Chocolate Extremes

A very rich and chocolatey cookie from The NY Times. Perfect for Valentine’s Day! I think it is one of the best cookies.  A perfect combination of chocolates and pecans. I made 33 cookies of my usual size and look forward to sharing them with friends and neighbors.

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona, finely chopped, plus 6 ounces cut into 1/2inch chunks, or any other kind of chocolate, I used milk chocolate chips

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon brewed espresso

2 large eggs, at room temperature

7 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

7 tablespoons sifted cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups coarsely chopped pecans.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, combine the finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, butter and espresso. Stir occasionally until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine eggs and sugar and whip until the mixture is light in color and increases substantially in volume, about 10 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. Stir in the melted chocolate. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder and fold them into the chocolate mixture until just combined. Fold in the pecans and chocolate chunks. Line two-three cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto the paper, leaving about 2 inches between each. Bake until the cookies are slightly puffed and cracked on the outside but gooey inside, about 10 to 14 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheets.

Puttanesca Sauce for Pasta

Originally from The New Basics cookbook by the Silver Palate gals-via alexandracooks which is a wonderful blog and her cookbook Bread, Toast, Crumbs is also great. This is the fastest sauce to make and I had all of the ingredients in my pantry. The recipe does not call to add cheese, but I added some freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 can (2 oz.) anchovy fillets, undrained
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 28-oz can San Marzano plum tomatoes
1 jar (2 1/2 oz) or 1/4 cup capers, drained
1/2 cup black or kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 lb. pasta — shapes like campanelle and orecchiette catch all of those yummy bites of capers and olives, but use what you like

Place all ingredients with the exception of the pasta in large pot or wide-mouthed sauté pans. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every so often — you need something like a potato masher or flat-bottomed whisk or wooden spoon to gently crush the tomatoes as well as the garlic cloves every so often. The anchovies dissolve on their own, but the tomatoes and garlic need assistance.
Boil pasta — no need to salt the water — drain, and toss with sauce.

Tangy Brisket with Fennel and Herbs

A delightful new brisket recipe from Alison Roman via Bon Appetit. I tried this with a half of a brisket and made the full sauce and vegetable mixture. I will make it with a whole brisket next time as the meat is delicious and can be used in tacos or sandwiches or soups. I was a little concerned about the thick fat cap that my brisket had but it crisps up in the last hour of cooking and is perfection!

1 4–5-lb. piece untrimmed flat-cut beef brisket
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 medium onion, cut through root end into 1″-thick wedges
1 large fennel bulb, cut through root end into 1″-thick wedges
3 celery stalks, cut into 2″ pieces, plus 1 cup leaves
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
½ bunch thyme, oregano, or marjoram
¾ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
2 cups mixed tender herbs (such as parsley, mint, and/or cilantro)
½ lemon
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Flaky sea salt
Preheat oven to 300°. Season brisket on all sides with kosher salt (about 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton per lb.) and pepper and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Chill, uncovered, at least 12 hours and up to 2 days.

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Cook brisket, fatty side down, until deeply browned (it might be snug at first, but the meat will shrink as it cooks), 10–12 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side is deeply browned, 8–10 minutes. Turn onto edges and brown (this isn’t necessary, but it will add more flavor). Transfer to a platter.

Pour off fat in pot; discard. Pour remaining 2 Tbsp. oil into pot; set over medium-high heat. Add onion and season with kosher salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown and frizzle around the edges, about 3 minutes.

Add fennel, celery, garlic, and thyme and toss to coat; season with kosher salt and pepper. Add vinegar, soy sauce, and 4 cups water. Place brisket in pot, arranging fatty side up; it should be submerged. (Use tongs to work it in there. If anything has to poke out of the liquid, let it be the vegetables.) Bring to a simmer, then cover and slide into the oven. Braise (without peeking) 3 hours. Check brisket; it should be very tender (the tip of a knife should easily pierce meat). If not, braise another 20 minutes or so and check again.

Uncover brisket and increase oven temperature to 425°. Roast until liquid is reduced by three-fourths and top of brisket is crisp and deeply browned (it should be extremely tender), 50–60 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a cutting board. Slice with a serrated knife or shred with your hands. Skim fat from surface of braising liquid.

Just before meat is done, place tender herbs and celery leaves in a small bowl; squeeze some juice from lemon over and toss to coat.

Arrange meat on a platter. Spoon vegetables and braising liquid in pot around meat and top with herb salad. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired, and sea salt.

Do Ahead: Brisket can be braised (but not roasted) 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Uncover and remove fat from surface. Continue with roasting process before serving.

Nutty Seedy Breakfast Cookies

From the new Pastry Love cookbook by the amazing JoAnne Chang.There are a lot of ingredients that you may need to go to the health food store for but it will be worth it! The batter needs to be chilled at least a half an hour and this is a cookie that you should make every other day as the recipe says the cookies only hold for 2 days. Every recipe I have made from Pastry Love has been excellent and I highly recommend this book if you enjoy baking!

3/4 c. /90 grams walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup /2 sticks/225 grams unsalted butter
1/2 c./170 grams maple syrup
1 t. pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ripe banana, thoroughly mashed (about 1/2 c./100 grams)
3/4 c./100 grams raw unsalted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
3/4 c./40 grams flaked coconut
1/2 c./raw shelled sunflower seeds
1/2 c./50 grams flaxseeds
1/4 c./50 grams millet
1 1/2 c./150 grams rolled oats
1 c./120 grams dried cranberries
2/3 c./100 grams whole wheat flour
1/2 c./100 grams dried cherries
1 t. baking soda
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in center of oven. Place walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 6-9 minutes, until light golden brown and fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Melt butter and place it in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in maple syrup and vanilla until well combined. Whisk in the eggs and banana until the mixture is totally homogeneous. The banana needs to be completely mashed so it whisks in smoothly.
In a large bowl, stir together the pipits, coconut, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and millet. Remove 1/2 c./50 grams of the mixture and set aside for topping the cookies. Add the walnuts, oats, cranberries, flour, cherries, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg to the bowl and stir well to combine. Make a well in the center and pour in the butter mixture. Stir well to combine. The dough will be more like a soft batter than a stiff cookie dough. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight to allow the grains to absorb the liquid and firm up the batter.
When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or butter it.
Wet your hands and use them to scoop 1/4 c. of the dough from the bowl. Roll into a rough ball and dip the top into the reserved seed mixture and place it seed side up on the baking sheet. Press the cookies down with your hand to flatten. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway through the baking time.Bake until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and firm when you press the middle. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet on a wire rack.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Chicken Pot Pie with Chive Biscuits

I have been following Diane Morrisey on Instagram for at least a year and love so many of her recipes. This is a great one. You can make it ahead up until reheating the chicken mixture in the oven and then making the biscuits and finish cooking it. I used leftover chicken from a whole chicken that I had roasted and made the stock from the carcass and added some vegetables. I did not have all of the herbs or peas but used what I had. A great recipe!

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 onion chopped
3 carrots chopped
3 celery stalks chopped
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 package biscuits
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Preheat oven to 400°.
In a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, heat oil and add garlic, onions, carrots and celery. Stir with a wooden spoon until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Add flour and continuously whisk until well incorporated. Slowly whisk in broth and heavy cream until mixture is smooth. Add the fresh herbs.
Add chicken and bring to a boil; simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in peas. Smooth out and bake in 400F oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place biscuits down along rim of the pan.
Bake until biscuits are golden brown and filling is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes
Buttermilk Chive Biscuits
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 stick cold butter diced
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped chives
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the buttermilk and combine on low speed. Mix in the chives. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out 10 circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter.

Dried Fruit Scone

From King Arthur Flour-one of my favorite companies and resources. I use their organic all purpose flour and lots of their baking products-like sparkling sugar. I used dried orange peel and dried pineapple. I did not freeze the scones before baking but refrigerated them for 30 minutes.

2 3/4 cups (326g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour
1/3 cup (67g) sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (113g) cold butter
1 cup to 2 cups chopped dried fruit, chocolate or other flavored chips, nuts, or a combination, optional
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or the flavoring, of your choice
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup (113g to 152g) half-and-half or milk

2 teaspoons milk
2 tablespoons sparkling white sugar or cinnamon sugar, optional

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it’s OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated.

Stir in the fruit, chips, and/or nuts, if you’re using them.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla or other flavor, and half and half or milk.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.

Line a baking sheet with parchment; if you don’t have parchment, just use it without greasing it. Sprinkle a bit of flour atop the parchment or pan.

Scrape the dough onto the floured parchment or pan, and divide it in half. Round each half into a 5″ circle (if you haven’t incorporated any add-ins); or a 6″ circle (if you’ve added fruit, nuts, etc.). The circles should be about 3/4″ thick.

Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar or cinnamon sugar, if desired.

Using a knife or bench knife that you’ve run under cold water, slice each circle into 6 wedges.

Carefully pull the wedges away from the center to separate them just a bit; there should be about 1/2″ space between them, at their outer edges.

For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Chilling the scones relaxes the gluten in the flour, which makes the scones more tender and allows them to rise higher. It also chills the fat, which will make the scones a bit flakier. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the upper third.

Bake the scones in the upper part of your oven for 18 to 23 minutes, or until they’re a light golden brown. When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the way through; the edge shouldn’t look wet or unbaked.

Almond and Cardamom Tea Cake

From the wonderful Samin Nosrat’s book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. A treasure trove of fabulous recipes that you will use forever! I have several other almond cake recipes on my blog but my husband just proclaimed this cake as ‘the best cake I have ever made’!! We have been together for 40 years and I bake a lot, so I am extremely pleased to hear that comment. I made this cake in a 9″ springform because I was afraid a 9″ cake pan would not have been deep enough. It also made it easy to invert the cake with the almonds on top, without having to heat the pan on the burner etc. (see last instructions of recipe). If using a springform pan, I suggest either putting it on a sheet pan to bake or cover the bottom of the pan with foil incase any of the butter topping leaks out!

Almond topping
4 T. butter
3 T. sugar
1 scant cup sliced almonds, (3 oz.)
pinch of flaky sea salt
1 c. (5 1/2 oz.) cake flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. kosher salt or 1/2 t. fine sea salt
1 t. vanilla extract
2 1/2 t. ground cardamom
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 c. almond paste (9 1/2 oz-**I use Solo Almond Paste that I buy from Amazon-8 oz.)
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
8 oz. unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set rack in upper third of the oven. Butter and flour a 9″ by 2″ round cake pan, line with parchment.
Make almond topping. In a small saucepan set over medium high heat, cook the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, until the sugar dissolves completely and the butter bubbles and froths. Remove from the heat and stir in the sliced almonds and flaky salt. Pour mixture into the cake pan and spread evenly across the bottom of the pan.
For the cake, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together to evenly combine and remove any lumps. Set aside.
In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk the eggs, vanilla and cardamom together. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the almond paste to break it up. Add the sugar and process for a minute or two until the mixture is as fine as sand. Add the butter cubes and process until light and fluffy-2 minutes at least. Scrape the sides of the bowl, as needed. With the processor running, add the eggs slowly, mixing well after each addition. (I found it helpful to pour my egg mixture from my measuring cup). When all of the egg mixture is added, transfer mixture to a large bowl. Fold the dry ingredients in in three additions. Avoid overmixing.
Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 55-60 minutes. The cake will start to pull away from the sides of the pan as it’s done. Cool on a wire rack. Run a knife around the sides of the pan and then warm the bottom of the pan directly over the stovetop for a few seconds to encourage the cake to unmold.
Serve on its own or with berry or stone fruit compote or whipped cream.
Cake will keep 4 days at room temperature or 2 months in the freezer!

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

This recipe is so easy and fresh from Nigella Lawson. My husband ate it on a sandwich and I had it as a salad adding arugula, beets and cucumbers. I did not have cabbage so I used iceberg lettuce. I also added a little soy sauce to the dressing and some cilantro.
Serves: 2-4

1 hot thai chilli (seeded and minced)
1 fat clove garlic (peeled and minced)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons lime juice
1½ tablespoons thai fish sauce (nam pla) (or nuoc nam)
1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
½ medium onion (finely sliced)
black pepper
200 grams shredded white cabbage
1 medium carrot (shredded or grated)
200 grams cooked chicken breasts (shredded or cut into fine slices)
1 fat bunch of mint (about 40g / 1½ cups leaves) finely chopped

In a bowl, combine the chilli, garlic, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, oil, onion and black pepper to taste. Put to one side for half an hour.
Then in a big plate or bowl, mix the cabbage, carrot, chicken and mint.
Pour over the onion-soused, chilli-flecked dressing and toss very well – slowly and patiently – so that everything is combined and covered thinly.
Taste to see if you need salt or pepper.
Serve on a flat plate with maybe a bit more mint chopped on top.

Julia Child’s French Onion Soup

From Mastering The Art of French Cooking, which my father gave me in 1982! This soup is an all time favorite-especially when it is snowing and cold outside! It takes time to caramelize the onions but it is well worth it!

2.5# yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 T. olive oil
3 T. butter
1 t. salt
1/2 t. sugar
3 T. flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, beef stock or combination
1 c. dry white wine
salt and pepper
3 T. cognac
rounds of toasted French bread or croutons,bake at 325 degree oven for 30 minutes.
1-2 c. grated Parmesan and or Swiss cheese

Melt oil and butter in a heavy bottomed covered saucepan over medium low to medium heat and add onions. Stir well until evenly coated with the oil/butter mixture. Cook onions slowly for 20 minutes.
Uncover and raise heat to moderate and stir in salt and sugar. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring often, until the onion have turned a deep, golden brown. This is the most important step in the whole recipe so be patient-it may take longer to get the deep golden brown color! I cooked my onions an extra 20 minutes.
Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.
Slowly whisk in the wine and boiling stock/liquid, scraping up all of the browned bits. Season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes. Set aside uncovered until ready to serve. Reheat to a simmer.
Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Pour into a soup tureen or soup bowls over the rounds of bread and pass the cheese separately.

Afternoon Holiday Cheer

My friend Laurie Smith and I have been getting together for champagne and Christmas celebration for years and it is always a special time. I love making the food for a late afternoon celebration.

Smoked salmon deviled eggs garnished with salmon roe
Tuna mousse and crostini
Caviar with creme fraîche and toast
Caviar with Potato Chips and Lemon Cream
Langres cheese with artisan crackers
Champagne of your choice-I love Taittinger!

Holiday cheer

Smoked Salmon deviled eggs garnished with salmon roe

Caviar secret
I love caviar and discovered that Costco has a seasonal sale of Plaza de Caviar’s farmed Bulgarian Osetra Sturgeon caviar that is delicious! Watch for it in November or December and stock up. I usually buy the package of three and it has a shelf life of at least a month, unopened of course, but often longer.

Tuna Mousse from Food and Wine
One 6-ounce can Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, 3 tablespoons heavy cream
In a food processor, combine the tuna with the vinegar, lemon juice and soy sauce. Add the butter and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cream and pulse to blend. Scrape into a bowl and serve.

Caviar with Potato Chips and Lemon Cream

¼ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
¾ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
4 ounces Salmon roe or other caviar
Potato chips
In a small bowl, whisk together crème fraîche and zest. Top each potato chip with a small dollop of crème fraîche and a spoonful of caviar.

Langres cheese

This cheese was new to me and I discovered it at Trader Joe’s. It is made in France in the Champagne region and has an orange rind on the outside with an indentation in the top. The tradition (according to TJ’s) is to make a vertical slit in the indentation and fill it with champagne! We let it settle and the cheese poofed into luxurious smoothness and was delicious!