my hand at growing a few heirloom beans myself too.

Recipes soon to follow. And happy New Year! I’m looking forward to more cooking delights in 2011. To cook is to live. – Heather

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.)

Fudgy Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolage Cake

I recently had company over for dinner and two guests had gluten allergies. My mom clued me in to this great flourless cake recipe. It’s so good, I would make it gluten allergies or no! I recommend using high quality chocolate, such as Ghirardelli’s. If strawberries aren’t in season, try making a simple, raspberry sauce, detailed below.
……………
This cake is a chocolaty confection that’s a cross between fudge and cake.  You can make it ahead and freeze until you need it.  It’s good with ice cream, but can also be covered with sweetened whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
Serves 10.

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 cup ground almonds
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted (1 1/3 cup)
4 eggs, separated
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups strawberries (or 1 cup frozen raspberries, defrosted)

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray or butter and cocoa; shake off the excess cocoa.

2.  Beat butter until smooth.  Add 1 cup sugar and beat until creamy. Add ground nuts, chocolate and egg yolks;  beat thoroughly.

3.  Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Stir one-third of egg whites into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg whites.

4.  Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Bake 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out nearly clean.  Let cool in the pan 30 minutes, then release sides and slide onto a serving plate.

5.  Combine cream, vanilla and 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until soft peaks form. Top cake with cream and strawberries or raspberry sauce.

[To make the raspberry sauce. Simply blend 1 frozen raspberries with 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Drizzle over cake and top with cream.]

Turkey, Farro and White Bean Soup

Turkey, farro and cannellini bean soupIt’s post turkey-time, and we all know what that means. Turkey soup! I decided to use up some of the sneakily and steadily growing grain stockpiles in my pantry by adding farro into the mix. What with the cannellini beans in the fridge, the soup practically made itself. Soup is the perfect way to use left-over ingredients from all the Thanksgiving shenanigans. Yet one more thing to give thanks for.

Serves 6-8.
Preparation time: ~20 minutes.
Cooking time: ~30 minutes.

Ingredients:
1 cup farro, thoroughly rinsed
2 quarts homemade turkey or chicken stock
1 Tablespoon olive oil
A few dashes cayenne pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or one 15 oz can, beans rinsed)
1 zucchini sliced or diced
2-3 cups bite-size cooked turkey bits
Leaves of one large sprig of thyme
4 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Freshly chopped chives for garnish

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in large sauce pan over medium-high heat along with the cayenne pepper. Add onions and saute about 5 minutes. Add celery and saute another 5 minutes or so, until the onion is translucent and the celery is softening.

2. Add garlic and saute briefly until garlic smells fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Stir in the tomato paste and keep stirring until well integrated with the vegetables.

3. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add farro and reduce heat to a low simmer. Stir in sliced carrots, and add the bay leaf and thyme. If using freshly made cannellini beans, add now as well. (If using canned, wait until step 5.) Add a dash of salt.

4. Cook at low simmer, partially covered 25 minutes, or until farro is cooked through.

5. Remove bay leaf and parsley sprigs. Add zucchini and turkey and heat until zucchini is just cooked and the turkey is warm, about 6 minutes.

6. Add salt if needed, and add generous fresh cracked pepper. Serve with chopped chives along with slices of toasted rye bread.

Turkey with Farro and Cannellini Beans Soup