Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Just in the Nick of Time

Ironically, while I cannot for the life of me come up with appropriate treats for Valentine's Day, the day when you express your love in the form of exquisitely decorated baked goods, I seem quite competent at it for Halloween, the day when you celebrate ghosts and witches and other possibly dead (or undead) things.  I don't really know what that says about me, but it can't be good.  In the past I've made Halloween sugar cookies but this year I needed to simplify.  I also needed to use up yogurt. So just in the nick of time, with a mere two days to go before Halloween and not a whole lot longer before the yogurt's expiration date (I know, I know, yogurt is immortal), I pulled together this happy chocolate cake.

The recipe for the chocolate cake part is here.  You're best off finding your own icing, because I winged it, trying to use up cream cheese and heavy cream.  I often go to Martha Stewart for things like that because her recipes usually work.

So here's your set of directions for a fast last minute Halloween cake:
1. Bake the cake.  Be very careful taking it out of the pan.  It sticks.  Also, it will stick to whatever you place it on once you remove it, so choose well.
2. While the cake is baking, whip up your icing.  You could even use canned. I won't tell.  Then add your food coloring.  My box of poison food coloring had very nice instructions on how many drops to add to make orange.
3. I make my life easier by frosting only the middle and top.  So basically I put the bottom of the cake on a plate, then slather on half the frosting, then press the next layer gently on top and slather on the other half of the frosting.  It's cool with this cake, because then you can see the layer of orange in between the dark brown cake layers and it looks more Halloween-y (shut up, it's a word) than just frosting the whole thing in orange.
4. Grab a few squares of chocolate.  I used 3 squares of Ghiradelli 60% cacao because that's all I had.  Use whatever you like.  Microwave it for 30 seconds, stir, check for melting.  Repeat until your chocolate is melted.
5. With a steady hand and a spoon, carefully draw a jack o' lantern on the orange surface.  Pumpkin lines are optional.
6. EAT.  Because of course, it's not like you'll have a slew of candy to contend with in the next few days or anything.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


It is entirely possible that my brains have been eaten by zombies.  It is awfully close to Thanksgiving * Halloween, after all and I'm told that creatures of the night are fond of the holiday.+ Unfortunately, this means that I am completely lacking adequate ability to describe food.  So I'll keep it simple.  I saw this recipe for a miso sweet potato broccoli bowl on SmittenKitchen and thought "that looks tasty".  But far more importantly, I thought, "that looks easy."  This is probably the driving force behind all of my cooking right now.  Easy.  So I gathered the necessary ingredients (I got the miso paste - the hardest to find ingredient, at Whole Foods), whirred some stuff up in a food processor, roasted some stuff up in the oven, pressed start on my rice cooker and warmed some beans in a skillet and then dumped it in the bowl.  And then I tasted it.  It is so incredibly delicious, roasty and sweet and salty with a bit of crunch. I want it all the time.  Always.  I am Sam I Am.  It is my Green Eggs and Ham.  (At the end of the book, when he's eating it every where.  With a fox. In a box.  You get the idea.)  Yum.

*I really did type Thanksgiving.  I thought I'd leave it so you could see exactly how brainless I am.
+I'm sure that there are some zombie/werewolf/vampire zealots out there that know all possible rules pertaining to these imaginary baddies who would love to advise me why I'm wrong in associating them with Halloween, but while I may have been kidding about the zombies eating my brains, I am certainly not kidding about my current mental capacity.

Recipe on Smitten Kitchen

My notes:
1. I made brown rice in my rice cooker. It's not fancy, like her rices, but I had it in the house and it was easy.  I think the dish really benefits from having a non-white rice base, but white rice would work in a pinch.
2. I warmed up some canned (rinsed and drained) black beans in order to add a protein to the dish.  They were delicious and I would do it again, partially because I like keeping the dish vegetarian.
3. I think this would be delicious with beef or pork if you happen to live with someone *cough*myfather *cough* who doesn't think a meal is complete without meat.
4.  The dressing in insanely good.  I would put it on anything.  Everything.  You may feel the same way.  The good thing about this is that you will no longer second-guess your decision to drop $10 on miso paste.  Because you can now imagine running out of that huge jar, and soon.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In Which a Miracle Occurs

I had a spectacular weekend.  My uncle and cousin came to visit, drawn in by the siren lure of an adorable baby.  I swear, if I'd known how much more often people would visit me, I would have had one years ago!  Ever the gracious hostess, I planned to take my guests out to dinner on Saturday and for Friday night, I expected them to cook for me.  Well, I expected my uncle to cook for me anyway.  He made an absolutely delicious roast chicken which I will try to replicate at some point, some lemony roast broccoli, but most miraculously, he made delicious eggplant.

My friends, there are exactly two vegetables I do not eat: zucchini and eggplant.  Zucchini is pretty much the food of the devil, but eggplant and I have a very touchy relationship.  I want to like it.  I really do.  I've never really minded the flavor, but for whatever reason, eggplant has always made me gag.  I've had it made in the Parmigiana style.  Nope, didn't work.  I've pureed it in pasta sauce, alas, a deep and thorough failure.  But the way my Uncle John made it was so tasty, I went back for a second piece.  That's right, I took seconds of my second most loathed vegetable.

Does that tell you everything you need to know about my uncle's cooking?  No?  You want the recipe too?  Okay!  I got it!  (Totally selfless I am, always thinking of you).


2 eggplants
3/4 C extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing
2 T red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T of capers with juice
1/4 of a small red onion (optional - Uncle John was not pleased with how it turned out using the red onion, I think I liked it, but will try it without next time)

Slice your two eggplants into 1/2" thick slices.  Set your oven to broil.  Lay out the eggplant slices on a cookie sheet and brush them with olive oil.  Flip them and brush the other side with olive oil.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Put in the oven to broil for 10 minutes.  Flip them and let them broil for 10 minutes on the other side.  Whilst they are broiling, find yourself a large serving dish with sides.  We used my lasagna pan.  Mix together your olive oil and red wine vinegar.   In the bottom of the pan, pour about 1/4 C of olive oil and the red wine vinegar  and sort of swish it about so it's evenly distributed.  When the eggplant is done, lay it out in the dish.  Add the garlic, capers and onion (if you use it) to the remaining oil and vinegar.  Drizzle this over the eggplant layer.  Add another layer of eggplant and pour over more of the good stuff.  Continue until eggplant is used up and all topping has been poured out.

Let marinate at room temperature for 6 hours.  Ours only sat for 4 hours and was delicious, but don't try to cut it any closer than that.  Uncle John says it's great for dinner parties, because you can make it in advance, but also it takes up no room in your fridge!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chicken Croquettes

I have been cooking, I swear.  Almost every night I make dinner. I've even started baking again, some muffins, some scones, some cookies, a cake.  It's just that it's all been familiar.  Safe.  Easy.  And that can get just a little bit boring.  So last week I dragged a stack of cookbooks over to the sofa and started paging through them for something new to try.  I looked through three whole cookbooks. But honestly, I'd made up my mind the minute I saw these chicken croquettes.  Tasty nuggets of chickeny goodness?  Yes please!!  It's the very first thing I've made from Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques, and Tricks from America's Greatest Cooks by Adam D. Roberts, which I got last Christmas.  Don't worry, I'm embarrassed about it too. On the upside, I will be using the cookbook again, whether for the croquettes or something that appears after 104 which is when my mind was officially poisoned against all other recipes.

Verdict: Delicious.

adapted from Secrets of the Best Chefs

1 lb ground chicken or turkey
8 oz mushrooms - I used baby bella, the recipe asked for shiitake
3 cloves garlic
3 T sun dried tomato, minced
3 T grated parmesan
1/4 C bread crumbs
2 large eggs
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying
1 T butter
1 C panko bread crumbs

Wash and roughly quarter your mushrooms.  Toss them in a food processor with the garlic cloves and give everything a good whir until it's small chunks.  Mine ended up more towards the paste end of the spectrum from using a teensy food processor, but I'd aim for the size you'd get if you'd minced everything.  Then melt the butter in a small saute pan.  Add the mushroom and garlic mixture, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes until mushrooms are tender.

Deal with your sun-dried tomatoes.  Mine were dried and needed to be reconstituted, which I did according to the package directions.  But yours might be jarred in oil.  Either way, chop them up until itty-bitty.

In a large bowl, combine your ground poultry, mushroom and garlic mixture, minced sun dried tomatoes, the grated parm, the bread crumbs, the eggs and a teaspoon of salt and a good sprinkle of black pepper.  Mix the whole thing up (use your hands) until well combined.  If you like to check your seasoning, you could fry up one little ball and then taste it, but otherwise, begin making your croquettes.  Form little patties (mine were about 2 inches in diameter) out of the meat mixture.

Pour the panko bread crumbs on a clean plate. Coat the patties with the panko and set them aside (you can leave them like this in the fridge for several hours if necessary).

In a large skillet, heat up your oil.  You want enough to coat the bottom of the pan, but you don't need any real depth to it.  Coat the bottom well, no skimping.  Heat it on medium heat and pop in your croquettes.  Cook them 3-4 minutes per side.  They are done when the middle is no longer pink.


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