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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sweet Potato Pie with Gingersnap Crust

The holidays are over....sigh. But luckily I still have a little leftover pie in the fridge. I wish it wouldn't go away. I keep taking only one bite periodically throughout the day, hoping it'll last a little longer. I'm usually on dessert duty for Thanksgiving and Christmas and the last couple of years I've changed up my pumpkin pie recipe a bit. It's not THAT original...I use the old trusted recipe off the One Pie can - but with a few substitutions that I think make all the difference: sweet potatoes instead of the canned stuff and gingersnap cookie crust instead of the standard.

1 3/4 cups roasted sweet potato (about 2 big ones)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmet
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp melted butter
1 12oz can evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
1/8 cup molasses
2 eggs, beaten

Gingersnap Crust
1 1/4 cup ground gingersnap cookies
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
4 tbsp butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Pulse the crust ingredients in a food processor until well combined. Pour into a pie dish and press down so that crust is firm, covers the bottom and the sides of the dish. Bake for 15 minutes and let cool.

3. In a mixer or large bowl, whisk sweet potato, eggs, butter, molasses, and milk. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Add to sweet potato mixture and whisk until combined.

4. Once crust has cooled, pour in the pie mixture and bake for about 50 minutes or until the pie is set.

Gingersnap Cookies

Gingernsaps are one of my favorite cookies. I tend to only bake them around the holidays when I need them for Sweet Potato Pie crust...and there are always a lot of leftovers. These freeze really well too!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses

1. Preheat to 350. 

2. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl; stir well to mix. 

3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together on medium speed the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes until very light, fluffy and whitened. Add the egg and continue beating until smooth. 

4. Lower speed and beat in half the dry ingredients, then the molasses Stop the mixer and scrape down bowl and beater. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients. 

5. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment. Scoop out 1-inch diameter pieces of dough. Roll into balls between the palms of your the hands. Place the balls of dough on the prepared pans leaving about 3 inches all around each, to allow for spreading. 

6. Bake the cookies for about 15 mins for chewy cookies and 20 mins for crispy ones.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cherry Citrus Scones

Paddy and I spent a couple of weeks in Ireland in the beginning of September. It was a great vacation and so good to spend time with the family...most of which was spent in the kitchen at Paddy's house (built in 1650!!), keeping warm by the cooker (which still burns turf), drinking tea, and eating scones. Paddy's mom made a fresh batch of scones about every other day and the smell of them in the oven would wake me up in the morning. Is there a better way to start the day?? Needless to say, when I came home, I was missing her scones dearly and decided to bake a batch to keep on hand. Ina Garten's is one of the better scone recipes I've tried - they're extra light and fluffy (sometimes scones can be dense, dry, and hard). I've changed a few things and this is my version, which by the way, is half of her recipe. This makes about 8 to 10 2-inch round scones. These freeze really well and if you keep to the directions of only rolling them out to about 1/2-3/4 inches, you can pop them in the toaster to defrost and warm up!

2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour 
2 tbsp sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp grated grapefruit zest (could sub orange or lemon but grapefruit is my favorite!)
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cold heavy cream (or milk if you don't have cream)
1 cup dried cherries (you could sub cranberries or any other dried berry)
1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp water or milk, for egg wash

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 2 cups of flour, 2 tbsp of sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. 
3. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. Combine the dried cranberries and 2 tbsp of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.

4. Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn't stick. Use a cookie cutter or a juice glass to make 2-3 inch rounds in the dough. Place the scones on a cookie sheet.

5. Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar (don't skip these last steps!), and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting & Salted Caramel Pepitas

It's fall and I'm all things pumpkin. No, I don't do pumpkin lattes buuuuut, pretty much anything else. I saw this on Food52 the other day and had to make it. My mom thinks it's better than pumpkin pie. I don't know if I could forgo pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving but this is pretty damn yummy. I ate about half of it this weekend all by myself. Pregnancy strikes again...

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 tsp baking powder  
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp ground cinnamon  
1 tsp freshly nutmeg 
1/4 tsp ground cloves  
1 cup plus 2 tbsp pumpkin purée 
1 cup vegetable or canola oil  
1 1/3 cup sugar 
3/4 tsp salt  
3 large eggs,yolks and whites separated
Frosting and caramelized pepitas (pumpkin seeds0: 
9 tbsp butter, divided, at room temperature 
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (1 block of Philly)
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar 
Pinch of cinnamon  
1 tbsp sugar 
1/2 cup salted pumpkin seeds (raw or toasted)  
1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and butter that, too.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a bowl and set aside.
3. Use the whisk attachment of a stand mixer to combine the pumpkin, oil, sugar, and salt.
4. With mixer on medium speed, add the egg yolks one at a time, waiting for one yolk to be fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, turning off the machine as soon as the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Whisk the three egg whites until they are frothy and white. Fold them into the batter using a rubber spatula until they were no longer visible (but be careful not to over mix). Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake on the center rack in the oven. Begin checking the cake after 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in its pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes, or until the cake is pulling away from the pan, before inverting it onto a wire rack.
6. To make the frosting, beat together 8 tbsp of the butter and the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the powdered and beat until the frosting is smooth with no dry traces of sugar. Add a pinch of cinnamon, and beat the frosting until incorporated.
7. To make the pepitas, caramelize 1 tbsp of sugar in a small saucepan on medium heat until it is a rich reddish-brown color. Avoid over-stirring, which can turn the mixture dry and crumbly. Once the sugar is dark and fragrant, add the last tbsp of butter and stir quickly until it has melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir until they're evenly coated in sauce. Transfer the seeds to a plate lined with parchment paper so that they cool and harden.
8. When the cake is completely cool, frost just the top and sprinkle with the seeds. You'll have extra frosting and I'm suuuuure you'll find something to do with it (like eat the rest with a spoon until you're sick).  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Autumn Risotto with Carmelized Apples and Fennel

Tis the season! I pulled this from the pile because it was delicious.This comes from Food52 and is bright, citrus-y, and full of flavor. Perfect for a cold fall or winter evening.

Caramelized Apples and Fennel
1 large honeycrisp apple (or really any kind), peeled and chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup white wine

1. Get the apples/fennel started before starting the risotto. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter with oil and add the apples and fennel. Add salt and stir. Cook over medium heat for about 20 mins. Keep an eye on them after about 10 mins so they don't get too brown. When tender and the juices have evaporated, deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any bits. When wine is almost evaporated, turn heat off and set aside.

4 pieces of prosciutto (optional) 
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 cups apple cider
3 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1/4 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

1. Add the broth and cider to a saucepan and bring to a low simmer.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the prosciutto. Cook until just crispy. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft.

3. Add the rice and cook for a couple of minutes to toast it with the onions. Add the wine and cook until liquid is just absorbed.

4. Add a ladle of the broth/cider to the rice and cook until just absorbed. Repeat this process, stirring frequently until all of the broth is used and the rice is just tender.

5. When adding the last ladle of liquid, add the caramelized apples/fennel, orange zest, parmesan, and butter. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Add the prosciutto and serve with goat cheese, walnuts and parsley on top.

Billionaire Bars

These things are a dream come true, especially for a pregnant lady craving anything and everything that includes sugar. Chocolate + caramel + cookie = heaven. I saw a photo of these in Food & Wine and was sold immediately. Made them that day. The only saving grace about these suckers is that they're so rich, you really can only have one, a small one. I cut these up and froze them, they  can be eaten straight from the freezer in less than 5 minutes (thank you very much) and will keep much longer.

1 stick cold, cubed unsalted butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp kosher salt.
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp water

Chocolate Ganache:
9 oz 70% dark chocolate, chopped or as chips
3/4 heavy cream
1 cup roughly chopped pecans

1. For the shortbread: Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8" square pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2" to hang over the edges. In a food processor, combine all of the shortbread ingredients and pulse until a dough forms. Press the dough into the baking pan and bake for 25 mins, until firm and edges are golden. Let cool completely.

2. For the caramel: In a small saucepan, melt the butter, cream and salt over moderate heat. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and cook over moderate heat until a golden caramel forms, only swirling pan to mix - DO NOT STIR, you will get crystals. Carefully drizzle the cream into the caramel and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until temp reaches 230 on a candy thermometer. Immediately pour over the cooled shortbread and let cool for about 45 minutes.

3. For the ganache: Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer and immediately pour over the chocolate. Let stand until chocolate starts to melt and then stir until smooth. Pour the ganache over the caramel and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate until chilled.

Apple & Honey Cake

It's apple season! Buh-bye strawberries, hello Macs...
My good friends Sara and Kiran are leaving town and heading back to DC (excuse me while I sob a little) and we're off to their house in JP for one last dinner together. Their house is all packed up so we're bringing the goods. I got this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and thought it was beautiful. Topped with some homemade cinnamon ice cream, it's the perfect fall dessert.

4 tiny-to-small apples, halved, peeled and cored
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 stick plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated
2 good pinches of salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup honey
A good pinch of sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9-inch springform with butter.

2. Prepare apples: Place peeled, halved and cored apples cut-side-down on a cutting board. Use a knife to create parallel thin slices, but only cut halfway through each apple so that the apples stay intact. If you cut through, no biggie - you can reassemble the halves on the cake in a few minutes. In a bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and 2 tbsp granulated sugar.

3. Prepare cake base: Beat butter and 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar together in a bowl until fluffy. Add honey and beat until combined. Add vanilla and egg yolks, beating until just combined. Sprinkle salt and baking powder over cake batter, and mix for just 5 seconds, until they disappear. Add flour, half at a time, mixing only until just combined.

4. In a separate bowl with cleaned beaters, beat egg whites until stiff. Stir 1/4 of them into the cake batter, to lighten it a little. Fold in the rest in three additions. Only fold the last addition of egg whites until it has mostly disappeared (a couple faint streaks of egg white are fine).

5. Spread cake batter in prepared cake pan, smoothing the top. Arrange apple halves facedown over the cake batter.No need to press the apples into the batter.

6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then cut around the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan at all, and unhinge the sides. Let cake cool completely. Before serving, warm 1/4 cup honey and a good pinch of sea salt until it liquefies to the point where it makes a thin glaze — this will take less than 30 seconds. Brush honey-salt mixture over cooled cake.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Kale Pesto Hearty Salad

I eat a lot of kale. It's my favorite green. I chop it up and mix it into at least half of what we eat. So the other night when were low on dinner options because the fridge was looking pretty empty, I used it as a base for this salad...also because my basil plants in the balcony garden haven't quite reached their full potential and I needed a filler. I used brown rice for this salad but pasta, barley, wheat berries, and quinoa would be great subs. I also served this room temperature but it's good hot or cold.

2 cups of cooked brown rice, slightly cooled
1 bunch of kale, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 basil leaves (depending on how basil-y you'd like it, you can add more)
1/4 cup of walnuts or pine nuts
1/3 cup olive oil, divided
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp honey
1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup of peas
1 cup of chicken if you have it (left over roast chicken is great)

1. If you don't have leftover cooked rice on hand, get your rice going while you do the rest of the steps.
2. In a medium skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the kale and some salt and pepper. Cook until just softened - you don't want it mushy. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. In the same pan, add the shallots and cook until soft. Remove from heat.
4. In a food processor, add the kale, garlic, basil and nuts and process until until it forms a wet paste.
5. In a small bowl, mix the rest of the olive oil, mustard, honey and red wine vinegar until emulsified.
6. While the rice is still a bit warm, add the vinaigrette and mix well. Add the kale mixture and stir until well combined. Add the tomatoes, peas and chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

It's strawberry season!! And I'm all things strawberry at the moment. I made these bars (thank you Smitten Kitchen, yet again!) yesterday and LOVE them. The best part - there is zero clean-up. As in - none, not even a bowl to wash. That's the best kind of baking...

*This is for an 8x8 baking dish. If you double the recipe, use a 9x13 dish (which I highly recommend because the 8x8 simply won't make enough of these).

1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
Heaping 1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup small-diced strawberries
1 cup small-diced rhubarb

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Line the baking dish with parchment paper (make sure edges come up over the sides of the dish - this is necessary if you want a no clean up job.

3. Place the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in the baking dish and mix together. Pour the butter over and stir until clumps form and all ingredients are absorbed. Set 1/2 of this mixture aside. Press the remaining mixture evenly into the dish to form the crust.

4. Sprinkle half of the strawberries over the crust. Do the same with the rhubarb so crust is evenly covered. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the fruit, then the lemon juice, and 1/2 of the granulated sugar.

5. Sprinkle the remaining fruit and the remaining 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar.

6. Scatter the remaining crust/crumbs over the fruit and press lightly to form a top crust.

7. Bake 30-40 minutes or until it's bubbly and top is golden.

Caroline's Stromboli

My dear friend Caroline's little son Wes is battling stage IV neuroblastoma at only 1 1/2 years old. Since the beginning of this incredibly difficult journey, I have admired Caroline courage, grace, humor, and tenacity. More than anything, I am astounded by Caroline's ability keep a level head and take life one day at a time. I was recently down in DC and was able to visit Caro and the family in VA for the day. The two of us escaped for a nice long lunch in the sun and a couple of glasses of champagne. At the end of the afternoon we returned to the house and amidst organizing the three kids, batting practice in the front yard, and preparing for an evening at baseball practice (all while entertaining ME), Caroline whipped up some stromboli. I share this recipe because it's delicious but also because it totally captures Caroline... "Oh, these? I carmelized the onions this morning while everyone was still sleeping..." Enough said.

Pretty much any of these ingredients can be swapped/subbed but I'm staying true to Caro's recipe:
1 pre-made pizza dough
1 package of shredded Italian cheese
1 red onion, caramelized
1 handful of jarred jalapenos, finely chopped
6-8 slices of salami
1-2 cups of blanched and chopped spinach
Red sauce for dipping

1. Preheat the oven to 425

2. Roll out the pizza dough into a rectangle, about 12" by 24." Make sure to use plenty of flour so it doesn't stick to the surface.

3. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the dough, leaving 1/2" on the left end clean for sealing. Sprinkle the onion, the jalapenos, and the spinach over as well. Top with slices of salami. It should look like a big square pizza.

4. Starting on the right/short side, gently start to roll the dough from right to left. Roll as tightly as you can. When you get it all rolled up, seal the long end to the roll and seal the short ends so nothing oozes out while baking.

5. Place carefully on a baking sheet (you might need an extra set of hands), sealed side down. Bake for about 30-40 mins or until the crust is browned and the insides are melted.

6. When stromboli is done, remove from the oven and let sit for about 5-10 mins before cutting. Serve with tomato sauce on the side for dipping.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread Pudding

Highland Kitchen up the street from us is one of my favorite Boston restaurants. Uh, fried chicken Mondays, anyone? We don't go there that often but when we do, I can't leave without the banana bread pudding. I think it's one of the best desserts I've ever had. So I thought I'd try to make it happen in the comfort of my own home, where I can eat it in a pair of sweatpants with an old, stretched out waist.

This one's got bourbon. Maybe it's because it's Kentucky Derby season or maybe I just love me some bourbon but I'm putting it in food, cocktail, in my beer. My brother in law gave us some Bourbon County beer for Christmas with the instruction to wait 6 months until drinking. Well, I made it 4 1/2. It seemed like the appropriate beverage while making this bread pudding. And what a party! I hadn't realized this dark, liquid goodness was 14.9% alcohol. Hooooowee! (Put down the knives and stop chopping, Katie) I got it all into the baking dish without losing any fingertips and only a minor steam burn from the caramel. By all accounts, a success. I highly recommend this dessert and it serves about 10 (how much do you think me and Paddy can polish off tonight after dinner?) so have some people over to help. And all you ladies with bourbon lovin' men (ahem, Rach, Sara...) this will put you in their good graces for a long, long time. 

(Got this from

1 cup sugar
2 tbsp salted butter, cut into pieces and at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Bread Pudding
Salted butter, for the baking dish
1 1b brioche or sweet bread loaf, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 bananas, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick
To make the caramel: 
1. Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Cook, gently swirling the pan but not stirring, until amber, about 10 minutes. 
2. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the butter, heavy cream, bourbon, lemon juice and kosher salt (the mixture will bubble - watch out for the steam!). Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Make the bread pudding: 
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry and golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

4. While bread is toasting, whisk the eggs, sugar, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in the milk, heavy cream and vanilla until smooth. 
5. Fold in the toasted bread and the banana slices. Transfer half of the mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of the caramel, then top with the remaining bread mixture. 
6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Cover and refrigerate the remaining caramel until ready to serve.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown and set, about 1 hour, 15 or 30 minutes. You might want to put a cookie sheet on the lower rack with foil or parchment to catch any drips. I've had some bad luck lately with spill overs and burnt sugar (is a delicious ice cream flavor) is not pleasant in the oven. Warm the remaining caramel and drizzle on top.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Indian Chicken Curry

My old friend Dane first got me started with Indian cooking. In my first few years in Boston, she'd have a bunch of us from work over to her house for 'real Indian food.' Dane's from Bangalore and would whip up curries for us from her mother's and grandmother's recipes. Heaven. And knowing I like to cook, Dane recruited me as sous-chef for these large gatherings, giving me the important job of chopping onions. I mean, LOTS of onions. I'd ask her how many and she'd throw a few bags in front of me with a knife saying she'd let me know when I could stop. But oh how delicious the curry would be. This recipe from Bon Appetit is very reminiscent of dinners at Dane's. If you've ever made anything Indian - you'll have most of the spices in your cabinet. If you haven't, don't be afraid, this is an easy one pot meal that just has a lot of ingredients.

Heads up though - this is a Sunday dinner. It takes 2 hours (only 15 minutes of actual work time) so make sure you have a little time! Also - this recipe originally called for cream, which I substituted for plain yogurt.

3 tbsp canola oil
4ish chicken legs (drumsticks with thighs - as many as will fit snugly together in your pot)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp tumeric
1 1/2 tsp coriander
3/4 tsp cayenne
4/4 tsp cardamom
8 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup crushed tomato (~half of a 14 oz can)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, 1/4 inch cubes

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pot, skin side down, cooking until golden brown (8-10 mins). Transfer to plate (don't flip in pan).

2. Add onion, garlic and ginger and stir until onion is soft. Add tomato paste and the rest of the spices through the cardamom, stirring often until paste begins to darken.

3. Add the chicken back to the pot, skin side up, the broth, and crushed tomato. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

4. Add potatoes and cook another 30-45 minutes, partially covered. When potatoes are fork tender and chicken is falling off the bone - it's done. The sauce should have thickened as well.

5. Remove the skin and bones from chicken add the yogurt. Stir and simmer for another 10 mins or so. Serve over basmati rice and a bunch of cilantro.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Four Layer Coffee Toffee Chocolate Cake

Ok people, look. You know I don't joke about desserts. I experiment with all kinds of cake recipes and usually bring them into work - to see what everyone thinks. I gotta say, my colleagues are very appreciative and always complimentary. But it's a captive audience. I mean, no matter how bad the cake (think 3 square feet of Stop & Shop sheet cake), cake tastes good when you're at work. We circle like vultures - no matter what it is! But I made this cake for a special occasion. My dear colleague Hilary was accepted into nursing school which called for a special chocolate cake. I found what seemed to be a good looking chocolate cake base recipe (via Smitten Kitchen) and added the frills. This is it. I don't just mean the recipe. This is THE chocolate cake. The one that I will always make from now on....make this.

*It must be noted - VERY CLEARLY - that this recipe is for TWO 10" cake pans. I accidentally made this with 9" pans and boy oh boy, 30 mins into baking I was baking a third cake on the bottom of my oven. Having tasted the batter before baking, and because I didn't want to ruin the surprise party the next day with a store bought cake, I was determined to save them. Took them out, cleaned the oven (while it was ON) and put them back in. Saved. Once you try this cake, you will understand why I almost singed off my new bangs...

Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 stick of butter, cut into 6-8 pieces
6 tbsp cream
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp water
1/4 tsp sea salt or kosher salt

Chocolate Cake
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 well shaken buttermilk
2/4 tsp vanilla

Ganache Frosting and Filling
1 lb 60% sweet chocolate chips
1 cup light cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces1 package of Heath Bar crunchies (available in baking section)

1. To make the caramel, melt sugar over medium heat in a saucepan, stirring if necessary to break up chunks. Once melted, it should be a copper color. Remove from heat, stir in butter then stir in cream, salt, honey, and water. Return to medium high heat until bubbling and a shade darker. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 300 and grease your (10 INCH!!) pans, line bottoms with parchment if you have it. Put the chocolate in a medium sized bowl and pour the hot coffee over it. Stir until melted. In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. In another bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs until thickened and lemon colored. Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture and beat until combined (watch out for the splash). Add sugar mixture (seriously watch out for the cocoa bomb that will fill your kitchen with a brown cloud if you're not careful - this ALSO happened to me while making this cake) and beat on medium until just combined. Divide batter between the two pans and bake for ~ 1 hr and 10 mins.

4. To make the ganache, bring the cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil in a saucepan and whisk in sugar until dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until melted. Add butter and whisk until smooth. Pour into a bowl or container and put in the fridge to firm up a bit.

When cake is done, set on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes and then remove cake from pans. When cool, you can assemble the cake. At this point, you can wrap the cake in plastic and put in the fridge overnight or in the freezer for longer. To save the caramel and ganache, just cover and put in fridge. Microwave on defrost for about 3 mins to soften them up when ready to use.

To assemble the cake, here's what you do. First, cut both cakes in half so that you have 4 layers. Place the layers on the counter, cut sides up. Put the first layer on your plate/cake stand, cut side up. Pour enough caramel sauce over the top so that you can spread it with a spoon and cover most of the surface. The caramel can (and should, a little) seep into the cake. Sprinkle with heath crunchies. On another cake layer, spread a thinnish layer of ganache on the cut side. Then put it on top of the first layer, chocolate side down - like a cake sandwich (!). Spread a thin layer of ganache on top of the cake and lay another layer of cake on top, cut side up. Repeat the caramel, heath crunchies, and then the fourth cake layer with ganache. Put the fourth layer on top, ganache side down. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the ganache.

You will thank me for this...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Chicken Cassoulet with Fennel and Sausage

A one pot wonder. We don't have many soup and stew days left, folks, so get it while you can. We fired up the grill last night which only means one thing - summer's on its way and soup will soon be a thing of the past. The great thing about this cassoulet from Food and Wine is that it's full of flavor with so little hassle. One of our recent favorites...

Four chicken legs, skin on
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, cored, 1/2 inch dice
1 carrot, 1/2 in dice
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp rosemary, minced
2 tsp thyme, minced
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450. Place chicken on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 mins. Remove from oven but keep the oven on.

2. In a dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the sausage and cook until nearly cooked through. Add the onion, fennel, carrot and cook until softened.

3. Add the garlic, rosemary, and thyme and cook for about 3 mins. Stir in the stock and beans and bring to a boil.

4. Nestle the chicken legs in the stew and sprinkle the panko and cheese over the top. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 25 mins until bubbling and the top is crisp.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spicy Eggy Fried Rice

Not sure if this is an egg dish or a rice dish, but it's YUMMY. This is adapted from a Food and Wine recipe called "Breakfast Fried Rice" - unless I was in Asia, not sure I'd have this for breakfast, but it makes a perfect lunch or dinner. I made this last week one night for a cheap and easy dinner and we'll probably have this a lot more in the future.

2 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup or so of leftover rice (use as much as you want to balance it out, make the meal bigger)
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 cups chopped kale
3 eggs, beaten
Salt & pepper
Sriracha or hot sauce

1. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and garlic. When hot, add the kale and saute until just wilted. Push to one side of the pan.

2. Add the rice, vinegar and soy sauce and heat through. Push to the side with the kale.

3. Add the remaining oil and green onions. Then add the eggs and scramble. When eggs are cooked, mix in the kale and rice until well combined. Serve with Sriracha.

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Harissa Chickpeas

Mmmm...harissa. My new favorite flavorizer. You can get a tube of harissa paste in nicer grocery store or spice shop - it's a nice, hot pepper/paprika flavor that warms up anything. I tried out this Bon Appetit recipe a couple of nights ago and it was really easy and so full of flavor. A great one pan meal.

3-4 bone-in, skin on, chicken thighs (only as many as you can fit in a pan with some space)
1 small onion, halved, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 can of chickpeas, drained
3 tbsp harissa paste
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Heat a bit of olive oil in an oven proof pan (cast iron works well for this) on medium high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pan, skin down. Cook until browned on each side, about 5 mins. per side. Transfer to a plate.

3. Pour off all but about 1 tbsp of fat from pan. Add onions and garlic and stir often until softened. Add tomato paste and continue to stir until mixed with onion and a little browned. Add the chickpeas and harissa. Continue to stir. Add the broth and scrape up brown bits from the pan. Bring to a simmer.

4. Nestle the chicken back into the pan and put in the oven for about 25 minutes or until cooked through. Sprinkle with parley and give it a squeeze of lemon to finish it off.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


We're on a bit of an appetizer kick here...yesterday was Valentine's Day and I went the extra mile on Paddy's favorite meal of Pasta Bolognese by adding a few small bites to get us started. Bruschetta is so simple and delicious and can really be an app, a snack, lunch, whatever. I always make a little extra tomato topping and save till the next day to have on top of chicken, or fish, a salad, etc.

1 baguette
1 container of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 bunch of basil
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, grated
2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

1. Warm the olive oil on medium low heat in a saucepan with the garlic. Let the garlic infuse the oil but be careful not to let it burn.

2. Add the tomatoes to a bowl and pour the oil over them. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper.

3. Slice the baguette into thin slices and arrange on a baking sheet. Broil until lightly toasted, turn over and toast the other side.

4. Add the basil to the tomato mixture and mix well. Pile on top of the toasts and away you go!

Fried Calamari

Calamari is one of the most over priced menu items out there in restaurants. Did you know that? It's so cheap they should be giving it away for free. And in fact, Siobhan - the owner of our favorite North End restaurant, Pomodoro, does. When you least expect it, she comes by with a big plate of fried calamari to wet your appetite. For years we thought it was because we were regulars, or because Paddy's Irish (and so is she), or maybe we were just special? But no, it's because it's so stinkin cheap - what better way to butter up your customers? Genius. And when I say cheap, I mean enough for two will run you about $2.00 at the seafood counter in your local grocery store. Cheap enough that my dad uses it for bait.

But there is a small it so cheap because it's not calamari? Not calamari you say? What else would it be? Well...check out this episode of This American Life (Episode 484: Dopplegangers) featuring my friend Seth who I studied with in Mali. Just beware of the fake stuff, friends. (And if you don't regularly listen to This American Life - you really need to start now.)

Oh, and when it is real and you're smart enough to make it at home, it couldn't be easier:

For 2 people:
4-5 Calamari bodies, sliced into 1/2 or 3/4 inch strips
1 cup of flour
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil - enough to submerge the calamari when frying

1. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.
2. Rinse and gently pat the calamari dry/ish
3. Dredge the calamari in the flour and shake free the extra
4. Drop in the oil and fry for about 1 minute or until golden brown.
5. Remove from oil with a spider or slotted spoon and drain on a plate with paper towel. Serve immediately with tomato sauce.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Spicy Turkey Burgers

I don't know about you, but when I think of turkey burgers I think of hockey pucks. Or sawdust? Let's just say I usually go for the juicy, grease-dripping beef version. Until now. This turkey burger recipe is out of this world (actually out of Joanne Chang's Flour Too cookbook). I can't get enough of her...or these burgers. This makes 4 - double it and put half in the freezer and have the others during the week over a salad. You won't be disappointed. The tomato-onion jam by the way, is optional but highly recommended. You'll use all of it, but even if you didn't, there's a million things you could do with it. Also - do not substitute the fresh breadcrumbs for that store bought stuff...remember how I mentioned saw dust...?

Tomato Onion Jam
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, in 1/2-inch slices
1 lb plum tomatoes, halved, pulp and seeds removed, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Generous amount of salt and pepper

Turkey Burgers
3 slices of white break (I used a bun and a half from the buns I bought for this)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground turkey
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 minced chipotle chile (I keep these in a jar in my fridge - you open the can, use one and then what? Add them to soups, use to marinate chicken, in chili...etc)
1 egg
3 tbsp chopped basil
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350.
1. To make the jam, heat oil in a saucepan, add the onion and tomatoes and cook for 30-40 mins, stirring occasionally until it's thickened. Add salt, pepper, pepper flakes and stir until mixed. Let cool.

2. In a food processor (or with your hands), process the bread until it turns to crumbs.

3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium. Add onion and cook until softened, add the garlic and cook for another 2 mins.

4. In a large bowl, add the turkey, cooked onions and garlic, the mustard through the salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix until well incorporated. Form the burgers - make them as thin as possible without breaking them (and so that you can get them into the pan).

5. Heat your skillet and add some olive oil. Cook the burgers about 3 minutes per side - only turning once, when they're browned a bit. Transfer to a baking sheet and pop in the oven for about 20 minutes (depending on thickness) - internal temp should be at least 165.

Serve on a roll with the tomato jam.

Spicy Pork with Asparagus

Have I mentioned that we have a Thai restaurant around the corner from our house? It's like a ski lodge in the way that it pumps out delicious smells from its fan in the back - luring in people off the street who weren't even hungry in the first place. It blows directly at our house. On summer nights while we sit on the balcony having a beer, our mouths water and inevitably conversation turns to spring rolls and pad thai. In the winter, if the wind's blowing the right direction, I catch a whiff just before I turn the key in the door. But we don't order in too often, and usually because making it at home is more delicious, much cheaper...and we know what's in it (healthier and less scary). This is not a Thai recipe but the next time you get a hankering for Chinese take-out or something of the sort, make this instead. Your taste buds (and bowels) will thank you.

3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
2 tsp cornstarch
~12 oz ground pork (you can use varied amounts, this week I happened to have 1/2 lb in the freezer which worked just fine)
3 tsp sesame oil
1 handful of asparagus (whatever is rubberbanded together at the store), trimmed and cut on diagonal into 1/2 pieces
1 jalapeno, minced with seeds (if you're afraid of spicy, go easy on the seeds)
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp honey
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Soft boiled or poached eggs (optional)

1. Whisk 1 tbsp soy, rice wine, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add pork, toss to blend.

2. Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok or large/deep skillet over high heat (yes - HIGH. Don't be shy, this is why they call it stir fry. If you go for less, you'll end up with smushy veggies and pork without the brown caramel bits). Add asparagus, jalapeno and ginger. Toss until crisp-tender (about 3 mins). Boil water and add your eggs. Cook for 6-7 mins.

3. Remove the asparagus and place in a bowl, leaving the oil/ginger in the pan. Add the remaining oil and add the pork. Stir fry until browned and cooked through, breaking up the chunks.

4. Return the asparagus to the pan, add the remaining soy, oyster sauce, honey and green onions and stir until well combined.

Serve over white jasmine rice. I happened to have some leftover white rice in the fridge which I just threw in at the end and mixed with everything else.