Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween!

It seemed like such a great idea…pumpkin and black beans. I think I was pulling something out of the freezer when it came to me. There was a little leftover pumpkin in there and I thought, “I bet that would be good in chili.” I mulled it over some more and then it came to me – Halloween Chili! And of course for Halloween Chili (with orange pumpkin), black beans were the logical choice.

I started out with my recipe for Cincinnati Chili and went from there. Cincinnati Chili, if you haven’t had it, is spicy but a little sweet. My recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice, honey and a little chocolate in addition to the more traditional chili seasonings of chili powder and cumin. I thought the seasonings in that recipe would work well with the pumpkin, although I chose to omit the chocolate. I started out swapping the pumpkin for the tomato sauce and then kept tasting and adding more things until I got it the way I liked it. I found in the beginning that the pumpkin made it heavy and dull. I added some hot sauce and increased the vinegar in the hopes of brightening it up a bit. Then I threw in more chili powder and more hot sauce. I finally gave in – it needed the acidity of tomatoes – so I threw in a can of tomatoes. At some point I also upped the pumpkin to a whole can since I didn’t want yet another small bit of it floating around in my freezer.

In the end, I was happy with it – even if it wasn’t quite the Halloween Chili I originally envisioned.

Halloween Chili

1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
3 tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tbs cider vinegar
1 tbs honey
½ tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 14 ½ oz can diced or stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 29 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup beef broth
1½ cup water

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Sauté the onions and garlic until the onions are golden. Add the ground beef. Break it up with the spoon and stir occasionally until it is browned all over. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, lower heat and cook as long as you like. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

OK Art – This one’s for you…

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ripples

I’ve been in the mood to bake lately, but until today just hadn’t found the right excuse. Yesterday I got an email from a friend saying there was nothing he could eat in “my little kitchen”. So, I looked through my favorite cookie cookbook in search of a recipe that would be to his liking. I love to bake cookies, but most of my cookie baking occurs around the holidays. When it comes to holiday baking, peanut butter is not one of the flavors I gravitate towards. Today my selection criteria were a little different, and peanut butter sounded perfect.

The recipe I settled on, from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies, was Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ripples. They are thin, crisp cookies with a layer of peanut butter dough nestled between two chocolate layers. The cookies in the drawing that accompanies the recipe appear to have concentric circles of contrasting doughs: the bottom chocolate layer is the largest and is topped with a smaller layer of peanut butter which in turn is topped with another, smaller layer of chocolate.

The chocolate and peanut butter doughs are very simple and mix up quickly. The recipe calls for smooth peanut butter, but the only peanut butter I had on hand was the kind they grind in the grocery store, so I used that. I added a pinch of salt since there was none in the peanut butter. I was concerned that the consistency might cause some problems, but it seemed to work just fine. The flavor was great and the texture of the peanut butter layer was almost like the peanut butter in a Reese’s cup.

peanut butter and chocolate cookie doughs

Assembling the cookies takes a little time, but is not difficult. You drop a small mound of chocolate dough, then top it with a small mound of the peanut butter dough, and cap that with another little mound of chocolate. The peanut butter dough was a little crumbly, so I shaped it with my fingers rather than dropping it from a teaspoon. The recipe suggests using a fork dipped in sugar to flatten the cookie, but I quickly abandoned that approach in favor of using a small plastic spatula. The chocolate dough was very soft and the fork, even though it was sugared, kept pulling off parts of the top layer that pushed up through the tines. You could also use a small glass – but a flat surface is definitely preferable to a fork. I would make one change next time – the recipe instructs you to divide the chocolate dough in half and use equal amounts in the bottom and top layers. I followed those directions this time and as you can see in the picture above, my cookies didn’t “ripple”. To achieve the concentric circles shown in the illustration, I think you would need to use more chocolate dough in the bottom layer and only a small amount in the top layer. It would also be interesting to see what would happen if you didn’t bother to flatten the cookies before baking them. I’ll bet they would spread just the same.

ready to flatten and bake

The cookies were delicious and despite the fact that the peanut butter appears to have all but disappeared from the outside, when you bite into one of the cookies there is a distinct layer of peanut butter. Maida Heatter never lets me down.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Keeping Warm

Many of the last few days have been cold and wet – a bone chilling combo. Sunday afternoon, as I huddled in a blanket in front of the TV, I decided it was the perfect kind of day to try a recipe for “hot spiced tea”. Recently I have been trying to clear out some back issues of various cooking magazines and this was one of the recipes that I saved from an old issue of Everyday Food (sorry – I neglected to make note of which issue it was from).

This “hot spiced tea” is a milky tea infused with fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper and sweetened with honey. Unfortunately, in order to make the tea I had to go out into the cold and buy some 2% milk and fresh ginger. But once back home, I quickly mixed up a pot of the stuff and indulged in a cup. Mmmmmm – spicy, sweet and warm – like liquid gingerbread. Then it occurred to me – this must be like that chai tea I keep hearing about. Am I the only one in the world that didn’t know about it?

I put the leftovers in the refrigerator and found that the tea reheated beautifully in the microwave. What a wonderful thing to come home to on a soggy Monday night!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

IMBB 9 - Terrine for One

Today is the 9th edition of Is My Blog Burning. This time the host, Derrick of An Obsession with Food, has challenged us to create a terrine for the occasion. I decided early on that didn’t want to make a meat terrine or one with aspic, but I agonized over what I would make for the next couple of weeks. First I was leaning towards using polenta, then rice, and then I finally settled on potatoes.

According to Derrick’s terrine tutorial, a terrine is layered and is formed in a mold. I’m afraid the layering in my terrine is minimal. I layered roasted green peppers with a potato mixture in small Pyrex refrigerator dishes. I had originally thought I would use larger pieces of pepper, but then realized that might prevent the layers from sticking together. I ended up with six little strips of pepper in each terrine – which looks almost comical in cross-section.

The potato mixture is evidence of my current infatuation with roasted garlic. I used four small potatoes, one small onion, and a whole head of roasted garlic. After assembling the terrines, I chilled them briefly in the refrigerator and then unmolded them before baking. This method resulted in a nice, crusty exterior and ensured that the terrines came cleanly out of the molds. It’s possible that they could have been easily removed from the molds after baking, but I didn’t want to risk it!

This IMBB afforded me an opportunity to make use of my itty bitty canapé cutters. I cut shapes out of both red and green roasted pepper and placed them in the bottoms of the molds. It was a little tricky because the pepper pieces tend to move around when you press in the potato mixture – but it was fun!

My little terrines were quite tasty and I think they would be a wonderful for brunch or dinner. Best of all, they can be assembled ahead of time and held in the refrigerator until it is time to put them in the oven.

Individual Potato and Garlic Terrines with Roasted Pepper

Makes 2 terrines

4 small potatoes
1 small onion
1 head of roasted garlic
roasted pepper (12 strips plus cut-outs for garnish)
olive oil

Peel the potatoes, place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Drain and put in a medium bowl. Finely dice onion. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan over medium low heat. Sauté the onion until it starts to brown. Coarsely mash the potatoes, add the garlic (peel or squeeze from skins), sautéed onions, a little olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir together, using the spoon to break up and distribute the garlic.

Oil the molds (350 ml Pyrex refrigerator dishes) and arrange pepper cut-outs in the bottom. Carefully place the first layer of the potato mixture over the pepper pieces. Push 3 strips of pepper into first layer, cover with more potato, and then repeat. You should have three layers of potato with two layers of pepper strips. Place the molds in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. When ready to bake the terrines, run a knife along the straight edges of the mold and invert the mold over your hand. Shake gently to unmold and then place in baking dish. Brush all over with olive oil. Bake until golden – about an hour. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Friday, October 22, 2004

IMBB Finds a Home

Is My Blog Burning (IMBB) has become such an integral part of the food blogging community that it's hard to believe it's not even a year old. Ron of loveSicily decided that it was time for a web site devoted to IMBB happenings and other food blogging events, so with IMBB founder Alberto's blessing, he set up It came on-line just a couple of weeks ago and Ron has been working hard to add features and make the site truly a virtual gathering place for food bloggers. So stop by and take a peek at the IMBB site and don't forget - IMBB 9 is this Sunday!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Who could resist...

…a sign like this? Not me. I bought four heads, left one with Bob, and kept three for myself. This weekend I roasted two of them and made potato garlic soup. This is the first time I have roasted garlic where I have been happy with the results.

I followed Deborah Madison’s instructions in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Her method is a little different in that you don’t cut the top of the garlic off. You peel off most of the outer papery skin, drizzle a little olive oil over the garlic, add some water to the dish, and cover it tightly with foil. Bake covered for 45 minutes at 350 F, then remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes.

The garlic smelled really good as it was cooking, but the soup was amazing – better than potpourri any day!! The soup was made simply of onions, potatoes, the unpeeled roasted cloves of garlic, olive oil, bay leaves, salt, and water. It’s passed through a food mill, finished with a little cream and garnished with chives. What I found really surprising was that it tasted like a soup made with a rich stock and yet it used only water. It was delicious.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Union Square Greenmarket

I've mentioned before how much I love the Union Square Greenmarket, but let me show you why...

...any questions?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

A “Relaxed” Dinner in New York

In the end it all came together – it was fun, it was beautiful, and most of all it was delicious. But relaxed? No. Bob, Chuck and I made most of the dishes featured in the October/November Fine Cooking article, “A Seattle Chef’s Relaxed Menu” last Sunday while my parents and I were visiting with Bob and Chuck in New York. Because of other plans we had for the weekend we weren’t able to do some of the advance preparations suggested in the article, so Sunday evening got a little crazy. My parents are used to eating around 5:00, but our dinner was on the table at a fashionably late 8:30.

We started with the “Homemade Bianco with Icy Grapes” which is Sauvignon Blanc wine infused with rosemary, mint and lemon zest and served over frozen red globe grapes. This was the recipe that had originally caught my eye in the article. My mom usually drinks her wine with ice because she likes it very cold. I thought this was such a clever and attractive presentation – the frozen grapes keep the wine chilled (at least for a little while) without diluting it. We didn’t make the perperonota, but Bob served several different cheeses with the wine including an aged Gouda that was really wonderful.

The “Mustard-Crusted Roast Chicken” was simple, delicious, and completely stressed us out. First there was the matter of finding space in Bob and Chuck’s NYC-sized refrigerator for two chickens to sit uncovered and coated in mustard paste for several hours. Then we had to figure out how to fit them both in the oven at the same time. Finally, there was the problem of deciding when the chickens were done. We used a thermometer to measure doneness, but had little confidence that we were doing it correctly. Somehow when we finally decided they were done (the second time), they were perfectly cooked.

As sides, we had Bob’s unbelievably rich mashed potatoes and the “Warm Green Bean, Pancetta & Tomato Salad with Parmesan”. Part of the salad prep had been done earlier, but cooking the beans and preparing the hot dressing were to be done at the last minute. Earlier that day Chuck had been visiting my blog and saw the comment that Michael left. He warned that the dressing explodes when the vinegar mixture is added to the warmed fat and oil. We were glad to have the heads-up. Chuck very carefully prepared the dressing and fortunately there were no explosions.

Everyone was very hungry by the time dinner was finally served, but it was worth the wait. The table was beautifully set and the food was delicious. We finished up with the “Cornmeal Rosemary Cake with Pine Nuts & Orange Glaze”. I love corn meal, and had been looking forward to trying this recipe. It has an unusual touch – blanched rosemary leaves are mixed into the orange glaze. The cake was as lovely to look at as it was to eat.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

NYC Weekend

I have a long weekend in NYC coming up which I'm really looking forward to. It's a special occasion of sorts since my parents are also going, so my brother has a fabulous weekend planned. We'll be seeing a play, eating out, and Sunday night we'll be cooking "A Seattle Chef's Relaxed Menu" from the October/November issue of Fine Cooking. Best of all, we get to visit with Bob and Chuck.

Have a wonderful weekend - I'll see you back here next week!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Just My Size

Last week the "personal watermelons" were on sale at my grocery store, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. The personal watermelon is a seedless watermelon that is about the size of a cantaloupe. I live alone, so the size is perfect for me. I also like that they don't require a major commitment of refrigerator space. In terms of taste, I couldn't detect any difference - it tasted like watermelon to me. The seeds are quite small (they're called seedless, but there are many small soft white seeds) so you can eat them, I think, without fear of watermelons growing out of your ears.

They're very attractive too. In fact, I think cut in half and scooped out, they would make fantastic bowls for serving fruit salad.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

IMBB 9 is Coming!

Derrick at An Obsession with Food will be hosting IMBB 9: Layers and layers, with the theme of terrines. If like me you have no experience with terrines, check out Derrick's post which includes a "terrine primer" with lots of ideas and helpful information. The date is October 24th.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Sugar High Friday #1 - Chocolate Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Sherbet

Jennifer at Domestic Goddess has proposed yet another communal cooking and blogging event – Sugar High Fridays: the International Sweet-Tooth Blogging Extravaganza or SHF:ISTBE for short (actually, either one is a mouthful!) Mmm…sweets…sign me up!

The theme for this first Sugar High Friday is white chocolate. I have nibbled on white chocolate on occasion, but I don’t think I’ve ever cooked with it before. I couldn’t get my imagination in gear for this event, so I searched the Food Network website and found a recipe from Gale Gand for Chocolate Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Sherbet. At first I planned to make only the sherbet, but that wouldn’t have been terribly photogenic, so I racked my brain trying to think of something that would complement the sherbet both in terms of flavor and visually. Nothing seemed quite right. Finally, I acknowledged to myself that what I wanted was REAL chocolate. To be specific, I wanted that chocolate bread pudding that was included in the recipe.

I made a deal with myself – I would make the bread pudding, but I would have to cut the recipe down to a single serving. For most of the ingredients I simply divided the amount called for by 6. For the bread I used 1 ½ slices of Pepperidge Farm white bread – though if I were to do this again I would increase that to 2 slices. I happened to have some leftover heavy cream, which I used, but I substituted skim milk for the half-and-half. I think another time I would use all milk.

For the sherbet I used El Rey Icoa White Chocolate, which is touted as being “Venezuelan single bean origin”. The sherbet couldn’t have been easier – however the melted chocolate seemed to float to the top of the mixture as it chilled in the refrigerator. When I was ready to freeze it, there was a soft skin on top. Fortunately, it dissolved back into the mixture when I stirred it, and when I strained the mixture there were no lumps.

I ate the bread pudding just slightly warm with a scoop of the white chocolate sherbet. It was heaven, but oh so rich. I should have split the bread pudding into two servings, and next time I would, but I couldn’t stop myself. Just in case you haven’t looked at the recipe yet, not only does it have chocolate, cream, and eggs in it, it also has vanilla bean (which I recently realized is just as addictive as chocolate) and dried cherries. Topping it with white chocolate sherbet was overkill, but I’m not complaining. The sherbet was wonderful – the first bite was just like biting into a white chocolate bar, only cold, and wet, and with more of that lovely vanilla bean.

I went to bed with a heavy stomach but a happy heart. When’s the next Sugar High Friday?