Ruth Reich’s Giant Chocolate Cake

From the former editor of Gourmet Magazine, this is a easy, moist cake to make for a crowd. I do think you need to double the frosting recipe to really cover the whole cake. I cut one of the rectangle cakes in half and frosted it for a group of twelve and there was plenty. It is a rich cake! The cake freezes well unfrosted. The cream cheese in the frosting is a delicious combination. Picture coming soon!

1 ⅛ cups/100 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process), plus more for dusting the pans
¾ cup/175 milliliters whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons/7 1/2 milliliters vanilla
3 cups/375 grams flour
2 teaspoons/10 grams baking soda
1 ½ cups/340 grams (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups/356 grams dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups/300 grams granulated sugar
6 eggs

5 ounces/143 grams unsweetened chocolate
¾ cups/170 grams (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup/225 grams whipped cream cheese, or whip in mixer before adding butter
1 teaspoon/5 milliliters vanilla
2 ½ cups/312 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two large rectangular baking pans (13 by 9 by 2 inches) and line them with waxed or parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pans with cocoa (you could use flour, but cocoa adds color and flavor).
Measure the cocoa powder into a bowl, and whisk in 1 1/2 cups of boiling water until it is smooth, dark and so glossy it reminds you of chocolate pudding. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Put the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat in the sugars until it is light, fluffy and the color of coffee with cream (about 5 minutes). One at a time, add the eggs, beating for about 20 seconds after each before adding the next. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches and the cocoa mixture in 2, alternating flour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour.
Pour half of the batter into each pan and smooth the tops. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the pans rest on cooling racks for 2 minutes, then turn the cakes onto racks to cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting: Chop the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler. Let it cool so that you can comfortably put your finger in it. While it’s cooling, mix the butter with the whipped cream cheese. Add the chocolate, the vanilla and a dash of salt, and mix in the confectioners’ sugar until it looks like frosting, at least 5 minutes. Assemble the cake, spreading about a third of the frosting on one of the cooled layers, then putting the second layer on top and frosting the assembled cake


Simple Almond Pistachio Cake

From Food 52, a super light, chewy cake that has a wonderful flavor from the cardamom. I used my regular extra virgin olive oil instead of my extra light and I think it is fine. This cake is delicious with a cup of tea or coffee any time of day!

Makes one 9″ cake
50 grams (1/2 cup) shelled pistachios
50 grams (1/2 cup) almond flour
100 grams (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 eggs
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
120 milliliters (1/2 cup) good-quality olive oil
113 grams (1/2 cup, 1 stick) lightly salted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9″ cake pan (or spring form pan) with parchment paper, lightly grease the pan, and dust it with sugar, tapping out the excess sugar. In a food processor, pulse together the pistachios until they’re fairly finely ground, but make sure not to pulse too much or they’ll become a paste. Add the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and cardamom to the ground pistachios and pulse until everything is combined. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until very thick and light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the egg/sugar mixture, beating as you go. Once combined, keep the mixer running on low and drizzle in the melted butter (if you don’t have salted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt with the butter). Beat until the mixture comes together, but don’t overmix as you want to keep as much air in the batter as possible. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet, taking care not to deflate the batter as much as possible. Once combined, pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 45-55 minutes, or until the sides of the cake turn golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Let the cake cool completely in the pan before turning it out onto a rack to slice.

Fusilli alla Vodka

From Jon and Vinny’s in LA, via Bon Appetit! I love that this recipe is based on tomato paste rather than a lot of canned tomatoes. The sauce is like velvet. This recipe is very simple and easy to make.

¼ cup olive oil
½ shallot, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
½ cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons vodka
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 pound fusilli
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until paste is brick red and starts to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add vodka and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add cream and red pepper flakes and stir until well blended. Season with salt and pepper; remove from heat.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Add pasta to skillet with sauce along with butter and ½ cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until butter has melted and a thick, glossy sauce has formed, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add 1 oz. Parmesan, tossing to coat. Divide pasta among bowls, then top with basil and more Parmesan.
Do Ahead: Vodka sauce can be made 5 days ahead; cover and chill.

Mongolian Pork Chops

From the wonderful Mustards Grill in Napa and their fabulous cookbook, Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook. My girlfriend Laurie Smith photographed this beautiful cookbook and it is full of great recipes. I found the perfect center cut bone in pork chops at Trader Joes. I used a half recipe for our two pork chops. I have never cooked a better pork chop-it was perfection! I served this with braised red cabbage, mashed potatoes and a wonderful mustard sauce, all from the same cookbook!

6 (10-ounce) center-cut double pork chops
Mongolian Marinade
1 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
11/2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce 11/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar 11/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 scallion, white and two-thirds of the green parts, minced 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
11/2 teaspoons Lee Kum Kee black bean chile sauce 11/2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
11/2 tablespoons minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, minced 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Trim the excess meat and fat away from the ends of the chop bones, leaving them exposed. Put the pork chops in a clean plastic bag and lightly sprinkle with water to prevent the meat from tearing when pounded. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, pound the meat down to an even 1-inch thickness, being careful not to hit the bones. Alternatively, have your butcher cut thinner chops and serve 2 per serving. To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Coat the pork chops liberally with the marinade and marinate for 3 hours and up to overnight in the refrigerator.
Place the chops on the grill and grill for 5 minutes on each side, rotating them a quarter turn after 2 to 3 minutes on each side to produce nice crosshatch marks. It’s good to baste with some of the marinade as the meat cooks. As with all marinated meats, you want to go longer and slower on the grill versus shorter and hotter, because if the marinated meat is charred, it may turn bitter. The pork is ready when it registers 139° on an instant-read thermometer.

Elizabeth Minchilli’s Puttanesca

From one of my favorite bloggers, this pasta comes together in the time it takes the pasta to cook. It is so simple and delicious! If you don’t like spice, you can make it without the red pepper paste but I am crazy about it! I am so excited to have a new favorite condiment!

Penne or pasta of choice
2 sliced cloves of garlic
4 fantastic anchovies (see photo)
1 t. red pepper sauce (preserved red peppers in olive oil-see photo-I ordered from Amazon)
sliced olives, pits removed
reserve 1 c of pasta water
extra virgin olive oil
parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta according to the directions and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. In a hot pan, add olive oil and saute garlic, add the red pepper paste and then add anchovies and they will melt. Turn off heat-the sauce is done. Add olives and stir in. Add drained pasta and stir well, add pasta water and cook until the water boils off. Add a little extra virgin olive oil (you can use new oil for flavor) and a handful of chopped parsley.

Orange and Star Anise Shortbread

This is an amazing cookie from the new book Sweets by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. The book is great, however, there are a lot of errors in many of the recipes and they finally have released a list online of all of the corrections . Not only does this shortbread have great flavor but it has wonderful texture which I think is from using the Italian “00: flour and white rice flour.

2 1/2 c./360 g Italian “00” flour
1/2 c. plus 1 T/70 g white grainy rice flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill brand
3/4 c. plus 1 1/2 T/165 g granulated sugar
1/8 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. ground star anise (3 whole star anise, ground in a spice grinder and passed through a fine siev
1 t. flaky sea salt
finely grated zest of 1 large orange (1 T)
scraped seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
1 c. plus 1 1/2 T./250 grams butter, cold and cut into 3/4″ cube
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Sift both flours, the sugar, baking powder and ground star anise into a large mixing bowl, Add the salt, orange zest and vanilla seeds and mix to combine. Add the butter and use the tips of your fingers to rub it into the dry mixture until there are no large bits butter and the consistency is that of breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix gradually using your hands or a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Shape into a rectangle and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour to firm up.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Cut dough in half and roll out one half on a lightly floured work surface until is just under 1/4″ thick. Using a 3″ cookie cutter, cut out the cookies. Reroll scraps to cut out more cookies.
Bake 16-17 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking. They should be golden brown on the edges and lightly golden in the center. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Nancy’s Chopped Salad

From Nancy Silverton’s Mozza Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen blog. This vinaigrette makes the salad and you can find the wonderful Sicilian oregano that is so full of flavor at Amazon. Today, I varied the ingredients and it is always delicious. Iceberg is a must as it has the perfect crunch. There are endless possibilities of combinations of vegetables and meats and cheese. I used a finocchio salami that was really delicious. For two of us, I just prep the amount of ingredients that I think we will eat so you can plan accordingly.

Oregano dressing
4 cloves garlic (I use 2 as I don’t want it too strong)
1 to 2 tablespoons dried oregano (Nancy recommends 2; I got nervous and used 1, but might not have minded more)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil, ideally extra-virgin

Salad and assembly
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into paper-thin rings
1/2 pound provolone (see Note about varieties), sliced 1/8-inch thick then cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
1/2 pound salami, peeled, sliced 1/8-inch thick then cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
4 medium or 8 small pickled pepperoncini, sliced into rings
3/4 pound cherry tomatoes
Sea salt
1 head iceberg lettuce (see Note about size), halved, cored, and cut in 1/2-inch ribbons
1 head radicchio, halved, cored and cut in 1/4-inch ribbons
2 tablespoons dried oregano for garnish (optional)

Make dressing: Roughly chop the garlic and then add the oregano, salt and up to 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper. Chop the mixture together and use the side of a knife or a mortar and pestle to make a grainy herb paste. Transfer the paste to a large salad bowl, and add the lemon juice and vinegar. Mix with a fork allowing the salt to dissolve, then add the oil and whisk with a fork until well combined. The dressing should be thick with garlic and oregano. If you’re using a small head of iceberg, transfer 1/3 the dressing into a small bowl to be used only if needed. For a larger head of iceberg, you’ll want it all.

Assemble salad: Gently fold the chickpeas, red onion, provolone, salami, pepperoncini (including seeds and juice) into the dressing, one at a time. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt. Set aside until ready to serve.

To serve: When ready to serve, gently add the tomatoes, lettuce and radicchio to the salad bowl, along with a couple of generous pinches of oregano, and toss to combine with the dressing. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding any reserved dressing if needed. Serve immediately.

Vietnamese Braised Baby Back Ribs

From The New York Times by David Tanis. Wonderful flavors in the super tender ribs.

2 medium shallots, finely chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layer removed, lightly smashed and very finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as Red Boat)
1 tablespoon hot chile paste (such as sambal oelek)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon grated garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped or grated ginger
3 to 4 pounds baby back ribs
4 scallions, slivered or chopped, for garnish
Cilantro and mint sprigs, for garnish

Make the marinade: In a small bowl, put the shallots, lemongrass, soy sauce, fish sauce, chile paste, salt, sugar, five-spice powder, garlic and ginger. Mix well.
Put the meat in a deep baking dish or roasting pan and add marinade. Using your hands, coat ribs well. Let marinate, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight, well wrapped. Bring back to room temperature before proceeding.
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Add 2 cups water to the pan, cover tightly with foil and place pan in oven. Cook for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees for 1 hour more. When done, the meat should be very tender, nearly but not quite falling off the bone. Remove cover and return to the oven for about 15 minutes until the ribs are nicely browned.
Remove ribs from pan. Pour pan juices into a saucepan and skim fat. Reduce over high heat until somewhat thickened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, divide ribs with a sharp knife and pile them onto a platter.
Serve family style with steamed rice and pan juices. Garnish with scallions, cilantro and mint sprigs.

Hillstone Cole Slaw with Ding’s Pickle Relish

We love to eat at Hillstone and my husband is especially fond of their cole slaw. They quietly sell the special Ding’s relish that goes into the dressing. There are so many great flavors in this dressing. I used one batch of dressing for a half of head of savoy cabbage and it was perfect.

⅓ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons drained pickle relish
1 tablespoon buttermilk
2 teaspoons drained prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2½ cups finely shredded green cabbage
1 cup finely shredded savoy cabbage
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup finely chopped scallion greens

Whisk mayonnaise, relish, buttermilk, horseradish, mustard, vinegar, and sugar in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add green and savoy cabbages, parsley, and scallion greens and toss to coat. Taste and season again with salt and pepper.

Creamed Turkey and Sausage with Sweet Potato Biscuits

From the NY Times wonderful chef, David Tanis.I made this with leftover frozen turkey from Thanksgiving and I am not sure that I liked the turkey in there again unless it was fresh. Chicken would be delicious too. I think I would add an extra 1/4# of sausage too. The sweet potato biscuits were wonderful! I bake my sweet potatoes in a cold oven, turn up to 425 degrees (after pricking each with a fork a few times) right on the oven shelf for 45 minutes-1 hour, depending on size. Turn off the oven and leave for 30 minutes-perfect every time!

4 ounces sausage meat, preferably breakfast sausage or sweet Italian sausage
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk, more as needed
1 cup leftover gravy or 3/4 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne
2 cups diced cooked turkey meat
2 cups/260 grams all-purpose flour, more as needed
2 teaspoons/6 grams baking powder
½ teaspoon /1 1/2 grams baking soda
1 teaspoon/3 grams kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup mashed sweet potato
½ cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, cook sausage meat, breaking it into small crumbly pieces as it browns. Pour off any rendered fat. Add butter and diced onion and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle mixture with flour and stir to combine.
Add milk 1/2 cup at a time, stirring vigilantly as the sauce thickens. Reduce heat if sauce is bubbling too rapidly. Whisk in gravy or broth and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Fold in turkey meat and heat through. Keep warm.
Make the biscuit dough: Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Add butter and work it into the dry mixture with fingers until mixture resembles wet sand. Beat sweet potato and buttermilk together and stir into flour mixture. Mix briefly just enough to incorporate to make a soft dough.
Transfer dough to a work surface and dust lightly with flour. Knead for 1 minute, then pat or roll dough to a 1 1/2-inch thickness. Use a floured biscuit cutter or water glass to cut 10 to 12 rounds from the dough. (Or simply use a sharp knife to cut dough into 2-inch squares or diamonds.) Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden.
To serve, split a warm biscuit and spoon saucy turkey over it.