Friday, August 3, 2018

Mussels Roasted in Almond Garlic Butter




Think back to your favorite meal or dish that you ever had. The one you dream about. The one you can taste if you just close your eyes and remember. The one that reminds me of the best tagline I have ever seen - "You only live once, but if you dine well once is all you need."

I've asked my husband his favorite meal and he consistently says "the mussels from Fore Street."
Fore Street is a cozy and rustic restaurant in Portland, Maine that has been on many lists, including landing a spot in the top 100 in the world! And after finally getting there myself several years ago, the restaurant is now in my top 5.


My husband has been lucky enough to get back there a few times when traveling and of course he orders the mussels.

So what's a girl who loves to cook to do when she wants to really take care of her man? Recreate his favorite dish, of course! My husband has been traveling non-stop over the past 10 months, only coming home for quick 40 hour weekends. He deserved some spoiling.

I knew if I was making mussels it would have to be the Fore Street recipe. Luckily I found it without any trouble.


Having tasted them before I knew they were roasted in a garlicky butter sauce, but was surprised to read that almonds were the main ingredient in the sauce. I guess that explains the richness in the sauce.

Now, I have never prepared mussels at home and wasn't sure what was meant by debearding the mussels (and honestly I was a bit scared to find out!!). Turns out it is simply removing the tag, or the beard, from the side of the mussel. Click here for a great demo.



This is a very easy dish to pull together - all you need is a food processor, an oven-safe skillet (or cast iron pan), 25 minutes of prep-time and 12 minutes of cook time. 
Making the sauce is simply combining the almonds, butter, garlic and other ingredients in your food processor until creamy. Dollop that over the mussels, roast the mussels (while you cut the bread and pour the wine), and that's it. Sometimes the most amazing and sophisticated things you eat really are the most simple. Back to basics, true, good food. 
Mussels Roasted in Almond Garlic Butter
Adapted from: Food and Wine (via Fore Street Restaurant)
Notes: the original recipe called for 4 pounds of mussels for this amount of sauce. I used 2 pounds of mussels and the same amount of sauce - we definitely wanted extra for sopping it up with bread. Also, I used a lot more garlic at my husband's request. Glad I did! 

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1/2 c salted roasted almonds
  • 1 stick unsalted butter quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp minced jalapeno 
  • 1 tsp finely ground pepper
  • Salt to taste 
  • 1/2 c dry white wine 
Directions
  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees farenheit
  • In a food processor, grind the almonds until they are mostly fine with some larger pieces. Add in the butter, minced garlic, parsley, shallot, lemon juice and lemon zest. Process until blended. Season with salt. 
  • Place the mussels in a large, oven-proof skillet. 
  • Pour in the wine and then dollop the butter all over the mussels, making sure each area of the pan has some of the butter. 
  • Roast the mussels for 12 minutes, stirring once and shaking the pan a few times. Discard any mussels that did not open after 12 minutes.
  • Serve with crusty bread.

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hello Again!


Hello my friends! 

My, it sure has been a while. Nine months, to be exact when I published this Ramen recipe. And while I love the recipe and make it at least every 2 weeks (my husband actually cooks it more than I do - he rocks!!), I'm getting a little tired of seeing it as soon as I open my blog. New recipe coming tomorrow!! 

I knew I'd always come back to this blog, I just had to take some time to focus on me. 

Back in December I had some health issues that led me to explore cutting gluten and dairy as well as focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet at the recommendation of my doctor.  For the first few weeks I completely cut all gluten and dairy out and quickly lost almost 20 pounds.  I did miss cheese so much, but came to realize that I was addicted to it. I depended on it. I always turned to it for some quick protein instead of taking the time to make breakfast or prep lunch. And while I have been able to eat very small amounts of cheese every now and then, but any more than that and I'm in pain and bloated! This makes me think back to so many times in my life when I thought I was sick, but it was probably all food based.

As for the gluten, I can mostly tolerate it, but because of the weight loss I now focus on avoiding carbs such as bread, pasta, waffles, flour tortillas, etc. I haven't had pasta since December!!! And pasta is another thing I'd turn to for a quick and easy dinner. 

Throughout the process I learned that I don't need to replace everything I removed with a gluten free or dairy free option. There are a few things that I do buy when I want to indulge - like Trader Joe's gluten free sandwich bread when I want a good BLT, gluten free panko for chicken cutlets (I actually now prefer the GF panko over regular!!), or Lotus Foods Gluten Free Ramen noodles when I make ramen. But overall I just eat differently. 

I also learned so much more about food allergies and how dangerous they can be for many people. So while I feel lucky that I can tolerate these foods to a point, I have serious empathy for those who cannot. This post is not in any way about a food allergy, but simply my quest to use food as medicine and to focus on being healthier. 

So as I move forward with this blog I'll share what I'm eating but also things I cook for my family. After a few months it became really easy to cook pasta or bread for them and not crave it, so at this point my cravings are pretty much gone and I like the way that I eat.

I look forward to sharing many new recipes with you!! 



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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Easy Pork Ramen


One of my favorite things about visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Portland, Oregon, (besides seeing them and my adorable new nephew!!) is the food scene. I have had some of my best meals in this great town - seriously, even the airport has such a great restaurant  - The Country Cat - that I go back to the airport early JUST so I can eat there. Plus, I am lucky to have foodies in my family who enjoy taking me to great places! 


The first time I went out there I got to experience something for the first time - ramen. Confession... I didn't have my first real bowl of ramen until I was 40.  It's not because I didn't want to try it, we just don't have any ramen places around here! 

The next summer when I visited we went to the Pine Street Market, a very cool food hall. Walking around this place is like a trip to heaven for a foodie. Nine of the city's best chefs and restaurants all in one place! How do you decide what to eat? 

I went with ramen, as well as some pork buns from another spot, and once again, my meal in the great PDX did not disappoint. Rich, salty broth with curly noodles, scallions, spinach and thinly sliced pork. This soup IS a meal. 


When I returned home I was craving ramen so badly that I had to try to recreate it. I thought back to the few times I had ramen and just went based on my memory of the flavors and ingredients.

I made a chicken stock based broth with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a few other ingredients. We filled our bowls with mushrooms, scallions, thinly sliced grilled pork, noodles, and an egg. Craving satisfied!

Note: you can sub any protein for the pork. The last time I made it I used crispy, pan seared tofu. You could also use chicken, beef, shrimp, mussels, clams, etc - really anything you like! Experiment with different flavors and ingredients, too - add a dash of fish sauce, dried kelp, bonito flakes, grated carrots, miso paste, sprouts, or oyster sauce.



Easy Pork Ramen
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients 

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed 
  • 1 tsp ginger (I used the jarred ginger - prefer the consistency)
  • 32 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 bunch green onions - stems cut at 2 inches, the rest chopped 
  • 1 c slice shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 soft or hard boiled eggs (your preference)
  • 1 grilled pork chop, thinly sliced *
  • 8 oz cooked noodles of your choice (soba, ramen, Chinese noodles)
  • Optional: kale or spinach
  • Optional for serving: Sambal Oelek 
* I season the pork chop with salt and pepper and grill it to 140 degrees; let rest 5 minutes before slicing. 

Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a pot
  • Add the garlic and ginger; saute 1 minute
  • Add the broth, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, mirin and green onion stems. Bring to a steady simmer and then reduce to a low simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the green onion stems and add the mushrooms. Let simmer 3 minutes and remove. 
  • If using greens, add them to the pot for one minute before you are ready to serve and remove. 
  • To plate: Put noodles, chopped green onions, greens, mushrooms and sliced pork in a bowl. Pour broth on top and garnish with Sambal and an egg. 




Monday, November 6, 2017

The Perfect Roast Chicken

This may just be the perfect Sunday dinner. Juicy, tender chicken with homemade gravy and a plate reminiscent of Thanksgiving - mashed potatoes, veggies and stuffing.

Roasting a chicken can seem intimidating - there are so many decisions. Brine or no? Stuff or not? What to season it with? Roast in a bag or not? And how to make gravy without lumps? 

I am going to take you through it step by step, and I'll make all the decisions for you. Honestly, it's easy. As long as you plan ahead so you have enough time to make and cool your brine, the steps are really simple. 

In this post I share details of each step with pictures, but just so you don't get overwhelmed, here is a simple, sample timeline. At the end of this post I'll give you easy to read, step by step instructions. 

Based on Sunday Dinner, adjust as needed: 
 - Friday night: make and chill the brine
 - Saturday morning: add the chicken to the brine 
 - Saturday night: remove the chicken from the brine and dry it in the fridge overnight
 - Sunday, 4 hours before you plan on eating: season and stuff the bird, truss and cook. 



So yes, I did decide to brine for the first time ever and now I will ALWAYS brine! Why? The skin was crispier, the chicken was juicier, and the overall flavor was out of this world.  (note - if you buy a Kosher chicken it has already been brined). 

I did a lot of research on brines before making my own, and I decided to go with the advice of Chef Daniel Boulud and use a boiled brine that you chill as well as the drying method. If he can charge $75 a plate for his brined chicken, I'm sure his method has to produce some darn good chicken.  

Basically you bring your water and salt mixture to a boil (1 c salt to 1 gallon water). Adding sugar and other spices/herbs is optional, but I recommend doing it to maximize the flavors the brine will add. Once boiled, it is important to completely cool your brine. Putting your chicken into a warm bath to sit for 12 hours will just breed bacteria. So give yourself the time and completely chill the brine (use my timeline above).  



I brined the chicken for 12 hours. After that, I dried it and set it on a serving tray to dry in the fridge. This is something I hadn't heard of before, but Boulud says that it "really helps improve the purity of a chicken’s flavor and, especially, the crispness of its skin." I was a bit freaked out about leaving an uncovered chicken in my fridge overnight so I used my garage fridge which only holds beer and water :) 


On Sunday morning it was time to finish prepping the chicken by adding more flavor. I always stuff my turkey with herbs and garlic, so it was a no brainer to do it with the chicken, too. I chose fresh thyme, chunks of lemon, onions and garlic. I often add sage and rosemary, too. 
Flavoring the skin and meat is important too. Make a mixture of butter (or oil), garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper. Use your fingers to gently lift the skin so you can season the meat. Be generous with it! You'll also want to season the skin. 


The final step is trussing the chicken, and I really like this tutorial. A woman behind the butcher's counter at the supermarket tried to tell me that you only need to tie the legs together, but following this tutorial helps to keep everything tucked in nice and tight. 


Put that bird on a roasting rack in a roasting pan that has been layered with carrots and onions. Feel free to add celery, garlic, or any other aromatics that you like. This is what is going to help flavor your gravy. If you don't plan on making mashed potatoes, throw some potato chunks in there too for amazing roasted potatoes. 

I like the high heat method of cooking chicken to get golden brown, crispy skin. Start your bird on 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, and then lower it to 350 degrees for the remainder. Plan on 20 minutes per pound. 

To summarize all of that, here is a timeline based on Sunday Dinner:
 - Friday night: make and chill the brine
 - Saturday morning: add the chicken to the brine 
 - Saturday night: remove the chicken from the brine and dry it in the fridge overnight
 - Sunday, 4 hours before you plan on eating: season and stuff the bird, truss and cook. 

Look at this beauty!!! Is that a perfect chicken or what?? 


When you take the chicken out of the oven, you'll want to let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. In that time you can make the perfect gravy - I share my recipe below which is a spin on my husband's recipe from his mom. Creamy, lump-free and perfect every time!



Gorgeous. Mouth watering. The perfect Sunday meal. 

Whole Roast Chicken Dinner - Brined, Stuffed and Rubbed for Ultimate Flavor and Juiciness. Perfect Sunday Dinner. Great for Entertaining.

Whole Roast Chicken
Based on a 7-8 lb chicken

Step 1 - The Brine
  • 1 gallon of cold water
  • 1 c salt
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
In a pot large enough to hold your chicken, combine the water, salt and sugar and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Let cool to room temperature and then cover and transfer to your fridge to chill overnight. 

24 - 30 hours before your planned dinner, add the chicken to the brine. Keep in the fridge for 12-16 hours. 


Step 2 - Drying the Chicken

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry. Transfer to a large plate and place in the fridge, uncovered, for 12 hours. 


Step 3 - Stuffing and Seasoning the Chicken
  • 1 lemon, roughly chopped
  • A few sprigs each of fresh herbs - thyme, sage, rosemary
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 of a white onion, roughly chopped
Put all of the above ingredients in the cavity of the bird. 
  • 1/2 c olive oil (or 4 Tbsp butter, softened)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed/crushed
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (same as what you use to stuff the chicken)
Combine the above ingredients. Gently lift the chicken's skin and apply the mixture directly to the flesh of the breasts. 

Additionally, brush your bird with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 


Step 4 - Trussing the Chicken

  • With the breast meat facing up, tuck the wings under the shoulders
  • Place a long piece kitchen twine across the breast and using both hands, flip the chicken over. 
  • Tie the twine
  • Flip the chicken back over
  • Using your right hand only, wrap the twine around the smallest part of the drumstick two times (I'd call it the ankle :). Repeat with the left side.
  • Tie the twine tightly so the legs close over the cavity. Now we're all trussed up with somewhere to go!

Step 5 - Cooking the Chicken
  • 4 carrots, chopped into chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped into chunks
  • Other optional ingredients: cloves of garlic, celery, potatoes - all roughly chopped. 
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in the bottom of your roasting pan.  Place the chicken on a rack in the roasting pan. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 and cook 20 minutes per pound, until the internal temperature reaches 180 (breast) and 190 (thigh). Another way to test is to cut between the leg and the thigh and see if the juices run clear. 

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board (make sure it has a well, the chicken will leak!) and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the veggies to a serving bowl. 


The Gravy
  • 1 c plus 2 Tbsp water or chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp flour
Place your flour in a bowl leaving a well in the center. Slowly add 1 c of the liquid, whisking as you add. 

Place your roasting pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the 2 Tbsp of liquid, whisking it around the pan as you scrape up all the good brown bits. 

Slowly add the flour/liquid mixture - just a bit at a time - whisking constantly. Continue adding until you have the consistency you want. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. 

If it is too thick, add more liquid. If it is too thin, make another flour/liquid mixture and continue to add it until you have the gravy you desire. 

Whole Roast Chicken Dinner - Brined, Stuffed and Rubbed for Ultimate Flavor and Juiciness. Perfect Sunday Dinner. Great for Entertaining.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Grilled Bread Salad with Spinach, Tomatoes and Blue Cheese



This salad may be my favorite thing about grilling, and it's all because of the bread.

Charred bread - crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and tossed with oil and balsamic. It's seriously the perfect bite. If you haven't grilled bread for salad before, you need to do it ASAP.


I first made this salad several years ago. It has changed a bit over the years so I am sharing this updated post.

When making this bread, you don't want soft, fresh bread. Buy day old bread, or buy your bread the day before. The best bread for this salad is day-old ciabatta bread. Slice it open down the middle, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and char it as little or as much as you want.


Once charred, you chop it into bite sized pieces and let it soak in an oil bath with cilantro and red onions for 15 minutes before finishing the salad.



At this point I guarantee you will be stealing pieces of the bread to eat!



The salad is finished with baby spinach, chopped tomatoes, blue cheese, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of sea salt and black pepper.



Grilled Bread Salad with Spinach, Tomatoes and Blue Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 c good olive oil plus more for brushing the bread
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced open (see pics above)
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 2 c baby spinach
  • 2 juicy red tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp blue cheese
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Directions
  • Pre-heat your grill
  • Put the onions and cilantro in a large bowl with the oil; let sit in the fridge while you prep the bread
  • Brush both sides of the bread with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place on the grill for 4-7 minutes per side, depending on how charred you want it. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bite sized pieces. Add the bread to the bowl with the oil/onions/cilantro and toss. Let sit 15 minutes.
  • Add the spinach, tomatoes, blue cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Toss. Adjust oil/vinegar/salt/pepper.
  • Serve immediately.




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Asian Coleslaw with a Peanut-Lime Dressing

Colorful and crunchy veggies with cilantro and peanuts, all tossed with a Thai-inspired peanut-lime dressing. Light, fresh, and perfect for entertaining! 

Asian Coleslaw

It's hard to believe we have been in this home for 4 years already. Prior to that we lived in our first home together for 9 years, and spent the second half of those years house-hunting looking for a home we could stay in forever.

When we first looked at our current home we liked the layout, the size, and the possibilities, but knew it would take some work. Ok, a lot of work. Then we stepped out onto the patio and were sold - a large, private, tree-lined back yard (gives us so much shade!!!) with an enormous flagstone patio (that needed a lot of work and we eventually replaced). But the best part of the entire yard is the garden wall that curves around the entire patio with a large garden behind it. We spent an hour sitting on that wall, looking at the trees, and talking about the house - and it was March in the Northeast so it was chilly. Immediately we made an offer.

Yes, we bought the house for the garden wall and trees.

Asian Coleslaw

One of my friends calls our backyard an oasis, and because of this we made plans to have dinner together on the patio. We were so determined to enjoy a night on the patio that we rescheduled twice due to weather! Then, last week, we had the most perfect Saturday. It was sunny with low humidity and a light breeze. We lit several torches around the garden bed and I made really easy centerpieces out of mason jars, groundcover and herbs, and floating candles to sit on our new table. An oasis it was!



My menu had to revolve around grilling and warm weather food, and since my friend loves Asian inspired food but never cooks it, I went in that direction.

We had edamame to start. Our main course was Jon's grilled beef negimaki. To go along with it I made noodles tossed in a sesame soy mixture with green onions and sesame seeds, and this amazing Asian Slaw.

This slaw is packed with so many crunchy veggies and just look at those colors! Just looking at this slaw makes me want it again ASAP! The dressing for this is awesome too - peanut butter, lime juice, and some heat from Sambal Oelek. It is thick enough to really coat all of the veggies but isn't too heavy at all. Surprisingly, even after being dressed, the leftovers held up fine in the fridge for 2 days! So feel free to make a lot of you want to have some leftover.

Thanks to our friends for sharing a great night of friendship and food with us!

Asian Coleslaw


Asian Coleslaw with a Peanut-Lime Dressing
Adapted From: Center Cut Cook

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, julienned and then copped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 sm can water chestnuts, sliced
  • 1 cucumber, julienned and then chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 green onions, sliced into 2 inch strips
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 c peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp natural, creamy peanut butter
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
Directions
  • Combine the cabbage, carrots, pepper, water chestnuts, cucumber, green onions and most of the cilantro. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, vegetable oil, Sambal, hoisin, lime juice, ginger and garlic. Tip: I used the whisk attachment on my handheld immersion blender. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. 
  • When ready to serve, quickly whisk the dressing before pouring it over the salad. Toss well, and then top with the remaining cilantro and peanuts. 



Asian Coleslaw



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Covered Praline Hazelnuts

This cake is a chocolate lover's dream - a rich, double-layer chocolate cake with a creamy, whipped ganache and a chocolate glaze. The cake is dressed with hazelnuts that have been toasted, candied, coated in tempered chocolate and rolled in Dutch process cocoa powder, and with fancy bittersweet chocolate swirls.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake



Our daughter turned 7 last week. 7!!! Being the daughter of foodies, why wouldn't she request a Belgian chocolate cake for her birthday? My husband heard the request and got to work! As he said, he couldn't let her down.

He chose a rich chocolate-hazelnut cake with so many elements he was in the kitchen for 4 hours on Saturday. But this cake - SO worth it.



Instead of making a single layer cake, he turned this recipe into two layers of rich chocolate cake. He layered the cakes with whipped, creamy chocolate ganache in between and on top. Next, he drizzled a chocolate glaze all of the cake.

He could have stopped there, but this cake is seriously over the top in so many ways - layers, taste, elements and beauty. In addition to the whipped chocolate ganache and the chocolate glaze, this cake has 2 more toppings - chocolate swirls and chocolate covered praline hazelnuts.



The swirls started with tempered chocolate that he chilled in a thin layer, and then scraped to make chocolate swirls.

The hazelnuts start by toasting hazelnuts that are then candied in a caramelized sugar. Once cool, they are coated in tempered bittersweet chocolate and chilled until hardened. The final step is rolling them in Dutch process cocoa powder.



Drooling yet?

Once we sang happy birthday and cut the cake, you didn't hear anything out of any of us for about 10 minutes, except "Mmmmm...." and "wow...." And our 7 year old was very, very happy :)



Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake
Adapted from: Martha Stewart

Tip: Read the entire recipe before starting since there are several elements that can be done together. Such as, the hazelnuts for the cake and the hazelnuts for the topping can be toasted together and then separated. The ganache and glaze can be prepared together and then separated to whip some and to keep some as the glaze.

The Cake Ingredients and Directions

  • 4 oz hazelnuts
  • 13 1/3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (1 2/3 sticks)
  • 2/3 c Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 6 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 2/3 c boiling water
  • 1 3/4 c packed, dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 c buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Equipment: 2 9-inch cake pans; food processor; hand or stand mixer. 
Directions
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub to loosen skins. Transfer them to a food processor and grind with the granulated sugar until fine, but not pasty. Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.
  • Butter your cake pans and then dust with cocoa powder, shaking out any excess. 
  • In a heat-proof bowl, mix the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Once smooth and cooled, stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. 
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on high until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. 
  • Switch mixer to low and add in half of the dry ingredients (the ground hazelnuts/sugar, flour mixture). Once blended, add in the cocoa mixture. Then add in the rest of the dry mixture, mixing until just incorporated. 
  • Scrape batter into your prepared pans so they are both even; smooth on top. Bake 50 min - 1 hr until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes; remove from a pan until completely cooled.
  • Directions for frosting and decorating the cakes can be found after the rest of the instructions below. 


The Chocolate Glaze and Whipped Ganache Ingredients and Directions

  • 1/1/2 lb bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 3 3/4 cups heavy cream
Chop the chocolate with a serrated knife and place into a heat-proof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil over high heat. Pour over the chocolate and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to gently loosen the chocolate, and stir until smooth. Let sit at room temp for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

To make the whipped ganache: take 2/3 of the prepared glaze and transfer to a bowl. Place that bowl over a larger bowl of ice. Whip the chocolate with a balloon whisk until lighter in color and spreadable, removing bowl from the ice bath and returning it as needed. 



The Chocolate Swirl and Candied Hazelnuts Ingredients and Directions

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 lb bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 c Dutch process cocoa
  • Equipment: baking sheet, heavy skillet, parchment paper, stainless bowl, saucepan, a bench scraper, a sifter
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub to loosen skins.
  • Place sugar and water in a medium heavy skillet. Stir with a fork over medium-high heat until dissolved. Let boil without stirring for 3 minutes. 
  • Add nuts to the pan. stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar mixture coats the nuts. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; let cool. 
  • Once the nuts are cool, place half of the chocolate in a stainless bowl, and place the bowl over a pan with 1 inch of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and hot. Add the rest of the chocolate, remove the pan from the water, and let stand 5 minutes and then stir until smooth.
  • Pour half of the chocolate onto an inverted baking sheet and spread with the scraper until smooth and about 1/8 inch thick. Let stand until tacky. Hold your scraper at a 45 degree angle and scrape chocolate off the surface to make the curls. Store curls at room temp in a parchment lined airtight container.
  • Add candied nuts to the remaining chocolate in the bowl, stirring until coated. Spread nuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and let stand until set. 
  • Sift cocoa powder over the chocolate nuts and toss to coat. Store in a resealable plastic bag in the fridge for up to 1 week.


Finishing the Cake

  • Place one layer of the cake on your serving plate. Spread some of the whipped ganache on top of the cake. Place the second layer of the cake on top of the ganache. Frost the entire cake with the remaining whipped ganache.
  • Pour the chocolate glaze onto the center of the cake, letting it drip over the edges. 
  • Let the cake stand at room temperature until the glaze is set. 
  • Decorate with the swirls and nuts. 
  • Store in fridge until 30 minutes before serving. 
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Crispy Fish Sticks with Pineapple Salsa

Crispy and crunchy homemade fish sticks with a fresh pineapple salsa. A kids' style dinner good enough for adults!



I love to cook, but there are a few things I always have in for super quick dinners for my daughter, like on nights when my husband is traveling and we have 45 minutes between school and dance class. Frozen chicken nuggets, frozen fish sticks, baby carrots (to make "soft carrots," as she calls them), frozen broccoli, and a container of cooked spaghetti can almost always be found in my house.



However, homemade versions are always better. It's not like making homemade chicken nuggets or fish sticks is hard or takes a long time - it's probably faster to bread your own and fry them up. Actually, in the time it takes to preheat your oven and cook the frozen version, you could already have homemade ones on the table.

But I get it - convenience foods are a must! Some nights you just don't want the extra dishes, or you need to be focused on helping with homework instead of prepping and cooking dinner. When you have the time, it's always fun to cook from scratch!


Over the holiday weekend I made some homemade crispy fish sticks that were so incredibly easy and super yummy.


All you need is a fish that will hold up well and that doesn't have much fat. Cod, haddock and pollock are the most popular, but I prefer to use something a little better, like halibut, mahi, or even swordfish or catfish.


Cut your fish into "sticks" and then bread them - flour, egg, seasoned breadcrumbs/Panko. I fry them in just a small amount of oil - no need to deep fry - and in just 5-6 minutes they are done. Perfectly crispy and crunchy, yet light and flaky on the inside.


I love a light and fresh topping for fish, so I chopped up some pineapple to add to pico de gallo I had made for the weekend, and it was the perfect accompaniment. Bright, citrus flavors with some heat - so refreshing!




Crispy Fish Sticks 
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients

  • 6 oz fish cut into 6 sticks (double or triple to your liking!)
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 2 eggs beaten and mixed with 1 Tbsp whole milk
  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs and 1/2 c Panko breadcrumbs
  • Seasoning: approximately 1 tsp each salt, black pepper, onion powder and chili powder 
  • 3 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil (enough to generously coat the bottom of your pan)
Directions
  • Set up breading station: flour in 1st bowl, eggs in second, bread crumbs mixed with seasoning in third (tip - I love using a throw away paper plate for the flour and bread crumbs - makes cleanup so easy!)
  • Heat your oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat
  • Roll each piece of fish in flour. Shake off the excess and roll in the egg mixture followed by the breadcrumbs. Place on wire rack.
  • Add the breaded fish to the pan being careful to space them out (you may need to do this in 2 batches). Cook until one side is golden brown; repeat on all sides until crispy. Transfer to the wire rack on top of paper towels.
  • Serve immediately! 


Pineapple Salsa
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

You can make this in a small amount as noted below (serves 4), or you can make a large bowl of the pico (all of the ingredients below x 4, minus the pineapple) and remove some to mix with the pineapple for this recipe.


  • 4 Ripe tomatoes, seeds removed and diced 
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno, minced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, minced
  • Small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp Kosher or sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp pineapple, diced