It seems there's a fungus among us. I heard last week that the rumors of late blight in Hudson Valley, N.Y. have been confirmed. Keep your spores off my 'maters.
We've only been harvesting our little crop of tomatoes (some cherries and some big, juicy Ulster Germaids that we've grown from seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library) for a couple weeks now and they are so sweet and flavorful – I am hoping we can at least enjoy them for a few more weeks. That's my roundabout way of suggesting that you make this delicious meal now, since there may not be much of a future for tomatoes on the East Coast this summer.
This dish is inspired by a similar one I had at Cucina, an upscale Italian restaurant here in Woodstock, N.Y., that we really like.
Anyway, back to the recipe. This is a simple meal but so good. The chicken is crispy outside and tender inside with a nice crunchy, salty, cheesy crust that is enhanced by squeezing a little lemon juice over it. And the sweet, juicy tomatoes play nicely with the fresh, peppery bite of the arugula combined with a splash of olive oil and rich, sweet balsamic vinegar.
Although I am in no way above using prepared breadcrumbs, I was overtaken by feelings of guilt while staring at a Bread Alone baguette I'd unintentionally let go stale on the counter. So I made a small tub of breadcrumbs by food processing the bread to fine crumbs and then adding some grated Parmesan, sea salt and black pepper to make the breading mixture.
The process of breading and frying the chicken always takes a little more time and effort than I'd like, but on the whole this is a fairly easy meal to assemble. The chicken pieces are quite thin, so they cook quickly.
I made the salad with some arugula I picked out of our little container garden – I love being able to pick it while it's still young and tender and has not yet turned bitter or tough.
I topped it with some of our first fresh tomatoes and then drizzled some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a tiny bit of salt over it all.
Chicken Milanese On a Bed of Arugula & Tomatoes
4 boneless, skinless, organic chicken cutlets
1-1/2 -2 cups breadcrumbs (Panko is a good choice for a crispy crust)
2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, beaten in a shallow bowl
1 cup of flour
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large or 3-4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch of arugula, washed, dried and with the ends of the stems removed
4 lemon slices
1/3 cup olive oil plus a little more for the salad
Put one or two of the chicken cutlets in a plastic bag (you can also use wax paper or plastic wrap but a bag will work just as well and is less wasteful), lay them on a cutting board and pound them with a mallet or rolling pin until they are nice and flat and thin (you're shooting for a thickness of roughly 1/2 inch). Repeat with the others and set them aside.
Prepare your breading station: combine the flour, salt and pepper on a plate or a rimmed baking dish, put the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl next to the flour, combine the breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and a little more salt in a third rimmed dish next to the eggs. The order should be flour, eggs, and then breadcrumbs.
Working one at a time, dredge the flattened chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, making sure you coat them well, then dip them in the egg (again, cover the whole piece) but try to let the excess egg drip off back into the bowl, and then roll them in the breadcrumbs making sure you cover all the surfaces (you can pick some up and sprinkle it on the cutlet if this is challenging). Set each piece aside as you finish then go wash your hands.
Heat 1/3 cup of olive oil in a wide shallow frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Fry the chicken pieces until golden brown – about 3-5 minutes on each side then remove them from the pan and drain on a paper bag (or a plate).
Divide the arugula between four plates and top with the chopped tomatoes. Drizzle the greens and tomatoes with a little olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a little sea salt and black pepper then top each one with a piece of chicken. Serve with a wedge of lemon on the side.
Related post on: Garden of Eating
Harry S Truman famously said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” I took the 33rd president at his word recently, although probably not as he intended. When the temperatures finally (and temporarily) dropped below dangerous levels here in Chicago, but were still high enough that I didn’t want to heat up the kitchen, I fired up the grill instead.
I fired up our taste buds too, although only a little, with these slightly spicy pork chops seasoned with chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper. Then I piled on color and flavor with a quick, lively salsa. Served with a side of refried beans (OK, we heated up the kitchen a little) and a salad, the chops made for a delicious weeknight dinner.
Pork plays well with fruit flavors, something I’ve relied on more than a few times here. And it picks up a wonderful smokiness on the grill. Combine those two qualities and you take it to a whole other level.
For the salsa, I started with mango. Native to the Indian subcontinent, mangoes have a silky texture and a taste described as a delicate blend of peach, pineapple and apricot. That said, the whole is more than the sum of the parts – rich, fragrant, and exotic. To the diced mango, I added tomatoes (also a fruit, but only by a technicality to me), cilantro (if you’re among those who can’t stand it, substitute parsley), red onion, and jalapeño pepper.
But I encourage you to play with your salsa. I used cherry tomatoes, but a regular tomato would work too. Don’t have red onion? Substitute scallions or chives. For the pepper, go as fiery or mild as you like. The jalapeño I had this time was not spicy at all, even though I kept some of the seed and the ribs –you could even substitute a little green bell pepper for the flavor alone, if you like. You can also add a little cayenne pepper if you want to heat things up a bit.
Spicy Grilled Pork Chops with Mango Cilantro Salsa
For the chops:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 bone-in pork chops (I used pork loin rib chops)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salsa:
1 ripe mango
6 to 10 cherry tomatoes, depending on size
3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1/2 large jalapeño pepper (or a whole small one), finely chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (torn in half if large)
A quick note here – make sure the salsa is completely prepared before putting the chops on the grill. They cook up quickly (see Kitchen Notes), and you need to keep an eye on them, not be fiddling with mangoes in the kitchen.
Prepare the chops. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil and spices. Set aside. Remove chops from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking to come to room temperature. If you’re using a charcoal grill, you can do this when you fire up the grill to let the charcoals get hot. Pat chops dry with paper towels and brush on both sides with the oil and spices. Place on a platter and set aside.
Prepare the salsa. Peel and cube the mango and place it in a large bowl. Rinse and quarter the cherry tomatoes and add them to the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir gently with a wooden spoon to combine. Set aside to let flavors combine.
Grill the chops. When the coals are hot, prepare for direct grilling. (If you’re using a gas grill, do the same – if you use wood chips, I would encourage that for the nice smokiness.) Brush the grate with oil and grill the chops on the first side for a minute or two uncovered (watch for flare-ups). Cover the grill and let them cook a bit longer, a total of 4 to 5 minutes for the first side. Turn chops and repeat the process, cooking until a quick-read thermometer registers about 145 degrees F., when inserted into the thickest part for medium rare to medium (see Kitchen Notes below). If your chops are on the thin side, check for doneness at about 8 minutes total cooking time. Remove from grill, tent with foil and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving. Plate chops on individual serving plates, give the salsa a final stir and spoon it over the chops. Serve.
Is it done? Cooking any kind of meat to proper doneness is always filled with variables, especially on the grill. How hot your coals are, how thick the meat is and whether you remembered to let it come to room temperature before cooking it all factor in. A quick-read thermometer is a vital tool in accurately judging doneness, but only if it’s used properly. Here’s a little tip I learned watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen, a show that I feel mostly sucks all the air out of the room while you’re watching it (“We cooked this recipe 437 different times until we got the results we wanted. Is my bow tie on straight?”), but that occasionally shares useful tips.
Like this one: For a quick-read thermometer to give an accurate reading, you have to insert the tip of the probe far enough into the meat. Otherwise, the probe will also be reading the air temperature around it. The end is often marked some way – with an engraved line or a slightly different finish. My Sur La Table thermometer’s probe is narrower at the end; that entire section should be inserted in the meat. Unfortunately, chops, burgers and even chicken parts can sometimes be too thin for the probe to completely inserted from the top. So when you’re ready to test the temperature of a thinner cut of meat, pick it up with your tongs and insert the probe from the side. You’ll be amazed at the differences in the readings.
Hungry for more grilled chops from Blue Kitchen? Try these Vietnamese-inspired Turmeric/Ginger Grilled Pork Chops, these Asian Grilled Pork Chops with ginger, garlic, sesame oil and lime juice or Pork Chops with Rosemary, marinated in red wine, garlic and rosemary.
Maque Choux distills the essence of summer into every bite. Admittedly, its first attraction may be the fun name. Pronounced "mock shoe," it is a corruption of a French word or an Indian saying, or just straight up Acadian, depending on whom you ask. It is a traditional Cajun dish which occasionally makes it onto the menus of New Orleans-style restaurants, but more often than not, as some dressed up, modernized version – with herbs, no bacon, named heirloom tomatoes. All of which is fine, but when you stop de-constructing and re-constructing and cook up a big, simple skillet-full, the very taste of ripe, sweet summer corn and fresh, juicy tomatoes is so clear, I don’t see why we need to mess about.
Like classic Wash Day Beans, this is not a quick, lightly cooked preparation. The slow, mellow braising of corn kernels with onion brings out a sweet richness that will make you think someone snuck in a dash of sugar while you weren’t looking. Salty smokiness from good bacon and a touch of sweet-tart freshness from full, ripe tomatoes round out one of my favorite expressions of summer’s bounty.
Serve maque choux beside a hearty piece of grilled meat, but I’ll be honest, I usually eat it by the bowlful all on its own, maybe with a biscuit to sop up the juices.
Maque Choux (Cajun Stewed Corn and Tomatoes)
6 strips of bacon
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
6 ears of fresh corn, husked and silked
2 large or 3 medium tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a large, deep skillet with a tight fitting lid until crisp. Remove half of the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving the rest in the skillet.
While the bacon is cooking, cut the kernels from the corn and scrape out as much milk as possible. Lower the heat on the bacon grease, add the onions and green peppers and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
When the onions are beginning to soften add the corn and stir to blend. Scrape in the chopped tomatoes and their juices, stir well and bring to a bubble.
Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the skillet, and stew for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If needed, add a dash of water here and there to keep things from sticking. Maque choux can stand up to longer cooking if you get distracted and can be gently reheated a few hours later.
Serve warm, with the remaining bacon pieces sprinkled on top.
Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Wash Day Beans,
It all started, like so many Eat Run Read baking adventures do, with an e-mail and a baking challenge from a friend. Within the hour we had a time, we had a plan, and we were ready embark upon the most epic baking adventure yet to grace the Eat Run Read kitchen: a cookie dough fudge cheesecake.
My friends knocked on my door late that Saturday afternoon. They came bearing a bag of groceries: heavy cream, cream cheese, chocolate, etc. (all the most important things in life). They joined my roommates on my couch, opened a bag of chips, and settled in to observe an afternoon/evening of baking.
This is pretty usual for us. I love cooking, and I like when other people are around, but I do not like other people in the kitchen with me. I just don't understand how one bakes with someone else. As far as I'm concerned, it's a one-person endeavor. And quite the process it was! This cheesecake is not that difficult, it just has a lot of steps. But all the best things in life are worth the time, right? And yes, I do include this cheesecake as one of the best things in life. It may be the best thing I have ever made. It's definitely the prettiest.
I only slightly modified the recipe. I didn't have enough Oreos, so I did half Oreo, half crushed graham crackers for the crust. This cake's only flaw was that the crust came out soggy. (Ugh, why is crust always so difficult?) I suggest baking the crust for 10 minutes before adding the ganache. And also, when you take the cake out of the oven, immediately unwrap the foil and cool the cake on a cookie rack.
And this recipe made way too much ganache. We're talking twice the ganache you need. Not that I'm really complaining. But if you want to avoid that chocolatey temptation, halve the ganache recipe.
I made the crust, ganache, cheesecake, sour cream, and cookie dough on Saturday. Then on Sunday I assembled. I laid the cookie dough on top of the cheesecake, and re-heated my ganache (in the microwave) to decorate. Then everyone ate. Oh. My. Goodness. Like I said, best cake ever.
Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yields: one 9-inch cheesecake
32 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely processed into crumbs
5-1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
1-1/2 cups heavy cream (I used 2 cups heavy cream. But like I said earlier, you can easily half the ganache recipe and have enough for the cake.)
20 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I combined both)
3 (8 ounces) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (I used whipped cream cheese and it worked fine. But do not try to use light cream cheese. Trust me, it just won't work.)
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons mild-flavored (light) molasses (I didn't do this)
3 large eggs
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cookie Dough Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips.)
4 to 6 tablespoons water
For the complete baking instructions, please visit Willow Bird Baking.
Related post on Eat Run Read: Caramel Apple Eggnog Cheesecake
Imagine going out to the garden in the evening, still undecided about what to make for dinner. Wandering around the patches of fresh produce – zucchini, corn, cilantro, tomatoes, and lettuce – a few ingredients begin to form a meal.
Maybe it’s asparagus and green beans to go with roast chicken. Or perhaps cilantro and jalapeños to spice up chicken wings. Don’t forget strawberries for dessert.
If you are like me, utterly unimaginative when it comes to combining ingredients (let alone how to grow them), a recent cookbook may help expand the spectrum of what is possible in the kitchen – all with ingredients fresh from the farm.
The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food, by Ian Knauer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2012, $30) introduces readers to the process of how our food ends up on our tables. The farm-to-table movement is a way of life for Mr. Knauer, who shows how an appreciation for the land can unlock a new world of flavors and ideas.
Knauer started out at Gourmet as a cross-tester – he acted like a potential reader and tested all the recipes before they were published. Eventually he worked his way into a food editor position where he concocted his own recipes in the magazine’s test kitchen. He often brought in produce he raised himself, or meat he killed while hunting (he shares a tale of his first hunting expedition in the book).
His expertise in the basics of fresh ingredients comes from doing chores on his grandfather’s farm during his childhood and teenage years – mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, picking strawberries, and collecting walnuts. An immigrant German patriarch founded the farm (and the village of Knauertown) in the late 1700s and passed it down through generations of the Knauer family. Knauer’s grandfather was the last to work the land, until decades later when Ian Knauer, his sisters, and cousins started to replant the untouched farm and reconnect with their childhood memories.
The recipes in “The Farm” follow the seasons, using ingredients in their prime for the best flavor. Beets and strawberries come earlier than corn or peaches. Patience is key with growing peppers because they only flourish in the peak heat of summer. As the summer months begin to cool, butternut squash and chard are in abundance.
Beyond recipes, Knauer provides cooking tips from his years of experience. The best way to cook a hard-boiled egg, for instance, is to bring the water to a gentle boil and let it simmer. Hard-boiling has nothing to do with it. He explains how to differentiate between poisonous and nonpoisonous mushrooms when foraging on the farm: nonpoisonous chanterelles grow in groups of no more than two from the dirt, and they have fork-like veins instead of gills. Another handy skill is how to roast a pig. He advises digging a pit in case you don’t have a spit. (I have a friend who has annually hosts a pig roast in urban Washington, D.C., so this can be done even if you don’t live on a backcountry farm in Pennsylvania.)
There are recipes for every level of culinary knowledge. With my moderate experience, I decided to tackle Rhubarb-Sour Cream Crostata Pie. While I didn’t pick the ingredients I used fresh from the garden, I stood in the middle of the produce section of my local grocery store and tried to imagine the farm – its smells, the summer heat, and the grimy sweat from a long day of weeding and plucking.
Back at home, I set to work mixing the dough ingredients. I made the mistake of leaving cracks in the dough ball when I put in the refrigerator to cool. When rolling out the dough, those cracks made it difficult to make the crust completely round. Next came chopping the rhubarb. Rhubarb is best when it's deep red. Mine was a mixture of red and a little bit of green. As I chopped the one-inch pieces, I was worried that I might accidentally be using celery; the stalks look so similar when rhubarb is green.
I waited until the crostata cooled to room temperature before tasting it. The cornmeal crust was the perfect nutty texture for the syrupy and tart filling. Originally skeptical of the sour cream, it was just enough cream to complement the rhubarb.
It’s definitely a dessert I will make again, and maybe then I will make the journey to find fresh rhubarb from a local farm.
(The following is excerpted from "The Farm," © 2012 by Ian Knauer. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.)
Rhubarb-Sour Cream Crostata Pie
A little bit of cornmeal in the crust adds a nutty note to this rustic spring pie. Rhubarb is a favorite of my cousin, Leif, who, when he met this pie for the first time at the farm, ate it in slices – wide-eyed and smiling – right from the pie tin, as if it were a dessert pizza.
For the pastry dough:
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 tablespoons cold water
For the filling:
1/4 cup sour cream
5 cups (1-inch pieces) sliced rhubarb (1 pound)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Make the pastry dough: Work together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, butter, and salt with your hands until it is mostly combined, with some small lumps of butter remaining. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the water with a fork. Press a small handful of dough together: if it looks powdery and does not come together, stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon water. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Using the edge of the plastic, fold the dough over on itself, pressing until it comes together. Form the dough into a disk, wrap completely in the plastic, and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with a rack in the middle.
On a well-floured surface, roll out the pastry dough with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round. Place the dough in a 10-inch pie tin.
Make the filling: Spread the sour cream evenly over the bottom of the crust. Toss the rhubarb with the sugar and lemon zest, then spread the fruit evenly over the sour cream. Fold the border of dough up and over the edge of the fruit.
Bake the crostata until the crust is golden, the filling is bubbling, and the rhubarb has started to brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 6 to 8
From April through October, during farmers market season, I rarely visit the produce section of the grocery store. Why bother when there is so much beautiful, fresh, in season produce at the markets. I only seek out a few things that don’t grow here: lemons and limes, cherries from Michigan and Washington (I call to see when shipments arrive to get them as fresh as I can).
And Vidalia onions from Georgia. I love Vidalias. Vidalias are sweet, with just enough bite. They make the best caramelized onions, one of my favorite kitchen staples. I buy Vidalias in bulk, thinly slice them and let them gently caramelize in the slow-cooker then freeze Ziploc bags full. I store Vidalias in canvas bags in the pantry for when they are out of season. I am a Vidalia hoarder. And obviously, I cook with them.
In the summer, I love a creamy cold soup when the weather is so hot and steamy. Leek and potato vichyssoise is one of my favorites, and simple to put together. Once I have a big bowl of chilled vichyssoise in the fridge, I am set for several cooling meals.
The idea for a chilled onion soup first came to me when I ran across that recipe title in an old community cookbook during the height of Vidalia season. The title appealed to me, but the actual recipe was a strange combination of canned soups that was quite off-putting. So I decided to adapt a classic cold soup preparation highlighting the brilliant flavor of my favorite onion. Cooking the onions slowly keeps them sweet and mellow, melding perfectly with smooth milk. You could top this soup with some crispy croutons, chopped herbs, cooked bacon pieces or caramelized onion.
Chilled Vidalia Onion Soup
2 large Vidalia onions, or other sweet yellow onions, to yield 4 cups chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
4 cups light chicken broth
1 cup milk
Kosher salt to taste
Peel and dice the onions. Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium high heat, then add the onions, sprinkle over several pinches of salt and stir to coat. Add the thyme leaves. Slowly cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are very soft and translucent, about 20 minutes. Do not let the onions brown or caramelize. When the onions are soft, add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and cook until the liquid has evaporated, being careful not to let the onions brown. Add the remaining broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, then cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat and leave to cool. When cool, puree the soup in batches in a blender. Pour the pureed soup through a strainer into a large bowl. Whisk in the milk, salt to taste, and chill until cold, at least two hours but up to overnight.
Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Almost-Too-French Onion Soup
This simple but yummy summer pasta salad was inspired by a Food52 post I saw recently. 'Tis the season for this type of fresh, light, easy meal. At this time of year, delicious meals practically cooks themselves – it's often a matter of just combining a few fresh, flavorful ingredients.
I used cavatappi (which translates to "corkscrew" – makes sense, right?) but anything will do, penne, orechiette, elbows, etc.
I made use of the first ripe cherry tomatoes from our little container garden and a generous handful of fresh basil from our potted plants. Seeing those first 'maters turn red never fails to thrill me.
Then tossed in some surprisingly sweet local corn we had left over from a meal earlier in the week. Fresh arugula (I used a mix of our own tender greens and a bunch from our CSA) added a nice peppery green counterpoint to the sweetness of the onions, corn and tomatoes.
You can either mix the greens in with the pasta or serve the pasta on a bed of them. Then cover the whole thing with a blizzard of grated Parmesan.
I made enough for us to have for dinner and for lunch the next day and we were delighted anew both times.
Summer Pasta With Tomatoes, Corn, Basil, Bacon & Arugula
1 lb. pasta – shape is up to you
1 bunch arugula leaves, washed and dried
1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and torn up or chopped (if you have fresh oregano or parsley on hand, throw some in)
2-3 ears of corn kernels, cooked and cut off the cob
2 medium sized, ripe tomatoes (or a cup of ripe cherry tomatoes), diced
1 small red onion, diced
2-3 strips of bacon, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
A LOT of Parmesan cheese
Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta and get it started cooking.
Sautée the bacon pieces and the onion in a frying pan until the onion is translucent and the bacon is crisp. You may need to add more fat (but probably not) in which case you can either use some olive oil or some bacon fat if you've headed my recent tip about saving your bacon drippings.
Once the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it with some olive oil in a large serving bowl. Add the tomatoes, onions and bacon, herbs, corn kernels, and arugula and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with grated Parmesan cheese.
Related post on Garden of Eating: Tomato Corn Pie With Butter-Brushed Biscuit Crust
I’ve got a treat for you. Sometime in the weeks before we hosted a little Mexican fiesta, I picked up a Better Homes and Gardens magazine which featured all Mexican recipes. As I was flipping through the mag, I came across a recipe for a minted cake with a layer of dulce de leche flan on the top. Honestly, the combination of mint and dulce de leche did nothing to excite my taste buds, but in the description of this recipe, it mentioned something called chocoflan. Chocolate cake and creamy, caramelly flan?? Yup. I could get behind that idea. I found a recipe for chocoflan on the Food Network website and made it for my fiesta.
As far as baking goes, this is a pretty cool cake to make. The flan mixture gets poured over the cake mixture and sometime during the baking, the cake rises to the top, while the flan gently cooks in the bottom of the bundt pan. I followed the original recipe exactly as written, as I often do when I’m baking something unfamiliar. Baking is a much more exact process than cooking, so it’s a bit more important not to play around too much with ingredients and procedures until you have a better sense of what you’re working with.
The end result is delicious and show-stoppingly gorgeous. The cake is rich and dense, almost like a brownie. The flan is as decadent and satisfying as a perfect complement to the chocolatey cake. Though perfect as is, I toyed around with the recipe on my second attempt, substituting creamy melted peanut butter and warm fudge sauce for the dulce de leche in the original recipe. A handful of peanut butter chips, added to the cake batter, spreads peanut buttery flavor throughout the rich dessert.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocoflan
Adapted from Marcela Valladolid’s Chocoflan
For the Cake
10 tablespoons butter, softened (plus additional butter for pan)
1 cup sugar
1-3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup peanut butter chips
For the Flan
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup peanut butter, melted
1/3 cup prepared fudge sauce, warmed
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Rub the inside of a 12-cup bundt pan with butter to prevent sticking.
To prepare the cake: Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat for another minute. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder. Beat a third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk, and ending with the remaining flour mixture. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Spread the cake mixture in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared bundt pan.
To prepare the flan: Combine all flan ingredients in a blender and blend until well-combined. Pour the flan mixture over the cake batter. (Don’t worry if the cake batter mixes a bit with the flan. They will separate during baking.)
Cover the bundt pan with foil. Place the bundt pan inside a larger roasting pan or large skillet. Carefully fill the roasting pan or skillet with about an inch or so of hot water. (The hot water bath will help the flan custard to cook gently.)
Place the pan on the middle oven rack and bake for about 90 minutes*, until the top of the cake is firm and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Carefully remove the pan from the oven, remove the bundt pan from the water bath, and cool for at least an hour at room temperature. Then, give the bundt pan a little jiggle to ensure the cake and flan are loosened. Place a large serving plate over the top and invert the cake onto the serving plate. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
To garnish, drizzle the top of the cake with the melted fudge sauce and peanut butter. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.
*The original recipe calls for a cooking length of one hour, but it actually takes a good 90 minutes, as I’ve noted in my adaptation of the recipe.
Related post on The Gourmand Mom: Canoli Ice Cream
Here in Seattle, we don’t expect summer – the most elusive of all seasons – to make a gracious appearance until after July 4th.
Now after Independence Day, I am happy to report that the days have been gloriously sunny! The temps have rolled into the 70s and 80s degree F., and we’re even starting to complain about the heat.
While true Seattleites have no qualms about being pelted by raindrops while guarding the grill, it’s always more pleasant when skies are blue and steaks aren’t sodden.
I know better than to take our gorgeous weather for granted so we have a few outdoor-centric activities planned for the next few days and that, of course, includes a barbecue.
Call me a snob but I’m not a burgers and hotdogs (bratwurst, yes, but I don‘t consider them one and the same) kinda gal. I prefer sate, pork chops, and chicken wings – foods we always had at our family barbeques growing up. That being said, my husband usually insists on throwing some patties and buns on the grill, “just in case people don’t care for sate.” Seriously?
Sure, it involves more prepping and elbow grease – as chief marinator and head sate-skewerer, I should know – but if you gather family and friends, it makes for easy work and a fun evening of chattering and gossip. And who could argue that tender, deeply marinated chicken morsels – flame-licked and kaffir lime-spiked – dipped into peanut sauce isn’t heaven on a hot and sticky summer’s day, or at anytime, really?
Now that I have you salivating over chicken sate, I’m going to tell you about a relatively new addition to my grilling repertoire – kalbi or Korean-style beef short ribs (sorry!).
To be honest, I don’t eat much red meat but I’ll happily eat kalbi. For some reason, my taste buds don’t register kalbi as beef. Similarly, rare flank steak or oxtail don’t taste beefy to me either.
I’ve eaten kalbi at Korean restaurants, and every time I’ve marveled at the meat so tender it melted like butter in my mouth.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to wonder for very long.
I was enlightened when my friend and fellow food-writer extraordinaire Susan Kim shared her grandma’s kalbi recipe (and a few more) with me for “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook.” The revelation was extraordinary, much like an initiation into a reverent circle of all-knowing Asian grandmas, which producing the cookbook was! It seems that every Korean grandmother has her own secret to tenderizing meat, ranging from soda (Coke or 7-up) to Asian pears, and in Sang Jung Choi’s case, kiwis. (Curious if kiwis are native to Korea? So was I, and as it turns out, they are.)
These methods and ingredients may seem unorthodox to the American cook but trust me, the results are impressive.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get grillin’!
Korean Barbequed Beef Short Ribs (Kalbi)
All Korean grandmothers have their own little secrets for making and tenderizing kalbi. Soda, sugar, and Asian pears are all common tenderizing agents. Grandma Sang Jung Choi massages kiwis into Korean-style short ribs – beef ribs cut about 1/4-inch thick across the bone (instead of between bones) with three bones per slice – they are often available in Asian markets. Your butcher may also have the similarly cut flanken-style or cross-cut beef chuck short ribs; just ask if the slices can be cut a little thinner. Kalbi is lovely with cabbage kimchi.
Time: 30 minutes plus marinating
Makes: 6 to 8 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal
4 pounds Korean-style beef short ribs
2 kiwis, peeled and pureed in a blender
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
20-ounce bottle lemon-lime soda
Vegetable oil for brushing
Using your hands, massage the short ribs with the kiwi purée. Sprinkle each piece evenly with sugar and let sit while you make the marinade.
In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, sesame oil, honey, red pepper powder, pepper, and soda. Place the ribs in a single layer in a wide shallow pan and pour the marinade over, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, for at least 1 hour, or preferably 12 hours.
Prepare a medium charcoal fire (you can hold your hand over the rack for no more than 3 or 4 seconds) with the rack 4 to 6 inches from the coals, or preheat a gas grill to medium. While the grill is heating up, drain the ribs from the marinade. Reserve the marinade for basting, if desired.
Brush the grill rack with oil and grill the ribs in batches until they turn caramel brown and develop slightly charred edges, 6 to 8 minutes on each side. Baste with the reserved marinade during the first 10 minutes of grilling if you like.
Pat’s Notes: If you prefer, omit the soda and add more sugar or honey for a little extra sweetness.
Related post on The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Sticky Spareribs
Every summer, right on cue, the sun makes its annual appearance in Seattle after July 4. We were out of town this year and missed the transition. As our flight descended at about 11 o’clock on our return flight, I could swear that the horizon was still faintly lit with the smudgy purple of a lingering Pacific Northwest summer twilight.
I woke the following morning to sunshine so robust it might – just might – be planning to stick around for a while. Many afternoons now golden afternoon light streams through my open window making perfect cat-sized squares on the rug. My lawn is freshly mowed and the green smell of cut grass wafts in. I hear birds, and dogs, and the squeals of neighbor kids.
Our cold, wet spring hasn’t slowed the chard down. Even during years when everything else in the garden languishes, greens are a sure thing around here. During the summer, I like to cook once and eat for several days. This crustless quiche (who needs crust anyway?) is just right for this time of year. It’s one of those throw-in-whatever-is-abundant sort of meals. It is rich and satisfying without feeling heavy. The chard adds a bit more flavor and heft than spinach. It goes together quickly, keeps well in the refrigerator, and is good served hot or cold.
Add a salad and sit outside enjoying a summer evening. Or grab a square and wolf it down before leaving for work in the morning – whichever works best for you.
Crustless Chard Quiche
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onions
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
1 bunch swiss chard
Salt and pepper, to taste.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onions in olive oil until tender and light brown, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, clean chard then remove stem and center rib from each leaf. Roughly chop leaves into smaller bite-sized pieces.
Crack eggs into a large bowl. Add cream and nutmeg, and whisk just until combined. In an 8×8-inch baking dish, spread an even layer of onions, then chard, then cheese. Pour egg mixture over this. Give a few shakes of salt and grinds of pepper.
Place on middle rack in oven, and bake until golden brown and firm in the center, 40-50 minutes. Check at about 30 minutes, and every 10 minutes thereafter.
Related post on The Rowdy Chowgirl: Chard and Onion Panade