Today is Adrien’s birthday and, I will be cooking tonight’s celebratory meal. While I am a big fan of birthday cake, he is not. So we are having a very un-birthday like dessert: chocolate mousse.
The absolute best chocolate mousse we have ever eaten was served at a lovely Paris restaurant in the Marais just a few blocks from Places de Vosges, Chez Janou. There is nothing quite so delightful as ending a wonderful meal with a giant copper bowl of chocolate mousse, trust me. This recipe from Martha Stewart comes pretty close to perfection, however, and it is fairly uncomplicated. Chocolately and light, forget counting calories. This is an indulgently rich dessert worthy of someone’s birthday.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 TBSP sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (I substituted vanilla paste here)
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, 2 TBSP sugar, and 3/4 cup heavy cream. Cover over medium-low heat, stirring until mixture coats back of a spoon (3-4 minutes). Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat, whisk in melted chocolate and vanilla. Strain into a bowl. Chill until cool.
- With an electric mixer (I used my trusty stand mixer with the whisk attachment), beat remaining 1 1/4 cups heavy cream with remaining 2 TBSP sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cooled custard mixture, then GENTLY FOLD (!) in the rest of the whipped cream with a spatula.
- Spoon into serving dishes, chill covered at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. Or if you are dreaming of Chez Janou, put the mousse in a big serving bowl and enjoy the memories!
When we were both working full-time, Adrien and I would plan a stir-fry meal which used one of those bottled Asian-style sauces as a starting point. Now that was certainly quick and tasty, but I’m not exactly sure how many ingredients in the bottled product would be considered “healthy”. So, when I spotted this recipe in the New York Times Food section, I was intrigued: could a stir-fry sauce be created to satisfy the need for a pick-up home-cooked meal and still be without some of those preservatives and flavor enhancers that end up in prepared foods. I think my answer is a resounding YES! But you don’t have to take my word for it. Try this one for yourself.
Adapted from Jenne Claiborne By Kim Severson as found in the New York Times Cooking
Ingredients – For the Sauce
- 1 tsp neutral oil (suggestion was to use grapeseed; I used coconut oil)
- 1 1/2 TBSP minced ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 3 TBSP rice vinegar
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 6 Medjool or other dried dates, pitted and chopped
- 1 TBSP arrowroot powder or cornstarch
Ingredients – For the Stir Fry
- 1 TBSP grapeseed or coconut oil
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (or 2 shallots, thinly sliced)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped or julienned
- 1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets and pieces
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (a 15 oz. can drained and rinsed will do it)
- Freshly cooked rice
- 1 TBSP sesame seeds (I used toasted)
- 1-2 fresh limes quartered
- Garnish: chopped cilantro
- Make the sauce: in a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring just until garlic starts to turn golden (about 1 minute). Stir in soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and dates. Let simmer 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk arrowroot or cornstarch with 1/3 cup water until smooth. Slowly stir the mixture into the simmering sauce. When the sauce begins to thicken (quick!), remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- When the sauce is cool enough to handle, transfer sauce to a blender, and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Make the stir fry: In a wok or skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add onions. Stir-fry for about 1 minute until softened. Add red pepper and carrots, cover and cook 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli, chickpeas, and sauce, and cook, covered stirring occasionally, until vegetables are cooked to your liking (about 10 minutes).
- Serve over the cook rice, garnish with sesame seeds, fresh cilantro and lime wedges.
When you go to your local wine purveyor to ask about a wine that will pair with Red Bean Stew, you really are setting up for a challenge. And, luckily in my case, our local wine and cheese shop, Tutto Bene, has a very knowledgeable owner, Wendi Wilkins, who hit this recommendation out of the park.
This wine, Seven Sinners (2015), is created from a 100% Syrah from Central Valley of California around Lodi. Deep red, and velvety in color, the wine is tastes big and jammy to me with some nice spiciness. My palate may still be under construction, but I know what I like, and I like this wine. A lot! And who knew? It was perfect with the Red Bean Stew I adapted from the New York Times’ Martha Rose Shulman for Meatless Monday. Head over to Tutto Bene before Wendi runs out. Because, as Wendi tells it, you will be sad when you run out.
Red Bean Stew
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times
We tend to eat mainly plant-based in our house and off and on I’ve eaten strictly vegetarian meals for much of the last 30 years. Mondays are generally Meatless Mondays around here, no matter what, so tonight I gave this hearty red bean stew a try. Don’t let the preparation of the beans intimidate you. Once you’ve prepared dry beans from scratch, you’ll have a difficult time going back to canned beans with (as Sara Moulton would say), their lovely gelatinous material. Just plan ahead and it will all be fine.
- 1 pound (2 1/4 cups) red beans, washed, picked over & soaked for 6 hours or overnight in 2 quarts of water
- 2 TBPS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium or large onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large green pepper, cut into small dice
- 2 TBSP sweet Hungarian paprika
- 2 TBSP tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp oregano
- Pinch cayenne (I substituted 2 TBSP-you read that right-Sriracha Sauce)
- 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- Freshly ground black papper
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup drained yogurt (I used Greek yougurt – 0% fat)
- Drain the beans through a strainer set over a bowl, Place the beans in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Measure the soaking water in the bowl and add enough water to measure about 2 quarts (this is less than NYT recipe called for). Add to the pot with the beans, turn the heat to medium high and bring to a gentle boil. Skim off any foam and/or bean skins.
- [This is my adaptation]. Drain the cooked beans (I let them simmer for about 30 minutes), reserving the cooking liquid. Wipe out the pan or dutch oven and continue with step 3.
- Heat 1 TBSP of the oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant (about 8-10 min). Add 2 of the garlic cloves and continue to cook for another minute or so. Season with salt, add another TBSP oil and add the paprika. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes until the vegetables are well coated with paprika. Add a ladleful of the bean cooking water to deglaze the pan then stir in the beans and add the rest of the bean water (should be about 2 quarts of liquid). Add tomato paste and bay leaf, reduce heat and simmer for an hour with the cover on.
- Add oregano, remaining garlic, sriracha (or cayenne if you really don’t want this to be spicy), vinegar and sugar. Simmer for another hour. Beans should be thoroughly cooked at this point (i.e., not crunchy!). If you want the broth a bit thicker, take about a cup of the beans out of the pan and mash or blend them. Return this to the pan.
- Just before serving, stir in the parsley. Serve with large dollop of the drained yogurt.
Santos Winery 2016 Santorini Assyrtiko
A side benefit to a subscription to the New York Times – not that I need one – are the wonderful food columns. This recipe from Martha Rose Shulman is a great weeknight meal because it comes together quickly. Tonight, the dish was paired with a delightful and slightly mineral-ly Assyrtiko from Santorini which I picked up on recommendation from Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese Shop. Both of us were more than a little unfamiliar with the wines of Greece (click the link above for NYTimes Wine School article about Santorini wines), but this one was definitely a home run ~ Thanks Wendi! Tasting notes follow the recipe.
Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 TBSP lemon juice (use the fresh stuff for best flavor)
- 2 garlic cloves minced or pureed
- 1 tsp chopped FRESH rosemary
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
- 2 TBSP grapeseed, sunflower or canola oil (I substituted Olive Oil)
- 1 pound mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 TBSP chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Assyrtiko – cook with what you drink as Julia Child would say)
- Stir together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Here’s where I deviated from the original recipe: I pounded the chicken breasts BEFORE adding to the marinade, so if you want to try that as well, go to Step 2 now). Add the chicken to the marinade (I always marinate raw fish or poultry in a zip bag for food safety). Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes (or, if you do this prep earlier in the day, the extra time in the marinade doesn’t seem to hurt anything).
- Place 2 sheets of plastic wrap on your work surface, overlapping slightly, to make 1 wide sheet and brush lightly with oil. Cover the chicken with another wide layer of plastic wrap. Working from the center to the outside, pound chicken breast with the flat side of a meat tenderizer (or if you don’t have one, I found a heavy rolling pin works fairly well) until the chicken is about 1/4 inch thick. [If you are doing this step prior to adding the poultry to the marinade, go back and finish up step 1, and if not…. be sure to pat the chicken breasts dry BEFORE pounding] At this point I cut the chicken breasts in half so that there were 4 pieces altogether.
- Season the pounded chicken breasts with salt and pepper on one side only. Dredge lightly in the flour and tap to remove excess.
- Turn oven on low (this is for holding the chicken after cooking). Heat a wide heavy skillet over high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, place one or two pieces of chicken in the pan – do not over-crowd. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes, until bottom is browned in spots; turn over and brown the other side (about 1 1/2 minutes) [I ALWAYS check the internal meat temperatures to that I know things are cooked through and safe (165 degrees) – that would be my advice here as well. Go by internal temperature, not time.] Transfer to a platter or sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. If there is more than a tablespoon of fat in the pan, pour of some (not all).
- Turn the burner down to medium-high. Add mushrooms to the pan. Let them sear for about 30 seconds to a minute without moving them, then stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. When mushrooms have softened slightly and begun to sweat, add wine, thyme or parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir until wine has evaporated (this took under a minute for me). Spoon over the chicken and serve.
Tasting Notes for Santos 2016 Santorini Assyrtiko (from the Winemaker)
A pure expression of the indigenous Assyrtiko grapes grown in the unique basket-shaped vines aka kouloures at the volcanic terroir of Santorini. This wine is a classic benchmark of the variety and its homeland. A vibrant aromatic cocktail of sea-breeze freshness and citrus fruits with honeyed undertones. Bone-dry, brightly acidic with a textural minteral smokiness and food-begging finish.
Alcoholic content: 13.5%
I’ve been doing a lot of cooking from Myers+Chang At Home lately and enjoying their Asian inspired cooking quite a bit. This is the latest attempt from this book: Pan-Roasted Soy-Glazed Salmon with Cool Cucumber Salad. (see page 130 of the Myers+Chang At Home cookbook for recipe details).
While I didn’t go for the Crispy Shallot garnish (too much frying for me), I did follow the rest of the recipe’s instructions. Worth the time and prep, which was not too intense for home cooks. Cooking salmon is something we do about once a week here. I’ve found a decent frozen product through Whole Foods Market which we keep on hand as a quick protein addition to dinner salads.
As far as this recipe goes, definitely do not skimp on the Sriracha sauce and think ahead as to the type of pan you choose – it should be safe for both stovetop and oven.
Our friend Wendi Wilkins, owner of Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese Shop, made an
excellent pairing suggestion of a Northwest Oregon Pinot Noir from Brandborg. As the notes say, the wine is beautifully transparent ruby red and paired really well with the salmon. This wine is in stock at Tutto Bene and definitely enhanced the dish.
Brandborg 2014 Bench Lands Pinot Noir
[From the Winemakers]: The 2014 vintage was characterized by a warm and dry spring, that did not really let up throughout the whole season. The seasonal temperatures ended up being slightly higher than average, with an early bud break, few heat spikes and a long dry fall, giving us a very long frost free period, perfect for late ripening fruit. Our Bench Lands is a composition incorporating many sites. Within these vineyards we have selected blocks and clonal types that work well together in this harmonious blend. The soils are very diverse mixes of alluviums deposited along the Umpqua, originating in the three mountain ranges that encircle this river valley, the Klamath -Siskiyous, the Cascades and the Coast Range. These well drained soils create a wine with structure and balanced tannins.
The wine is a lovely transparent ruby color. The aromas are dominated by ripe red cherries, blueberries, hints of cranberry with overtones of wild mountain meadow herbs and wild flowers. The flavors add raspberries to the cherries, with some orange pith, coffee and mocha. The wine’s mouthfeel is filling and supple. The acidity gives it a nice zing, to compliment a moderately long finish and make this very food friendly.
This supple pinot would pair well with fatty fish like salmon or tuna, and has enough acid to go with curries, roasted and herbed mushrooms or even grilled meats, especially pork, with barbeque sauce.
The recipe for this is purposely MIA today. Meyers + Chang At Home is not only a cookbook it is a primer on Asian cooking that should not be missed. Want to know how to shape dumplings? Shop for Asian food products? This is the book. Seriously. Go get it.
The first dish I tried was this one, Red Curry Cauliflower with Tofu (found on pages 182-183). Yes I did make my own Vegetarian Curry Sauce (p 183). Bring on the heat! And, if you don’t have other plans for the leftover coconut milk, try Coconut Rice Pudding, also posted on the FourNightsAWeek blog.
Paired with a very dry hard cider it was delicious. And, should you find yourself in Boston, be sure to treat yourself to a visit to Meyers + Chang on Washington Street.
For blog regulars, be sure to check out our upcoming recipe sharings. We’re delighted to be offering some suggestions for wine pairings courtesy of Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese Shop owner Wendi Wilkins.