Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A (spicy sausage):
Plus B (Rick's Picks pickled green beans):
Equals C (instant appetizer):
You get an A plus! Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
When E originally emailed me saying he was making pasta with lamb ragu, I thought he meant Ragu. So I was totally surprised to find no empty pasta jars lying around, just a tall stockpot full of a thick, aromatic sauce. This was an all-day kind of sauce, a stay-in-and-stir kind of recipe. And when he told me it was his fifth or sixth time making it, I have to say I discovered a newfound love for the guy. And lamb ragu.
So I am willing to take bids on this fine gentleman. If you're a single lady living in the Brooklyn area (preferably off the G line) leave a note in the comments. You will not be disappointed. And E's not too shabby either.
Dinner at E'sCheese, crackers, spiced cashews, and salami-wrapped Rick's Picks Mean Beans
Pasta with lamb ragu
Arugula with parmesan and fennel
Dark and Stormys (someone's been reading this blog...)
Pasta with lamb ragu
E originally found this recipe in the New York Times and has made a few tweaks since, mainly adding extra vegetables and a shit load of garlic. (His words, not mine.) He suggests cooking the vegetable puree, the base of the sauce, on low heat stirring a lot. E served this pasta over egg noodles, which I think is the very best choice. If you can't eat gluten, I recommend Sam Mills brand pasta, which is made with corn and is gluten- and wheat-free. The ziti noodles I bought tasted surprisingly like regular pasta.
2 large bags egg noodles
Parmesan to top the pasta
Sunday, December 28, 2008
We had a leisurely late-afternoon Christmas lunch here in Brooklyn with our Australian neighbors, Jennifer and Mark Henry. It was the kind of cozy day spent cooking, eating, and lazing about, in between playing with their two daughters, April and Rose. They not only believe in Santa, they left him a beer--how could you not fall in love with these girls?
It was such a nice day that I won't dwell on the accident. I feel like I write about mishaps a lot here and this blog isn't called Dinner Party Disasters. So I won't really get into the misfortune that was the walk downstairs with all of the food we made. And how the uncooked potato gratin started leaking out of the baking dish, dripping down someone's coat and all over the stairs. And how when someone pointed out the mess, the other person tried to set down the potatoes, inadvertently dropping a bag holding caramel sauce and six dessert bowls, so that there was a caramel explosion all over the stairs as well. (Note to landlords: we cleaned. And the stairs are a filthy mess to begin with.) And then someone twisted an ankle trying to reach for the falling dishes and missing a stair. Luckily no dishes or ankles were broken and the caramel was superfluous anyway. But let's just say that if we were discussing mishaps, it wasn't exactly the smoothest start to Christmas dinner.
Soo, moving on.
Christmas celebrated without your family always feels a little strange even though the holiday is usually spent in a universal way for most people: opening gifts, eating a big meal, possibly attending church. The difference is in the particulars. Do you eat turkey or ham? Do you open gifts before or after dinner? Do you say grace before the meal? Are you from Australia and eat roasted pumpkin? It's the little specific things that make it your family's holiday.
Last Christmas, Dan and I stayed in Brooklyn and had a quiet day by ourselves. But because we were spending the day with another family this year, I think I felt more conscious of being away from my own relatives. Instead of helping my mom make her sweet potato casserole, I made a potato gratin by myself in our apartment. Instead of catching up on the breezy back porch with Nanny, Dan and I chatted with Jennifer and Mark Henry and ate roasted chestnuts in their warm living room. Instead of being peppered with questions like "So, how is work?" and "How much snow have you gotten in New York?" around the dinner table, we had a late lunch and talked about traveling and food and our neighborhood. We ate turkey of course, but instead of Nanny's cranberry sauce I made cranberry relish. Instead of Mom's sweet potatoes, we ate the aforementioned roasted pumpkin. And instead of watching my parents doze off on the couch post-dinner, we played Brooklyn Monopoly after watching the girls do an impromptu dance performance, making dizzy circles in the kitchen.
In many ways I missed my family, but in many ways this was a more relaxing and fun way to spend Christmas. It was a holiday that felt more like my adult life, rather than re-entering my childhood again and again. Although that's what makes the holidays the holidays.
Christmas with the Henrys
Roasted turkey with gravy
Chestnut and barley stuffing
Potato gratin with goat cheese and garlic
Apple-cherry crisp with cinnamon whipped cream
This is cranberry relish the way I like it: spicy, tart, and chock-full of whole berries. The original recipe is by Jasper White, a chef who specializes in New England cuisine. Be sure to make the relish one day in advance and chill it in the refrigerator so the mixture takes on a jelly-like consistency and the flavors deepen.
(Makes 3 cups)
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Peel 1 orange and cut the zest (orange part only) into a very fine julienne, as thin as possible; set aside. Squeeze both oranges for juice; set aside. Combine sugar and lemon juice in a small pan. Heat up slowly and continue cooking until the sugar begins to caramelize. If necessary, wash down the sides of the pan by brushing with a little water to keep the sugar from burning.
When the sugar is caramel colored, add the julienned ginger and orange zest. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the cranberries, orange juice and pepper. Continue to cook on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the cranberries are slightly broken but not mushy. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Potato gratin with goat cheese and garlic
Christmas dinner isn't complete without potatoes of some sort, and while I love them mashed, I wanted to try something new this year. This gratin, from Bon Appétit, is mild and creamy, with a slight tang from the goat cheese and a hint of spice from a little nutmeg. To make the potatoes a little livelier, you could add one tablespoon of thyme or rosemary. Carry with care if uncooked.
(Serves 6 to 8 people)
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (about 5 ounces)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter an 11 by 7 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Whisk the first 7 ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Arrange 1/3 of potatoes in bottom of prepared dish, overlapping slightly and covering completely. Pour 1/3 of cream mixture over. Repeat layering potatoes and cream mixture 2 more times. Bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and top is golden brown in spots, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Serve hot.
(Serves 4 to 6 people)
1 butternut squash or Japanese pumpkin
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
For me, the holidays don't begin with Black Friday shopping, or putting up the Christmas tree (no thanks, not in our teeny apartment), or getting that first holiday card in the mail. The season begins with a box from my grandparents in New Mexico containing an aluminum foil-wrapped log of potica. My grandma has been making potica since way before I was born and every December she ships it to various relatives scattered across the country. She also sends cookies, and dense cubes of walnut fudge, jars of homemade preserves, and I even remember getting bread and butter pickles one year. But it's the potica, a sweet yeast bread spiraled with cinnamon, dates, and nuts, that I always look forward to the most.
Not too long ago, my editor Mark and I were reminiscing about potica. I always assumed it was strictly Italian, but he told me it's also a Polish specialty. As with most things, he was right: it's even more common in Croatia, Slovenia, and most of Eastern Europe, often called povitica. So how did it become a tradition in my family? After some more research I discovered the Italy connection—in a way that is surprisingly specific to the Cericola family. Southwestern writer Sharon Niederman says that the recipe was brought to the American west by Slovenian miners, who shared it with their Italian and Hispanic neighbors in coal mining communities including Raton, the small town in New Mexico where my grandma (and great-grandma) lived for some time.
After Raton, my grandparents stayed in New Mexico and raised three kids, moving around a bit, eventually to Santa Fe and later, Albuquerque. My dad didn't stay out west. As a young man, he moved to Florida, met my mother, and later, they had me. I visited New Mexico many times as a kid and loved it, but I've never spent the holidays with my grandparents. We exchange cards and emails and the big box of year-end sweets, but our relationship has always been somewhat distant.
Which is why I'm always a little surprised at how nostalgic I am for this stuff. Even though I've never been there to help Grandma make potica, I can see her rolling out the dough on the kitchen table, wrapping the baked loaves in foil, and labeling the silver logs with family members' names. It's a memory I wish I had experienced in person, but I've imagined it so many times now that it's real to me. When I bite into a soft slice of the bread, I taste sweetness and Christmas morning, but also New Mexico—juniper bushes, and posole, and dried chiles, and every food memory of that place and my family intertwined.
My grandma Jennie's recipe. This bread is significantly better hot out of the oven or warmed up in a toaster. I like it for breakfast, but it's kind of an all-day-long snack food.
(Makes 3 loaves)
For the filling:
1 lb. pecans, chopped
2 lbs. sun palm dates, chopped
1 cup half and half
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
For the dough:
8 oz. sour cream
3 Tbsp. butter
5 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 packages yeast
3 cups flour
Make the filling: In a saucepan, warm the half and half over medium heat. Add sugar, egg yolks, cinnamon, honey, butter, pecans, and vanilla. Stir until combined then remove from the heat, and let cool to lukewarm. Beat the egg whites until stiff, fold into the nut mixture.
Make the dough: In a saucepan, warm the sour cream. Remove from heat and add the butter, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Cool to lukewarm, then add the yeast and eggs, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add in the flour, mix well, and let stand 15 minutes. Roll the dough out onto a floured counter. Spread on the filling, then roll it up. Let it stand one and half hours. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool before serving.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Dark and Stormy
(Makes 1 drink)
2 oz. dark rum
10 oz. ginger beer (I used ginger ale, but a spicy ginger beer like Reed's would be ideal for this)
Fill a tall (drinking glass-sized) glass with ice. Add 2 ounces dark rum and enough ginger beer to fill the glass. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 of a lime into the drink, add the wedge if you'd like. Stir and serve.
Friday, December 19, 2008
50 homemade gift ideas: breadsticks, chocolate-covered orange peels, spice rubs, etc. [via the LA Times]
A host gift is always nice to bring along if someone else is cooking the holiday meal. [via Apartment Therapy]
Hanukkah menus from Gourmet. [via Gourmet]
Smitten Kitchen tackles the seven-layer cookie. I only wish I were as brave (and photographically talented) as Deb. [via Smitten Kitchen]
Something to help you get through the rest of this jam-packed month: Bon Appetit's Drink a Day Calendar. [via BA]
And something for the Flight of the Conchords fans out there, some very fun holiday party ideas from Mel (Kristen Schaal). Yis! [via NY Mag]
Also, one small, personal plug: I am a finalist in the Marx Foods holiday recipe contest. If you could take five seconds to vote for me by clicking the box below, I'd really appreciate it. I am listed under "Lisa: Sweet and Spicy Peanuts." Voting is open until Monday at 4 p.m. PST. Thanks, guys!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
This year, we wised up. Jam-making is really fun but not when you've got gifts to wrap, cards to write, a holiday party to rush off to, and a million other things on your mental to-do list. So we went really simple and just made one thing. I dithered between truffles, and coconut macaroons, and chocolate salted caramels. I even considered making all three, then slapped some sense back into myself. It's easy to get carried away with all aspects of the holidays, especially baking. But for sanity's sake, I highly recommend making large batches of one item. Especially if it's chocolate-pistachio toffee. Similar to a Heath bar, but more delicious, this buttery toffee is covered with a layer of milk chocolate (I usually opt for dark, but the milk lends a great candy bar-like flavor) and topped with pistachios. And best of all, it was ready to go into pretty little gift bags in under an hour, leaving Mindi and I time to have a leisurely lunch and even do a mini pilates workout. Which might sound crazier than canning three dozen jars of marmalade, but hey, you've got to offset the toffee somehow, right?
I started with this recipe from Gourmet, and then made some major tweaks, mainly using pistachios instead of peanuts. A little bit of bright green really says Christmas to me. After reading the numerous comments attached to this recipe, I also made some minor changes to the toffee, like using salted butter instead of salt, and adding six tablespoons of water. (By the way: did you notice that Epicurious now allows you to print selected comments with a recipe? Maybe I'm late to the game on this, but I love that feature.)
4 sticks (1 pound) salted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups sugar
6 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups shelled pistachios
1 1/2 bag milk chocolate chips
*Optional: candy thermometer
Butter two cookie sheets and put on a heatproof surface.
Bring butter, sugar, water, and vanilla to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat, whisking until smooth, then boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden and registers 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and carefully pour hot toffee between the two pans, as evenly as possible. (Don't worry if it's not perfect.) Spread with a metal spatula, smoothing the top, and let stand 1 minute, then immediately sprinkle the chocolate on top. Let stand until chocolate is melted, about 3 to 4 minutes, then spread over toffee with cleaned spatula. Sprinkle evenly with pistachios, then freeze until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Continuing our holiday-centric posts, Dan is here with some stellar soundtrack recommendations for all of your upcoming festivities. He's sort of a secret Christmas music connoisseur. --Lisa
As a Jewish fellah, I didn’t grow up with Christmas music. But as connoisseur of rock and roll arcana, I have developed a fondness for the genre, classics and oddities alike.
The challenge of creating a playlist for your holiday party is that you want to include enough sentimental favorites to kindle the ol’ Festivus spirit without descending into hokeyness. Even the most diehard hipster doesn’t want to hear your collection of obscure dub and Krautrock when the weather outside is frightful. But is that an invitation to snuggle up with Michael Bublé’s Swingin’ Kwanzaa or A Night in the Manger with Seals & Crofts? I say, no, it is not.
With this in mind, here is a holiday party play list that balances fond memories, cool curios, and just the right amount of corn. Confession: A few of these tracks can be found on Elton John’s Christmas Party, which much to my own surprise, is one of the best Christmas comps to come out in recent years. I don’t own it myself, though, because I would have to break my No John Mayer Under Any Circumstances rule. What’s next? “Your Body Is a Winter Wonderland”? Blech.
Hope this is useful. For the love of god, stay away from the caroling cats!
1. James Brown—Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto, available on 20th Century Masters – The Christmas Collection: The Best of James Brown
2. Run-DMC—Christmas in Hollis, available on Greatest Hits
Because Christmas isn’t just for the reindeer sweater, giant-bow-on-a-Lexus crowd.
3. The Funk Brothers—Winter Wonderland (instrumental)
4. Marvin Gaye—Purple Snowflakes, both available on Motown Christmas: Playlist Your Way
The Funk Brothers were the legendary backing band behind Motown’s greatest hits. As for Marvin and his purple snowflakes…he just saw things the rest of us can’t see. [note from Lisa: I really love this song. Just sayin'.]
5. Darlene Love—Marshmallow World, available on A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector
6. Elvis Presley—Santa Claus is Back in Town, available on Elvis’ Christmas Album
Representatives from the two undisputed Greatest Christmas Albums of All Time.
7. The Beach Boys—Santa’s Beard, available on Ultimate Christmas
8. Brian Wilson—Christmasey, available on What I Really Want for Christmas
These aren't radio staples like “Little St. Nick” and “The Man with All the Toys.” Maybe at the North Pole.
9. Bing Crosby & David Bowie—Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy, available on Bing Crosby’s Christmas Classics
10. Magnetic Fields—Mr. Mistletoe, available on Distortion
We now enter the more eccentric portion of our program.
11. Rufus Wainwright—Spotlight on Christmas, available on Elton John’s Christmas Party
12. The Kinks—Father Christmas, available on Come Dancing with The Kinks: The Best of The Kinks 1977-1986
Two great songs that just happen to be about Christmas. The latter is about a Santa-for-hire who gets mugged by the poor kids in the neighborhood. Ah, holiday cheer.
13. My Morning Jacket—Xmas Curtain (live), available on Okonokos
14. The Band—Christmas Must Be Tonight, available on Islands
Is the MMJ song even really about Christmas? Not sure. Let’s pair it with this track by their heroes in the Band just to be safe.
15. Willie Nelson—Christmas in Prison, available on Songbird (itunes version)
16. Elvis Costello & The Chieftains—St. Stephen’s Day Murders, available of Mighty Like a Rose (Expanded Edition)
The dark side of the season. Nothing like an Irish air about poisoning the dinner guests to brighten up your caroling repertoire.
17. Don Byron—Dreidel Song, available on Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz
18. The Klezmatics—Hanukkah Dance, available on Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hannukah
Where my Jews at? Did you know Woody Guthrie married into a Jewish family, moved to Coney Island, and wrote lots of Hanukkah songs? You did? Know-it-all!
19. The Pretenders—2000 Miles, available on Learning to Crawl
20. Keith Sweat—Be Your Santa Claus, available on A Christmas of Love
The former is only the greatest Christmas song ever recorded. The latter is…not. But hey, it’s been a long hard year. Treat yourself.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
As promised, here are two recipes designed with LDGTYILA's holiday party in mind. Mint juleps (like the one above) are typically served in the summer around derby time, but their minty sweetness makes them very holiday-appropriate too. The other recipe, parmesan-pepper popcorn, is the perfect thing to scatter around the house in small bowls. Just be sure to have extra popcorn kernels on hand because it will be gone before you even lick the cheese off your fingers. (For more snack ideas, check the archives.)
Most recipes for mint juleps instruct you to bash the mint and sugar together in a cocktail shaker, but I prefer to make a mint-infused simple syrup and garnish the drinks with a mint spring. This unorthodox technique might get me in trouble in Kentucky, but I think it's a more efficient way of making these drinks for a crowd (you can easily serve it in a punchbowl this way). Plus, you won't get little bits of mint stuck in your teeth.
(Serves 6 people)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 large handfuls of mint sprigs
1 liter club soda
6 shots bourbon whiskey
In a small saucepan, combine water, sugar, and 1 handful of mint. Turn the heat on medium-low, and stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for about an hour, so the mint really infuses the syrup. If you don't have an hour, let it sit until it comes to room temperature. Pour one shot of whiskey into each glass, add two to three spoonfuls of the mint syrup, then top off each glass with the club soda. Stir, add ice, and garnish with a mint sprig in each glass.
Dan and I recently tried out a new restaurant in our neighborhood on opening weekend. The meal was pretty much a disaster except for the pre-dinner snack: a cigar box filled with chile-dusted popcorn. It reminded me of how good freshly-popped corn can be. It's such a simple thing, but feels retro and fresh at the same time. I think it's a nice surprise over the typical guac and chips or bowl of pretzels. Especially when you add parmesan and lots of freshly ground pepper (a la Gourmet). Someone asked me if I sprinkled crack over it, and I have to say, it was pretty addictive.
(Makes about 8 cups)
2 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (asiago or romano would also work well)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
Heat oil with a few popcorn kernels in a tall, large saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan until you hear the kernels pop. Quickly add the remaining popcorn, then cook, covered, shaking pan frequently, until kernels stop popping, about 3 to 5 minutes. When the popcorn is done, take it off the heat and toss it with the butter, cheese, salt, and pepper. Taste and readjust the seasonings before serving. But try not to eat all of it.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Dear Lisa [intoned like a Dear Abby letter]:
I'm not sure the comments section of your blog is the appropriate place to ask, but I'm seeking guidance. I'm throwing a holiday party for probably about 25 guests--the first time I've had that many people over since red cups and a keg were the name of the game. So my question is this: When entertaining that many people for cocktails in your home, how do you manage to stay out of the kitchen the whole time? For a specific example: If you want to serve a fancy signature cocktail, how do you keep from mixing up new batches every 15 minutes, which would prohibit you from having any real conversations? I'm thinking a punch bowl full of egg nog, or some other single holiday-ish drink. Is this gauche? Plus of course lots of wine and other, easier things, and of course, lots of graze-able hors d'oeuvres and crudites all around the house as well. Anyway, what say you? Maybe this can inspire a post.
Fondly, Less Domestically Gifted Than You in Los Angeles
I feel your pain. When you're at home alone, the kitchen is like any other room of the house, meaning that you can enter and exit. But when you have people over, suddenly the kitchen develops an invisible dinner party-related force field that sucks you back in at every possible moment. Better go check on that cake in the oven twenty times. Someone ate two olives, you should go get more from the refrigerator. Napkins, anyone? Shoot, you forgot the festive coasters. Go search the entire kitchen for them. And then your party's halfway over and you haven't even really had a chance to sit down, let alone talk to everyone or try your own onion dip. Obviously, as a host, you want to make sure your guests are well-fed and socially lubricated, and the tools to achieve those things are usually in the kitchen. The trick is to get in and out as quickly as possible.
You're on the right track with a punchbowl. Punch is cool again, didn't you hear? If you want to serve a special cocktail in addition to a big-batch drink, set up all of your ingredients in a prominent area where people will congregate. Then, when someone inevitably asks you: "What can I do to help?" just hand them the cocktail shaker and your recipe. Everyone likes playing bartender, and it's a good way to get strangers talking. But choose wisely: you don't want hot buttered rum all over your carpet or someone who will pour weak drinks, or even worse, drink the entire bar themselves.
So drinks are solved. What about food? While it's impossible to stay out of the kitchen completely, you can definitely spend more time with your friends if you make food ahead of time. Have room temperature food plated before everyone arrives. A bowl of chips can sit out for a few hours, so get that kind of stuff out of the way first. If you're serving cold or hot food, do it in stages. Bring out the cold food first while the hot food is cooking, or vice-versa. Then you'll have a little time to hang out with everyone and eat in between. I used to put everything out all at once, buffet-style, but I've found that it's easier and more fun to bring out food in stages throughout the night. It makes things a little more exciting and I think people end up enjoying the food more because there is the constant surprise of not knowing what's next.
Your plan to place food throughout the house is great. The dinner party force-field effect also occurs in other areas of the house, causing people to congregate in small spaces like sheep in a pen. Spread the snacks around and you won't discover 20 people mingling in your hallway.
Tomorrow I'll post two recipes that might come in handy for your holiday shindig.
PS to everyone: I love letters! Send more my way.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Edible gift recipes (candied nuts, fruit compote) from New York chefs [via NYMag]
A round-up of Thanksgiving appetizer ideas that can work for any cocktail party [via The NYT]
Cookies from Gourmet's archives, which date back to the 1940's. Scotch oat crunchies, anyone? [via Gourmet]
Yummy-looking dark chocolate tart with a gingersnap crust [via Smitten Kitchen]
Altoid brownies (yes, Altoid brownies) from Baked bakery in Brooklyn, made lovingly by David Lebovitz in Paris. It's a small, small world, isn't it? [via David Lebovitz]
I know I professed my newfound love of brussels sprouts earlier, but this brussels sprout Christmas tree might be crossing the line [via Apartment Therapy]
Thursday, December 4, 2008
So take a good, hard look, readers. Nice, but I'd rather eat it--wouldn't you?
Chocolate's not the worst thing you can consume in moderation. I just tried a chocolate cake made with a surprisingly healthy secret ingredient. At a recent dinner party, my lovely friend Jennifer asked what she could bring. I didn't have a game plan for dinner yet, so I suggested a dessert. I'm not quite on the gluten-free bandwagon yet, so it's an easy thing for someone else to take off my hands. And that way everyone else can enjoy something other than ice cream or gluten-free fruit crisps, two things I can serve with confidence. She wrote back, "We’ll bring a gluten-free dessert on the 22nd–what time?" Imagining her spending hours in the supermarket squinting over labels, or concocting some flop of a cake with three different types of rice-based flour, I told her not to worry, that anything would be fine, gluten-free or not. Really, don't go to any trouble for little old me! Undeterred, she showed up with a decadent-looking gluten-free chocolate cake and hot fudge sauce. Wow. Lesson learned: never underestimate Jennifer.
Gluten-free chickpea chocolate cake
This is not a cake of the Duncan Hines variety. It's more like the whole wheat bread equivalent of chocolate cake: wholesome and dense with a thin, brownie-like crispness on top. When Jennifer told me it was made with chickpeas, I assumed she meant chickpea flour, but it's actually made with canned beans! Don't be scared. If she hadn't said anything, I don't think anyone would have thought this cake was gluten-free. Or made with chickpeas. The original recipe, which is highly ranked on AllRecipes, can be found here.
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 (19 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Place the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Cook in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds after the first minute, until chocolate is melted and smooth. If you have a powerful microwave, reduce the power to 50 percent. (You can also melt them in a small pan on low heat on the stove, or over a double boiler) Combine the beans and eggs in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the sugar and the baking powder, and pulse to blend. Pour in the melted chocolate and blend until smooth, scraping down the corners to make sure chocolate is completely mixed. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.
Hot fudge sauce
A cake like this calls for a nice, thick sauce. Jennifer wisely opted for homemade hot fudge from AllRecipes. Even more wisely, she left the jar in our fridge, and I have been slowly draining it ever since.
4 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate (Or cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup and use 1 oz. semisweet chocolate)
1 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and cook on high 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until mostly melted. Transfer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat and stir in sugar, salt, and butter. Stir in cream, a little at a time until smooth. Heat through, without boiling, then remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Store in refrigerator.
And now for the very, very bad. For Thanksgiving, I wanted to make a dessert other than pumpkin pie. I considered pears baked in wine, and my trusty fruit crisp, and then I thought about doing a flourless chocolate cake. Even though everyone always goes for the pumpkin pie anyway, I thought what the heck. After finding the cake almost three-quarters gone, post-Thanksgiving dinner, I think I made the right choice.
Flourless chocolate cake with caramel sauce
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large eggs
This buttery, slightly salty sauce pairs well with this cake. Or ice cream...
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
Stir sugar, water, and lemon juice in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add in cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Return to low heat; stir until any bits of caramel dissolve. Add butter; whisk until smooth. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Fullness aside, what I love most about Thanksgiving is the potluck nature of dinner. In my family everyone contributes something (well, at least the women do). Some dishes, like my Nanny's cranberry sauce, are things I've been eating as long as I can remember. Others, like my roasted brussels sprouts, are newer additions to the table. And now that Dan and I have combined our families for the holiday, we've got even more food to be thankful for--like a perfectly roasted turkey with gluten-free stuffing courtesy of my mother-in-law.
While it seems a bit strange to share Thanksgiving recipes with you after the fact, these side dishes would be great for Christmas or any other dinner party.
Thanksgiving dinner '08
Roasted turkey and gravy
Cornbread stuffing with dried apples and sausage
Steamed green beans with citrus zest
Mashed sweet potatoes
Roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and lemon
Nanny's cranberry sauce
Flourless chocolate cake with caramel sauce
Roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and lemon
Oh, I hated brussels sprouts as a kid. Hated them. Had to sit at the dinner table long after everyone had finished because I wouldn't eat my vegetables. Even though I was being sort of a brat, my six-year-old palate wasn't too far off. When boiled, brussels sprouts turn into sour little stink bombs. But a few years ago, brussels sprouts started popping up on menus in restaurants I liked. So I tried to get over my childhood paranoia and roasted them with bacon and lemon as instructed from this recipe from BA. The effect was completely different: the sprouts were caramelized, slightly sweet, and deliciously smoky from a generous portion of bacon. In short, delicious. These will convert the most brussels sprouts scarred person.
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 1/4 cups diced bacon (about 6 ounces)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
(Serves 6 to 8 people)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook brussels sprouts in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. Spread brussels sprouts on rimmed baking sheet in single layer. Sprinkle with bacon, lemon zest, juice, salt, and pepper; stir. Roast brussels sprouts until tender and beginning to brown, stirring every 10 minutes, about 30 minutes. Transfer to bowl and serve.
This what I always ask for around the holidays. Yes, it's a Jell-O mold, but it's been one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes since I was a kid. Call it comfort food. Unlike modern cranberry sauces with ingredients like orange zest and spicy peppers and triple sec, this version is very 1950's in its jiggly, walnut-studded, pineapple-filled glory. I usually eat it straight out of the Tupperware the next day.
2 boxes cranberry-raspberry Jell-O
1/2 cup. chopped walnuts
1 small can crushed pineapple (about 1 cup)
In a medium-sized bowl, combine hot water and the can of cranberry sauce. Stir until the sauce is fairly broken down. Add the Jell-O powder and stir until combined. Stir in the pineapple and walnuts. Pour into a plastic mold (or serving bowl) and refrigerate overnight.