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Recipes and food musings for the global home cook.

Topped with a sprinkling of crushed peanut brittle, this tart combines kitsch and elegance in one fabulously rich dessert. (The Runaway Spoon)

Peanut butter and chocolate truffle tart

By The Runaway Spoon / 03.05.13

Peanut butter and chocolate are one of nature’s great flavor combinations. But part of the great parental anomalies of my childhood. My Dad doesn’t like it. That was, and still is, difficult for me to understand.

It was as much a mystery to me as all those great questions that were answered with “because I said so." After all, how could a man who eats tiny, oily, smelly fish from a can not like a peanut butter cup? I used to require warning so I could go outside and play before he opened a can of sardines. He eats everything – veal sweetbreads are his favorite dish. We have always joked that he orders the one thing on any menu that no one else ever does. But no chocolate and peanut butter. Inconceivable!

The filling for this tart is long been a go-to dessert for me because it so easy and quick and decadently rich. I’ve poured it into all sorts of different crusts, but when this idea came to me, I knew it would be a winner. Peanut buttery cookies on the bottom and a sprinkling of crushed peanut brittle on top. This combines kitsch and elegance in one fabulously rich dessert.

Peanut butter and chocolate truffle tart
Serves 8 

Splurge on some high-quality chocolate for this three-ingredient filling. I buy peanut brittle with the hanging bags of candy at a grocery or drugstore. If you can’t find it, crush the remaining cookies for the top.

For the crust:

24 Nutter Butter cookies

6 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:

15 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup heavy cream

3 ounces peanut brittle, for topping

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Crush the Nutter Butter cookies to fine crumbs. I prefer to do this in the food processor, but you can also bash them up in a heavy-duty zip-top bag with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and process or stir until you have a mixture like damp sand. Press the crumbs on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart tin with a removable bottom. Make sure there are no holes in your crust. Bake the crust for eight minutes, then remove from the oven and cool completely.

For the filling:

Place the chocolate in the carafe of a blender and add the vanilla extract. Pour the heavy cream into a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Immediately pour it over the chocolate in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and smooth the top. Chill the pie, uncovered, in the refrigerator for three hours. At this point, you can loosely cover the tart with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.

Before serving, crush the peanut brittle into small pieces in a heavy-duty zip-top bag. Remove the outer ring from the tart pan and leave to soften slightly, about 30 minutes, before sprinkling the peanut brittle dust over the top and slicing.

Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Fresh Fig Cake with Buttermilk Glaze

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Some beans require soaking overnight. A short cut version is to use boiling water and a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to speed up the softening process. (Beyond The Peel)

Meatless Monday: How to quick soak dry beans (+video)

By Beyond The Peel / 03.03.13

One of the biggest challenges that I hear about most often is that transitioning to a whole food diet will be cost prohibitive. Here’s just one of the many food items that is less expensive than its processed counterpart, takes little to no effort to prepare, and is very simple to do! Beans and legumes.

Make your own and skip the canned version. The homemade ones have a better texture, cause less digestive upset, and are healthier for you.

It's simple: add a couple cups of dry black beans to a bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of apple cider, cover with 6 cups of boiling water. Let them sit for 1 hour. That's it!

After you’ve finished with the soaking process (whether you choose the 1 hour or 8-24 hour process) you’re ready for the cooking part. Drain the beans, rinse well and place the beans in a pot. Add water in a 3:1 ratio to the beans and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender. This could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours. If at that point they still aren’t cooked (some beans are really old and need longer cooking times, but it’s rare), add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water and continue to cook until tender.

I’ve heard stories of beans not being cooked after 4 hours. At that point, I’d toss the beans and buy different ones, but I hear the baking soda trick does work. You choose.

To salt or not to salt? It’s entirely up to you. You can even use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water or add spices and herbs to the pot, but if you want to keep it simple, basic water does the trick.

A can of organic beans will cost you $2.99 a can (that’s 1-1/2 cups of beans). You can make them for a fraction of the cost. A 1/2 cup of dried beans will make 1-1/2 cups cooked. Organic dried beans might cost about .30 cents for 1/2 cup. Now that’s saving some money.

If you want to learn more about traditional methods of cooking as taught through the teachings of Weston A. Price and Nourishing Traditions visit our friend Wardeh’s website Gnowfglins. Wardeh’s online course will teach you everything you need to know.

Related post on Beyond The Peel: Squash and black bean tostados

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March bookclub selection: Chocolat by Joanne Harris

By Edible Books / 03.01.13

During our recent Q&A with Erica Bauermeister (author of our February book selection, "The School of Essential Ingredients") she listed "Chocolat" among her favorite food books, so in a way this book was her nomination.

And as one of our book club members noted last month, "Chocolat" is the “perfect Lenten read.” The book opens on Shrove Tuesday and ends with Easter Monday and we’ll follow the Lenten journey of the citizens of the village of Lansquenet, after chocolatier Vianne Rocher opens her shop and turns their quiet little town on its ear.

The book description promises that “every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere.”

"Chocolat" should spark some interesting discussion about temptation, indulgence, and the value of austerity.

Happy Reading! 

~Christina & Natalie

Below is the March discussion schedule:

March 1-8:   Chapters 1-10

March 9-16:  Chapters 11-20

March 17-23:  Chapters 21-29

March 24-31: Chapters 30-39

Find us on Twitter @ediblebookclub #ediblebooks

If you need more information about Edible Books, please read the participation guidelines here.

If you own an ice cream machine this is one recipe you have to try. Nutty and cool, this dessert is luscious. (The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook)

Black sesame ice cream

By The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook / 03.01.13

Have you ever been struck by an incessant food craving that just won’t go away? Like a song that lodges in your head and plays over and over again.

Most often, it’s a childhood snack or comfort food you crave – Mom’s mac and cheese, Twinkies (RIP), or cherry flavored Jell-O. And it’s always, always, always, annoying because you simply can’t shake it off until you actually indulge it.

In my case, I’ve been fantasizing about glutinous rice balls in sugar syrup (also known as tang yuan) for the past week or so. You know, those chewy white balls made from glutinous (or sweet rice) flour, the ones that burst open with one bite, releasing a lavalike flow of sweet black sesame paste?

So when Diana Kuan (who writes the marvelous blog appetiteforchina.com) invited me to participate in her Chinese New Year potluck to celebrate her new book "The Chinese Takeout Cookbook," one recipe was calling, siren-like, out to me.

I’ve seen black sesame ice cream on menus before but I’ve never tried it, let alone attempted to make it. However, Diana’s recipe is so simple that my mind was made up before you could say “black sesame.” I whipped up the ice cream base in barely 10 minutes and the ice cream machine did the rest of the work.

The 4 hours the ice cream had to sit in the freezer to set seemed like a toe-tapping eternity. As soon as the timer went off, I scooped some out, sat down with a bowl of cool, nutty black sesame ice cream and ate my craving away spoonful by luscious spoonful.

Black sesame ice cream
Adapted from "The Chinese Takeout Cookbook" by Diana Kuan

Diana uses a light Philadelphia-style eggless base for this delicious dessert infused with a hint of vanilla and the more dramatic nutty fragrance and flavor of black sesame, which is almost akin to dark chocolate or French roast coffee. I lightened it up a little and used half-and-half instead of heavy cream for a fluffier gelato-like texture. If you can actually resist gorging, the ice cream stores well in the freezer for up to a week.

Makes: 1 quart
Time: 10 minutes, active

2 cups half-and-half, or heavy cream

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup black sesame seeds

Special equipment:
Spice grinder

Ice cream maker

Combine 1 cup of the heavy cream, the sugar, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Stir in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, the milk, and vanilla extract. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. (If you are in a hurry, skip this step.)

Grind the sesame seeds in a clean spice grinder for about 5 seconds until they turn into a coarse powder. Don’t grind for too long as the seeds will turn into a paste.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and slowly pour in the ground black sesame. Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezersafe container and freeze for at least four hours or overnight.

Related post on The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Almond Tofu and Syrupy Smashed Cherries

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Sure, cookies aren't the healthiest snack, but sometimes a recipe like this one makes them worth it. (In Praise of Leftovers)

Pebbly beach fruit squares

By In Praise of Leftovers / 02.28.13

For those of you aspiring to eat less sugar and more kale, I hear you. I'm with you. But on a cookie-baking roll. Forgive me.

Alice Medrich's "Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-your-Mouth Cookies" aren't helping matters. I haven't come across a baker that gets cookies like she does. As you know, I'm a cookie person. Just by looking, I'm able to tell a great cookie from an okay one, and a passable one from a don't-waste-your-calories one. And I'm also aware that cookies baked in most home ovens often don't turn out like the ones you might get at your favorite bakery. If you stick with Alice, she'll help you.

I could say a lot more about cookies and even my philosophy about having them sitting around the house. (The short version is I allow myself one when they are warm and about two more over the course of the batch/days. The rest go in the kids lunches or are given away as gifts.) 

For Alice Medrich's pebbly beach fruit squares I had to read these directions carefully to visualize how these cookies are formed, but I found the dough easy to work with and didn't experience any problems. You can use any dried fruit, and she instructs to soak it in water, fruit juice, or wine to soften it. But only for 20 minutes. I soaked my dried cranberries in orange juice. Yum. And I used lemon zest and just mixed the softened butter and sugar with a spoon. Anything to avoid getting out the mixer. The kids and I pronounced these divine. 

P.S. Alice is big on refrigerating your dough, which develops the flavor of the cookies, makes them less prone to spread in the oven, and makes your dough easier to work with. This dough requires 2 hours of refrigeration.

Makes 32 2-1/2-inch squares.

1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest or 1 teaspoon cinnamon or anise

1 cup moist dried fruit (raisins, cherries, cranberries, apricots, candied ginger, dates, prunes) 

1/4 cup turbinado or other coarse sugar

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and mix together thoroughly.

With a large spoon in a medium mixing bowl or with a mixer, beat the butter with the granulated sugar until smooth and well-blended but not fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix until completely incorporated.

Divide the dough in half and form each into a rectangle. Wrap the patties in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let sit for 15 minutes to soften slightly. On a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap, roll one piece of dough into a rectangle about 8-inches by 16-inches. With the short side facing you, scatter half the dried fruit on the bottom half of the dough. Fold of top half of the dough over the fruit, using the paper as a handle if it's sticking. Peel the paper from the top of the dough. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Flip the dough onto a lightly floured cutting board and peel off the remaining paper. Sprinkle with half the coarse sugar and pat lightly to make sure the sugar adheres. Use a heavy knife to trim the edges. Cut into 4 strips and cut each strip into 4 pieces to make 16 squares. Place cookies 2-inches apart on parchment-lined or greased cookie sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough, fruit, and sugar.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Cool cookies completely before stacking or storing.

Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Buttermilk Orange Pecan Cookies

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The fish sauce and ginger marinade for these chicken wings can handle a lot of garlic. Don't shy away from using four cloves. (Ravenous Couple)

Fish sauce or Pok Pok wings

By Ravenous Couple / 02.27.13

During our recent trip to Vietnam, we had fish sauce wings or cánh gà chiên nước mắm at roadside eateries in Vietnam and loved the sticky, shellac like layer of fish sauce studded with garlic on a crispy fried chicken wing. It’s the perfect balanced combination of sweet and salty that Vietnamese foods are known for, and in essence, a process of caramelization not unlike gà kho or thit kho that results in a perfect finger licking lacquer of fish sauce, sugar, and garlic.

Here in the United States, it’s unfortunate not that many Vietnamese restaurants serve it. Vietnamese fried chicken wings could prove to be just as popular as Korean fried chicken wings. However, chef Andy Ricker and cook Ich Truong of Pok Pok in Portland, have single-handedly made fish sauce wings into a huge cult hit.

Using Ich’s family recipe, the dish was named Food and Wine’s Top 10 restaurant dishes of 2007. We recently made it for the Super Bowl without changing much, except for increasing the amount of garlic – by a lot.  Make sure you use high quality fish sauce for this recipe, such as Red Boat which does not have any additives. The fish sauce and sugar marinade can really handle a lot more than the recipe calls for so we recommend being aggressive on the garlic. Plus, you can always save any extra fried garlic for another dish or another batch of wings.

Fish Sauce or Pok Pok Wings
Based on the recipe from Food and Wine Magazine 

1/2 cup Vietnamese fish sauce

1/2 cup superfine sugar (or just regular white sugar)

4 garlic cloves, 2 crushed and 2 minced (we used about 4 heads of garlic, divided)

3 pounds chicken wings split at the drumettes (We used drummets and wings and find they are easier to fry)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying

1 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped mint

In a bowl, whisk the fish sauce, sugar and crushed garlic. Add the wings and toss to coat. Refrigerate for three hours, tossing the wings occasionally.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet. Add the minced garlic; cook over moderate heat until golden, three minutes. Drain on paper towels.

In a large pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees F. Pat the wings dry on paper towels; reserve the marinade. Put the cornstarch in a shallow bowl, add the wings and turn to coat lightly. Dust off any extra. Fry the wings in batches until golden and cooked through. Drain on cooling rack and transfer to a bowl.

In a small saucepan, simmer the marinade over moderately high heat until syrupy. Strain over the wings and toss. Top with the cilantro, mint and fried garlic and serve.

You can fry wings in advance and when ready to serve, caramelize the marinade in a large wok or frying pan and then reheat the wings by tossing it in the sauce when thickened.

Related post on the Ravenous Couple: Sweet Sour Pork Ribs Suon Xao Chua Ngot

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A French take on veal shanks calls for braising the shanks for 2 hours. The meat will be aromatic, smokey, and fork tender. (Blue Kitchen)

Braised veal shanks with white beans

By Blue Kitchen / 02.27.13

Don’t get me wrong. I love osso buco. I’ve even made the time-honored Italian dish. But when I recently got my hands on some nice looking veal shanks, I wanted to try something different. Apparently, I’m not alone in that. Nestled among a bazillion osso buco recipes that a quick search for veal shanks recipes brought up was this plaintive cry on Chowhound: “Need veal shank recipe – Not Osso Buco.”

In my head, I traveled the culinary globe off and on for a couple of days. I spent a lot of virtual time in Mexico and Latin America, conjuring up tangy, spicy, chipotle-smoky dishes. Morocco called to me, with cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and golden raisins. In the end, though, I landed right next door to Italy, in France. And the resulting recipe borrowed from classic dishes of both.

For osso buco, veal shanks are braised for a couple of hours, often on the stovetop (for my version, I oven-braised them). This slow cooking makes the mild-flavored meat fork tender and infuses it with the flavors of the braising liquid – aromatics, herbs, wine, and stock. Small wonder this rustic dish is a favorite in Italian restaurants and home kitchens alike.

Cassoulet, comfort food as only the French can do it, blows right past two hours for cooking time. Not only do you cook everything for hours – one of the ingredients, duck confit, is duck that’s already been cooked for hours. And you are further encouraged to cook the whole thing a day ahead and then cook it some more before serving.

For this braised veal shanks with white beans recipe, I took advantage of some of the overlap in these two timeless dishes. Then I skewed the whole thing in a cassoulet direction. Traditional cassoulet is a real meat festival. In addition to the aforementioned duck, it usually contains lamb and/or various cuts of pork, and it always includes sausage. The shanks are plenty meaty, so I just used a little bacon to achieve some of the smoky flavor sausage adds. And of course, white beans and bread crumbs are key cassoulet ingredients. They help anchor this dish, too.

Braised veal shanks with white beans
Serves 4

4 cross-cut veal shanks (osso buco cut, 1/2- to 3/4-pound each)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

flour (about 1/4 cup or so)

3 slices bacon

canola oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 shallots, sliced (or 1 medium yellow onion)

3 carrots, sliced on an angle

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dry)

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles (or 1 teaspoon dry)

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 cup dry white wine (I used a muscadet) [optional, may substitute cooking wine]

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (plus more, if needed)

2 small bay leaves (or 1 large)

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 15-ounce cans white beans, such as cannellini

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Pat the veal shanks dry with paper towels and tie them with kitchen twine around the outside. Season generously with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Set aside. In a cold Dutch oven large enough to hold shanks in a single layer, drizzle a little canola oil and add bacon strips. Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, turning frequently. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Working in batches, brown shanks on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to medium-low. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from Dutch oven and add 1 tablespoon butter. Add shallots and carrots. Cook until shallots are beginning to soften, stirring frequently to avoid burning, three to four minutes. Add garlic, thyme and rosemary to pot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds.

Add tomatoes, wine and 1 cup of chicken broth and scrape up any browned bits. Crumble in the cooked bacon. Season with pepper, but no salt at this point. Nestle shanks into pot, adding any accumulated juices. Add second cup of broth. Shanks should be about 2/3 submerged in liquid. Add a little water if more liquid is needed (or cut back on broth if you don’t need it all). Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover Dutch oven and transfer to the oven.

Braise shanks for 2 hours, until meat is completely tender, checking every 30 minutes to see if additional liquid is needed. If so, add water; adding more broth could make it too salty – and too brothy.

Meanwhile, toast bread crumbs. I used Japanese panko – it tends to be lighter and crunchier than other bread crumbs, and the toasted crumbs tend to maintain their crispiness even when sprinkled over cooked foods. But feel free to use whatever white bread or bread crumbs you have on hand.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low flame. Add 1/2 tablespoon oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add bread crumbs and toss to coat with oil. Toast until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 3 to 5 minutes. Watch closely – they will remain stubbornly pale for a while and then suddenly turn brown. Don’t burn them. Transfer to a shallow bowl or plate and allow to cool completely. You can toast the bread crumbs a day ahead and, after they’re cooled, store at room temperature in an airtight container.

When shanks are just about done, drain and rinse the beans. Set aside one cup of beans. Transfer Dutch oven to stovetop and turn off the oven. Transfer shanks to a platter and tent with foil. Return to oven to keep them warm.

Discard bay leaves. Add beans (all but the one cup you’ve reserved) to Dutch oven and heat over medium flame. Using a hand masher, mash the reserved beans in a pot or sturdy bowl until smooth, adding a little braising liquid to make it easier. Add mashed beans to Dutch oven and stir to combine. If braising liquid is thin, raise heat to medium-high and thicken slightly. Taste and adjust seasonings – chances are, you won’t need to add salt.

Divide bean/braising liquid mixture among four shallow bowls and top with bread crumbs. Place a shank in the middle of each bowl, removing string. Serve.

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Linguine serves as the perfect nest for big, juicy shrimp glazed with a citrus cream sauce. (The Runaway Spoon)

Citrus shrimp linguine

By The Runaway Spoon / 02.26.13

It’s winter. Generally, it’s cold and gray, though here in Memphis, the months are punctuated with weirdly frustrating days of 70 degree F. weather. I love winter food, but I have souped and stewed and braised myself silly and I’m ready for something lighter and fresher. This recipe started as just that. A quick whip-up with the last citrus at the bottom of the fruit bowl and some shrimp from the freezer.  But this good enough to share, and could not be a quicker family meal or company dish.

Big juicy shrimp remind me of summer, and citrus is sometimes the one spot of sunshine in the winter foodscape. Add a little garlic and fresh, leafy parsley and this is a bright, sunny dish. A touch of cream adds some body, but mostly this sauce just glazes the pasta and shrimp with zest. Use a high-quality olive oil to make sure the citrus really shines.

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

Serves 4

12 ounces linguine

1 orange

1 lemon

1 lime

3 garlic cloves

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup heavy cream

Small handful flat leaf parsley leaves, plus more for sprinkling

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the linguine in a pot of well-salted water according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water.

Grate the zest of the orange, lemon, and lime into the carafe of a blender. Juice the citrus to produce 3/4 cup juice combined. Add the juice to the blender with the garlic, parsley, olive oil, cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Blend until smooth.

Pour the sauce into a large skillet or pot that will hold the pasta. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add the shrimp and cook, turning once, until cooked through. They will be pink, firm, and curled tightly. Immediately add the pasta to the pot and a couple of tablespoons of cooking water. Use tongs to toss everything together, coating all the pasta with the sauce.

Serve immediately sprinkled with a little chopped fresh parsley.

Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Tomato brie and herb pasta

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Top portobello mushrooms with a strong flavored cheese of your choice and chopped walnuts. Pair it with a salad and a grain and in minutes you'll have tasty meatless meal. (Beyond The Peel)

Meatless Monday: Brie and walnut topped portobello mushrooms

By Beyond The Peel / 02.25.13

When the hubby is away the wife will play!

In my house that means making all kinds of yummy food that wouldn’t really go over well, like popcorn for dinner. It’s not quite substantial enough for him. Go figure. Brie, sourdough, and olives with a green salad ... not really his favorite. He thinks that’s more of a snack and he’ll pass on olives all together! That being said, he has come a long way. I have converted him to liking almost every food, but most things still have to be in moderation.

Enter portobello mushrooms. I love them! But if I were serve to serve them to my husband as the centerpiece of a meal, I would be met with a very sad face.

So, while I have the kitchen to myself, I plan to get my fill of portobellos, eggplants, olives (I bought 3 containers!) and stinky blue cheese.

This dish – portobello mushrooms topped with brie and crunchy walnuts – is the first of those glorious meals. From start to finish it takes less than 20 minutes and it's packed with tons of nutrients and big flavor. It’s also loaded with healthy fats and 15 grams of protein. I had mine with lemony spinach. They can be served alone as a sophisticated appetizers, or with greens and quinoa for something more substantial.

And don’t skip the tomato balsamic emulsion. It’s delicious.

As for the mushrooms, I’ve tried it with 2 types of cheese and I encourage you to use whatever cheese you like best, but stick to one with big flavor. I recommend Gorgonzola, but a stinky brie was an excellent choice, too. Goat cheese is pretty common and I believe it would work well here, but try and use a cheese that gets melty, gooey and has lots of flavor.

I received my inspiration from one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks, "Paradiso Seasons" by Denis Cotter. He uses all weights for his recipes, so as a result, I really only use his recipes as a jumping off point since I don’t own a kitchen scale. If you can find his book at a library I recommend you pick it up. Especially if you love gourmet, foodie inspired vegetarian meals. It’s a delightful book, filled with so much great information.

Brie and Walnut Portobello Mushrooms

2  portobello mushrooms

Olive oil

2 ounces of aged brie

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

4 large sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Clean the mushrooms, break the stems off and reserve for another purpose. Place the mushroom caps upside down on a baking sheet. Brush the caps with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put 1 ounce of cheese (or more if you wish) on each. In a small bowl add the chopped walnuts. Finely chop the sage and add it to the walnuts. Stir to combine. Sprinkle each mushroom cap with 2 tablespoons of the walnut mixture. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. If the walnuts have not browned yet, broil for 1 to 2 minutes (set a timer). Serve with tomato balsamic emulsion.

Tomato Balsamic Emulsion

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup of tomato purée

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoons crushed fresh pepper

1/4 cup of Spanish smoked paprika

Using an emulsion blender, place all the ingredients in a pitcher. Blend everything into a thick emulsion. A mini food processor would work, too. Season with salt and more pepper. Serve by spreading 1-2 tablespoons of the sauce on the plate and place mushroom on top.

Related post on Beyond the Peel: How to make maple balsamic reduction

The cherry flavor in these cupcakes is subtle, and the texture is spongy. The icing is what puts them over the top! (Eat. Run. Read)

Cherry cupcakes with cherry frosting

By Eat. Run. Read / 02.22.13

This week I’m phone-interviewing intern candidates, which always presents unique interactions ranging from interesting to straight-up shenanigans. Yesterday, for example, I interviewed the most nervous candidate I have ever encountered. When I asked why he wants this internship, I could feel the poor guy shaking through the phone! I am by no means a harsh or tricky interviewer, so when he apologized profusely for his anxiety, I tried to calm him down, Don’t worry about it, it’s really totally fine. Just take a deep breath and start over, you don’t have to apologize, it’s no big deal.

The thing about phone interviews is that you can’t see the person on the other end. Little did he know that the scary and all-powerful Ms. EatRunRead of our e-mail exchanges was me, sitting at my desk wearing running shoes and leggings – a 24-year-old who just ate a cupcake for breakfast.

And what a cupcake it was! Last week I used my free cupcake coupon from Sprinkles to try their cherry blossom cupcake and it was absolutely divine – so good that I couldn’t wait to replicate it. I found Sprinkles’ strawberry cupcake recipe online, and adapted it to use frozen cherries instead. This cupcake has a wonderful almost spongy texture, thanks to its combined use of egg and egg whites. The cherry is very subtle, I think I would add more cherries and less milk in the future to get a stronger cherry flavor.

Cherry cupcakes (from Sprinkles)
Servings: Makes 1 dozen large cupcakes (I usually make little cupcakes, so I got 16)

Ingredients

2/3 cup fresh or frozen whole cherries (thawed if frozen)

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

2 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

Place cherries in a small food processor; process until puréed. You should have about 1/3 cup of purée. Add a few more cherries if necessary, or save any extra purée for frosting; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and cherry purée; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

Cherry frosting (from Sprinkles)
Makes enough for 1 dozen cupcakes (I guess it depends on how heavily you frost the cupcakes…I had a lot of frosting leftover.)

Ingredients

1/2 cup frozen whole cherries, thawed

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Pinch salt

3-1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Place cherries in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until puréed. Use an electric mixer to beat together butter and salt until light and fluffy. Slowly add confectioners sugar and beat until well combined. Add vanilla and cherry puree, mix until just blended. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream. 

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