18 May 2018: Not a Birthday Cake

2018-May-18_food_2362Today 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.

Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 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)

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

 

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8 April 2018: Easy Italian Pear Cake

2018-Apr-07_FourNightsAWeek_2048I discovered two pears in the ‘fridge the other day and sought to use them before, you know, they become part of a compost heap. Also, had a partially consumed container of mascarpone, so this recipe seemed meant to be

My only criticism of this particular pear cake was that it baked up very dry. Maybe I overbaked. It just didn’t seem right to toss the cake that I made with the purpose of eliminating wasted fruit, so I needed to figure out a fix.  

I had a half-bottle of Ipsus Passito di Pantelleria Dessert Wine waiting to be finished. Using a skewer, I poured the dessert wine onto the cake which not only moistened it, but gave it a great flavor as well.  Cutting down on food waste is a personal goal in this house, and if dessert helps us cut out the waste, well, that’s a good thing, right? 

Easy Italian Pear Cake from An Italian in My Kitchen

Ingredients2018-Apr-07_FourNightsAWeek_2028_edited-1

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup + 1-1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 34 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil (coconut or olive oil are my choices here)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 pears

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 340 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour and 9-inch cake pan (author used a springform pan).
  2. Clean and peel the pears, chop one pear into medium-sized cubes and the other pear into thin slices. Set aside.
  3. In medium bowl (I used my stand mixer), at medium speed beat eggs and sugar until creamy; add mascarpone and continue beating until smooth.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  5. STIR the flour into the egg mixture by hand (wood spoon) to combine gnetly, then add oil and stir to combine.
  6. Fold in the pear cubes, spoon into prepared cake pan.
  7. Top the batter with sliced pears and sprinkle 2 TBS sugar on top.
  8. Bake approximately 45-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

 


13 March 2018: Mall-Style Vegetable Stir Fry

2018-Mar-13_Fournightsaweek_1837When 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.

Mall-Style Vegetable Stir-Fry

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

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. When the sauce is cool enough to handle, transfer sauce to a blender, and blend until smooth. Set aside.
  4. 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).
  5. Serve over the cook rice, garnish with sesame seeds, fresh cilantro and lime wedges.

17 February 2018: Montreal Bagels

2018-Feb-21_fournightsaweek_bagel_1826With all due respect, Montreal has the best bagels that I’ve ever eaten. Ever. Hands-down. No contest.  We always leave Montreal with at least a dozen ready for the freezer as well as a few for the ride home.

Basically, bagel worshippers fall into two very loyal schools regarding which of two Montreal bagel bakers makes the best.  My personal favorite is from St. Viateur on the Plateau; however the “other” bagel bakery, Fairmount Bagels, also makes a great Montreal-style bagel.

There is a subtle sweetness to Montreal bagels which comes from malt or other sweeteners in both the dough and the water.  The bagels themselves are much less dough-dense than the supermarket or bakery bagels one finds here in New England, and for me, that makes them enjoyable. For purists looking for malt, King Arthur Flour and/or a local beer making supplier should be able to help out.

Since, for the moment, a trip to Montreal is not in our future, I set out to find an authentic Montreal bagel recipe, and thanks to the MTL Blog, found this one on a great Montreal food blog called “My Second Breakfast“. Sami Berger, who write a regular food blog here, suggests at the outset that one can either make the bagels large (yield 12) or smaller (yield 15), but I would suggest that dividing the dough into 18 knobs (yield 18) is just about right for a Montreal sized bagel.  The process – start to finish is about 90 minutes. 

My Second Breakfast’s Montreal Bagels

Adapted from bigoven.com

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups warm water
  • 5 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 3 TBSP canola oil (I substituted coconut oil, melted)
  • 8 grams active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs, divided (1 for the dough, 1 for the egg wash)
  • 1 TBSP maple syrup
  • 4 to 4-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup poppy seeds OR sesame seeds
  • 16 cups water
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • (for chocolate bagels, add 1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolate or chips) – I love chocolate, but wouldn’t think of doing this to a bagel!

Method

  1. In a large bowl (I used my mixer and a whisk for steps 1 and 2), whisk together the
    warm water, sugar, oil,yeast, egg and syrup Combine until the yeast dissolves.
  2. Stir in salt and 1 cup of the flour.
  3. (Now using the mixer’s bread dough hook), add enough flour to make a shaggy, soft dough – about another 3 cups.2018-Feb-21_fournightsaweek_bagel_1834
  4. Knead the dough (yes, on the machine!) for about 12 minutes, adding flour as you go (I ended up needing an additional cup of flour, but baking day was a high-humidity day). If you are adding chocolate or raisins, knead in the chunks at the last minute (don’t do that with a machine!).
  5. Once the dough is smooth and firm, flour the countertop and cover the dough with an inverted bowl. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into (12/15/18) pieces. Roll each piece into an 8-10 inch rope, then curve each on pressing together the ends to make a bagel shape. Make SURE the ends are firmly stuck together at this point or they will come apart in the boiling process. Note that the bagels will look pretty deformed and the holes will be very big – not to worry!
  7. Let the shaped dough rest for 30 minutes. About 5 minutes before the dough has finished rising, fill a large pot with water (16 cups) and stir in the honey. Bring that to a boil.
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  9. Boil the bagels by placing them in the pot, 3 or 4 at a time – you don’t want the bagels to be over crowded. Boil for 45 seconds on each side (90 seconds total). Remove and let the water drain off onto a clean towel or paper towel.
  10. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and set the seeds on a small plate.
  11. Dip the boiled bagels first in egg wash and then coat both sides in seeds. Note that the bagels will tend to get very dark in the areas without seeds so if you plan to leave any “plain” you’ll need to watch them carefully.
  12. Bake at 425 for 8-10 minutes (they should be starting to get golden brown on the side touching the baking tray), then flip and bake another 6-8 minutes until completely lightly golden brown.
  13. Cool the bagels on a cooling rack.
  14. Once complete cool, store in a freezer bag for a few days.

 

 


14 February 2018: Ina Garten’s Lemon Mousse

2018-Feb-15_fournightsaweek_mousse_1773Happy Valentine’s Day! With Valentine’s Day falling in the middle of the week this year, we decided to stay in, cook, and enjoy one of our favorite movies. Just because it was a quiet night, doesn’t mean the food didn’t need to be spectacular and this Lemon Mousse recipe from Ina Garten was a great finish to our meal.  The most difficult part of the process was stirring the egg yolk mixture for 8-10 minutes, but after that, it came together easily. 

See the original – and accompanying video here.

Ina Garten’s Lemon Mousse

Ingredients

  • 3 extra-large whole eggs
  • 3 extra-large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup good bottled lemon curd, at room temperature
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe follows
  • Sliced lemon, for garnish (I used raspberries – equally good)

Sweetened Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I purchased perfectly acceptable whipped cream from Whole Foods – not the stuff in the aerosol can!)

Directions

  1. In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the 3 whole eggs, 3 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, the lemon zest, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and cook (NOTE: Get that water simmering before you start timing), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 10 to 12 minutes until the mixture is thick like pudding. Take off the heat and set aside for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until completely chilled.
  2. Place half the egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until the whites are stiff and shiny. Carefully fold the beaten whites into the cold lemon mixture with a rubber spatula.
  3. Place the cream in the same bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (no need to clean the bowl) and beat on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks.
  4. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the lemon mixture. Fold in the lemon curd, and pour into a deep bowl OR pipe smaller amounts into dishes.
  5. Top with whipped cream and lemon slices (or as I did, fresh raspberries)

Sweetened Whipped Cream:

Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium and then high-speed until the cream just forms still peaks. Spoon the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

 

 


8 February 2018: Lemony Carrot & Cauliflower Soup Meets Wine Club Arneis

2018-Feb-08_fournightsaweek-carrotcauliflower_1756_edited-1When I make soup, it very often is a vegetable-based soup. Here’s a creamy – without the cream – soup that is a welcome variation on carrot-based soups. This one uses carrot, cauliflower, and light miso to blend together. It made a satisfying weeknight dinner soup.  Take Melissa Clark’s advice: don’t let the recipe hinder creativity: this is a basic roadmap for infinite variety.

Now what else to serve? Wine of course! I chose a Ceretto Arneis, a selection from our Wine Club (notes below the recipe) to pair with the soup.

Lemony Carrot and Cauliflower Soup (Link to original here)

Melissa Clark for NYTimes.

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP coriander seeds
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 medium carrots (1 lb.), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups). (I used a variety of carrots, purple, yellow, white, orange)
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 TBSP white miso (I used yellow miso because I had it – no harm, no foul)
  • 1 small (or half a large head) cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice (I used more)
  • Smokey chile powder (for serving)
  • Coarse sea salt (for serving)
  • Cilantro leaves (for serving)

Method

  1. In large dry pot over medium heat, toast coriander seeds until fragrant and dark golden-brown, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar & pestle and coarsely crush (or use the back of a spoon on a chopping board – just crush them)
  2. Return the pot to medium heat. Add the oil and heat until warm. Stir in onion; cook stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly colored, 7-10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.
  3. Add carrots, crushed coriander, salt and 6 cups water to the pot. Stir in the miso until it dissolves. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and cook, covered over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the soup from heat. Use an immersion blender and puree the soup until smooth. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice just before serving. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chile, sea salt and cilantro leaves.

Ceretto Langhe DOC Arneis, 2016

We joined Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese’s Wine Club last summer and honestly, we have 2018-Feb-08_fournightsaweek-carrotcauliflower_1742been delighted by some exceptional wines. I don’t think we’ve had one bottle in the last 6 months that we did not love.  

The Ceretto Arneis is one of those finds we never would have considered on our own. It has a minerally freshness with a slight sparkle that, now that I’ve discovered it, I know I’ll be returning to. The Arneis grape, grown in the Piedemonte region of Italy, were near extinction in the 1960s. Luckily they’ve been rescued! For tasting notes from the vintner and more about this wine, click here.

Looking to expand your exposure to some terrific wines? Check out Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese Wine Club here.

 


02 February 2018: Healthy Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

2018-Feb-02_fournightsaweek_oatmeal_bars_1739Whenever I can use up the remaining bits of something I’ve only partially utilized during the week, it’s a win.  This week, I had most of a container of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt leftover from a spicy bean dish, and rather than just eat it or (horrors!) wait until it was no longer edible, I went on a search for a way to incorporate Greek yogurt into another recipe. The fact that this recipe not only used up the yogurt but was a dessert AND used dark chocolate was something like winning a lottery.  Here is a recipe for Healthy Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars from A Mindful Mom’s blog. Be sure to check out blogger, Kristen for other great healthy choices.

Healthy Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups oats (I used old-fashioned, not quick)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (I used 0% fat)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate, chopped (I used dark chocolate chips)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper or foil.
  2. In large mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients together.
  3. Add oil, yogurt, egg, honey and vanilla. Mix until just combined.
  4. Stir in dark chocolate chips
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before eating (good luck with that).

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