Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fig And Black Olive Tapenade

1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) stemmed and quartered, dried Black Mission figs
3/4 cups water
1 cup black olives; Nicoise, Lyon, or Greek, rinsed and pitted
1 1/2 T lemon juice
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/2 T capers, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extr virgin olive oil
black pepper and salt, if necessary

Preparing the tapenade:
In a medium-sized saucepan, simmer the figs in the water for about 30 minutes, until very tender. Drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the liquid.

If using a food processor, pulse the pitted olives, drained figs, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, capers, and fresh rosemary to create a thick paste. Pulse in the olive oil until you've achieved a chunky-smooth paste. Season with black pepper and salt, if necessary. The spread can be thinned with a bit of the reserved fig poaching liquid.

If using a mortar and pestle, mash the olives with the garlic, capers, and fresh rosemary. Pound in the drained figs. Once they are broken up, add the olive oil and season with black pepper, fig poaching liquid, and salt, if necessary.

Serve this tapenade with crackers (Wheat Thins), or on slices of baguette that have been lightly brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven, or smear a layer of it on a sandwich with goat cheese, juicy-ripe summer tomatoes, and lightly dressed arugola.

Makes about 1 cup


Almond Cake

This cake will keep for four days at room temperature, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

Note: If almond paste has dried out, place it in a plastic bag with two slices of bread or an apple half, and let it sit overnight.
1 1/3 cups sugar
8 ounces almond paste (Solo or Odense or Love 'N Bake brands)
3/4, plus 1/4 cup flour
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature

Variation: Original version had 2 extra ounces of butter, for a total of 10 ounces

Preparing the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9- or 10-inch cake or springform pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt.

Once the almond paste is completely broken up, add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts, then process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition.

After you add all the eggs, the mixture may look curdled. Don't worry; it'll come back together after the next step.

Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times, then add the rest, pulsing the machine until the drying ingredients are just incorporated, but do not overmix. (You can also transfer the batter to a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in, which ensures the dry ingredients get incorporated evenly and you don't overbeat it.)

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 65 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.

Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.

Once cool, tap the cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set on a cake plate until ready to serve.
Note: Warm the bottom of the cake pan directly on the stovetop for just a few seconds, which will help the cake release.


Dulce De Leche Brownies

These brownies actually become better the second day, and will keep well for up to 3 days.

8 T salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
optional: 1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup Dulce de Leche (or Cajeta)

Preparing the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 8-inch square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If it doesn't reach all the way up and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with a bit of butter or non-stick spray.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.

Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Here comes the fun part.

Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Makes 12 brownies


Nick Malgieri's Brownies

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour

One 13x9x2-inch pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment or foil

Preparing the brownies:
Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and turn off heat. Combine butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set over pan of water. Stir occasionally until melted.

Whisk eggs together in a large bowl, then whisk in the salt, sugars, and vanilla Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the flour.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 45 minutes, until top has formed a shiny crust and batter is moderately firm. Cool in pan on a rack Wrap pan in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature or refrigerated until the next day.

To cut brownies, unmold onto a cutting board, remove paper, and replace with another cutting board. Turn cake right side up and trim away edges.Cut brownies into 2-inch squares.

Makes 24 brownies


Caramel And Chocolate Covered Matzohs

For passover or vegans it works well with margarine. And for our gluten-free friends, this would be superb made with any gluten-free cracker.

4 to 6 sheets unsalted matzohs
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract Note: If making for passover, omit the vanilla extract or find a kosher brand.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)
1 cup toasted sliced almonds or other nuts

Preparing the matzohs:
Line a rimmed baking sheet (approximately 11- x 17-inches) completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges. Cover the foil with a sheet of parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the bottom of the sheet with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.

In a 3-4 quart heavy duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof spatula.

Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it's not burning every once in a while. If it is in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees F, then replace the pan.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.

Optional: Sprinkle with toasted almonds (or another favorite nut, toasted and coarsely-chopped), a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, or roasted cocoa nibs

Let cool completely, the break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. It should keep well for about one week.


Dulce De Leche, Fast Method

1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
pinch of sea salt

Preparing the dulce de leche:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few flecks of sea salt.

Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.

Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).

Once the dulce de leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.


Dulce De Leche In A Can

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Preparing the dulce de leche:
Poke 2 holes in the top of the can, place in a pot of simmering water on the stove (up to an inch from the top) for 2 to 3 hours.


Dulce De Leche

1 quart whole milk
12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preparing the dulche de leche:
Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large, 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer. Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture. Continue to cook for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a month.


Creme Brulee Pie

Variation: Add a layer of dulce de leche* on the bottom of the pie shell

3 T cornstarch
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk [Longevity brand, in Asian markets]
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 T butter
1 T vanilla extract
1 (9-inch) pastry shell, baked and cooled
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar

sweetened whipped cream, to garnish

* Or prepared [Cajeta brand, made with goat's milk adds a pleasing tang]

Preparing the creme brulee pie:
In a heavy saucepan, dissolve the cornstarch in the cream; stir in sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks (add egg yolks very slowly, or better yet, temper). Cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat add butter and vanilla. Pour into pastry shell and chill for 2 or more hours. Top with sugar and brown under the broiler. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream around the edge.


Maple Creme Brulee

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
8 egg yolks
1/3 cup pure maple syrup

Preparing the maple creme brulee:
Split vanilla vean down center and scrape seeds into a large pot with the cream and sugar. Add the vanilla pod to the pot. While stirring, heat cream on med heat until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Whisk egg yolks and maple syrup together. Slowly add hot cream to egg mixture.

Pour equal amounts of custard mixture into eight 6-ounce ramekins. Place in a baking pan and fill pan with warm water half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 minuts or until custard is set. Custard will be mostly firm but still jiggle slightly in the center. Remove from water bath and cool in refrigerator overnight.

Just before serving, sprinkle top of each custard evenly with brown sugar and place under broiler until sugar becomes golden brown, about 3 minutes. Watch carefully not to burn sugar. Remove and serve. You may caramelize the sugar with a handheld propane or butane torch.

Garnish with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of chopped walnuts if desired.

Serves 8


Monday, June 28, 2010

Blueberry Cornbread

2 cups blueberries
1 teaspoon + 1 cup all purpose flour, divided
up to 2 T vegetable oil
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 T baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 2 oranges
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk [For a more pronounced orange flavor, substitute freshly squeezed orange juice for 1/4 cup of the milk]
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preparing the blueberry cornbread:
In a small bowl, toss blueberries with 1 teaspoon all purpose flour. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan with oil. (Add just enough to grease the pan, or, if you prefer a fried texture to the cornbread’s exterior, add 2 tablespoons.) Place the greased pan in the preheating oven.

In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Crumble the mixture between your fingers to evenly distribute the orange zest. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk and oil. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture; stir just until blended. Gently stir in blueberries.

Remove the hot pan from the oven. Pour batter into the hot pan, taking care to evenly distribute the blueberries.

Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.


Savory Blueberry Sauce

4 T minced shallots
2 T butter
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves)
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 - 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups blueberries
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Preparing the sauce:
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, cook shallots in butter until shallots are translucent.

Stir in thyme, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Reduce heat to low, then add blueberries. Cook, gently stirring, just until a few blueberries begin to release their juices. (Most of them should retain their shape.)

Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, with pork chops or turkey cutlets.


Blueberry Mascarpone Shortbread

Store blueberries in the refrigerator, and don't wash until just before using. Blueberries keep in the refrigerator for five to seven days, or you can store them in sealed plastic bags in the freezer -- Don’t wash them before freezing. They will keep in the freezer for up to a year.

Blueberries are known for their high levels of antioxidants (more than any other fruit or vegetable), which help prevent cell damage. Eat them plain and uncooked for maximum health benefit.

8 ounces mascarpone cheese
4 T confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest, from about 2 lemons
1/8- 1/4 teaspoon fine-grained sea salt
16 homemade or store-bought shortbread cookies, about 2 1/2 inches wide
6 ounces blueberries

Preparing the blueberry mascarpone shortbread:
In a medium bowl, combine mascarpone cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon zest. Add 1/8 teaspoon sea salt and mix well. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. With an offset spatula, spread mascarpone mixture on cookies, then top with blueberries. Serve immediately.

Makes 16 cookies

Optional: finely diced candied ginger


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Snowflake Bakery's Black and White Cookies

Ingredients for the cookies:
2 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces Crisco shortening
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs (mixed well)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/8 teaspoon pure lemon flavoring
splash of fiori di sicilia (optional but seriously worth it)
2 1/2 cups cake flour (gluten free flour, add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum)
1 scant T baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup whole milk, plus 1 T, if needed

Ingredients for glaze:
2 cups sifted confectioner sugar (King Arthur has no additives)
2 T Valrhona or other quality unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
splash of vanilla and fiori di sicilia

Preparing the cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Makes half a dozen, 5 inch Half Moon cookies.

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt (xanthan gum) and set aside. In stand mixer, cream butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add mixed eggs and incorporate well. Add flavorings. Alternately mix in flour mixture and milk. Beat on high just until incorporated and fluffy. Add a tiny bit more milk if the batter seems too stiff. You want the batter to be sturdier than cupcake batter, but not like cookie dough.

Scoop by half cups, five mounds to a baking sheet, well spaced. Using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, flatten the mound into a 4 1/2- to 5-inch circle until it actually looks like a Black and White cookie. They will spread slightly, but not much.

Bake about 8 minutes and rotate pans. Bake about 10 minutes more until lightly golden. Cool completely.

* * * * * * *

Preparing the glaze:
\Sift the sugar into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of hot water and stir until the mixture is a spreadable glaze. Add the flavorings and let set for about 30 seconds. Spoon onto one half of the flat side of the cookie. Using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the glaze thinly to the edges. Let set while finishing up the others.

Add the sifted cocoa to the remaining glaze and more water if necessary. Using the same method finish the glaze on the other half of the cookie.

Let set about an hour until hard.

Notes: Once scooped, you have to spread the batter to the diameter just under what you want for the cookie size. Don't worry about it being too thin. They rise. Don't over bake because they will get crispy. Half Moons should be soft.

The glaze can get runny if you add even a tiny bit too much liquid. To remedy that, add more sugar. You want it thin, but not liquidy. It is easier to do the white glaze first and then the chocolate. Just be cautious to not hold the cookie over the others while spreading the chocolate glaze or you might spill it onto the other white glazed halves.

I cannot emphasize enough the addition of fiori di sicilia flavoring from King Arthur. A tiny bit goes a long way and makes your pastry smell and taste like it came from the pastry shop, or in this case, from Snowflake Bakery.


Snowflake Bakery's Honey Cake

1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup veggie oil
1 cup of your favorite honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground clove
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups plus 3 T light rye flour
4 fluid ounces water
3 teaspoons baking soda

Preparing the honey cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a large loaf pan.

Pour the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a smaller bowl, mix together oil, honey, eggs and spices with a whisk. Add that to the sugar and mix on medium-high for a minute. In a measuring cup dissolve baking soda in water. Set aside. With the mixer on low, blend in flour. Turn mixer on high for a minute. Switching mixer to low once again, add the water and baking soda mix. Once incorporated, turn the mixer on high for about 30 seconds.

Immediately pour into prepared loaf pan. Set cake in oven. Leave the oven door ajar on the first stop (yes, open!). Once the cake reaches a good height, close the oven door and continue baking for about 40-50 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Invert on a rack. Tastes best as it ages — wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Variation: To make gluten free, use gluten-free flour instead of rye. Add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum. Add 2 tablespoons molasses to the honey-egg-oil mix.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pasta with Escarole, White Beans and Chicken Sausage

3/4 pound whole-wheat bowtie (or other shape) pasta
1 T olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces lowfat Italian-style chicken sausage, casings removed, crumbled
1 medium head escarole, rinsed, drained and chopped, about 8 cups
1(14-ounce) can low-sodium cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 T chopped fresh sage leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ounce grated parmesan

Preparing the pasta:
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large, deep saute pan or 8-quart stockpot. Saute the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir in the sausage and cook until heated through and browned, about 4 minutes. Add the escarole and cook until wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beans, 1 cup of chicken stock, sage and red pepper flakes and simmer until the mixture is heated through and liquid is slightly reduced. Add the sausage-bean mixture to pasta and toss well, loosening with the additional 1/2 cup chicken stock if necessary. Season with freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste.

Divide among 4 pasta bowls and top with parmesan cheese.

Serves 4


Chicken and White Bean Chili

Serve this chili with garlic-scallion cheddar cheese bread.

2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground chicken
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 T fennel seeds
1 T dried oregano
2 teaspoons chili powder
3 T flour
2 (15-ounce cans) cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch (about 1 pound) Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces
11/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparing the chili:
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the ground chicken, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, fennel seeds, oregano, and chili powder. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Stir the flour into the chicken mixture. Add the beans, Swiss chard, corn, and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 55-60 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half and the chili has thickened. Add the red pepper flakes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle the chili into serving bowls. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Serves 4 to 6


Garlic-Scallion Cheddar Cheese Bread

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or coarsely grated
6 ounces butter, at room temperature
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (1 pound) loaf ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally

Preparing the bread:
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the cheese into cubes, then shred in the food processor. Add rough chopped scallions, garlic, butter, salt and pepper, and process until smooth.

Spread the cheese mixture on the cut sides of the bread. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden.

Using a serrated knife, cut the bread into 1-inch thick slices and serve.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dry Rub

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika or smoked (hot) paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 T ground black pepper
2 T ground ginger powder
2 T onion powder
2 teaspoons rosemary powder [grind 2-3 T rosemary leaves in a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder, to make 2 teaspoons of powder]

Optional: Add up to 2 tablespoons crushed dried chipotle, cayenne, chili powder, or other hot pepper. Be careful with this ingredient; not everybody likes it hot.

Preparing the rub:
Mix the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.

Rub can be stored in a zip-lock bag or a glass jar with a tight lid for months.

For Use:
Sprinkle just enough rub on to color it, not too thick. Use about 2 tablespoons per side of a slab of St. Louis cut ribs, and a bit less for baby backs. For Memphis-style ribs without a sauce, apply the rub thick enough to make a crunchy crust, about 3-4 tablespoons per side.

Wrap ribs it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate them overnight before cooking.

Makes about 3 cups


Monday, June 14, 2010

Oaxacan Black Mole with Braised Chicken

11 medium (about 5 1/2 ounces) dried mulato chiles
6 medium (about 2 ounces) dried chihualces chiles (see note in Variations and Improvisations below)
6 medium (about 2 ounces) dried pasilla chiles
1 dried chipotle chile (preferably the tan-brown chipotle meco)
1 corn tortilla, torn into small pieces
2 1/4-inch-thick slices of white onion
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
About 2 cups rich-tasting lard or vegetable oil (for frying the chiles)
1/2 cup sesame seeds, plus a few extra for garnish
1/4 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup unskinned or Spanish peanuts
1/4 cup unskinned almonds
About 10 cups chicken broth (canned or homemade)
1 pound (2 medium-large or 6 to 8 plum) green tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 ounces (2 to 3 medium) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 slices stale bread, toasted until very dark
1/4 teaspoon cloves, preferably freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
scant teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 ripe banana
1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) finely chopped Mexican chocolate
2 or 3 avocado leaves (if you have them)
1 T salt, depending on the saltiness of the broth
sugar, about 1/4 cup (or a little more)
2 large (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chickens, cut into quarters

Preparing the chiles, seeds, into purees:
Pull out the stems (and attached seed pods) from the chiles, tear them open and shake or scrape out the seeds, collecting them as you go.

Now, do something that will seem very odd: scoop the seeds into an ungreased medium-size (8- to 9-inch) skillet along with the torn-up tortilla, set over medium heat, turn on an exhaust fan, open a window and toast your seeds and tortilla, shaking the pan regularly, until thoroughly burned to charcoal black, about 15 minutes. (This is very important to the flavor and color of the mole.) Now, scrape them into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse for 30 seconds or so, then transfer to a blender.

Set an ungreased skillet or griddle over medium heat, lay on a piece of aluminum foil, and lay the onion slices and garlic cloves on that. Roast until soft and very dark (about 5 minutes on each side of the onion slices – peel it off the foil to turn it; about 15 minutes for the garlic – turn it frequently as it roasts). Cool the garlic a bit, peel it and combine with the onion in a large bowl.

While the onion and garlic are roasting, turn on the oven to 350 degrees (for toasting nuts), return the skillet to medium heat, measure in a scant 2 cups of the lard or oil (you'll need about 1/2-inch depth), and, when hot, begin frying the chiles a couple at a time: They'll unfurl quickly, then release their aroma and piquancy (keep that exhaust on and window open) and, after about 30 seconds, have lightened in color and be well toasted (they should be crisp when cool, but not burnt smelling). Drain them well, gather them into a large bowl, cover with hot tap water, and let rehydrate for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure even soaking. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid.

While the chiles are soaking, toast the seeds and nuts. Spread the sesame seeds onto a baking sheet or ovenproof skillet, spread the pecans, peanuts and almonds onto another baking sheet or skillet, then set both into the oven. In about 12 minutes the sesame seeds will have toasted to a dark brown; the nuts will take slightly longer. Add all of them to the blender (reserving a few sesame seeds for garnish), along with 1 1/2 cups of the chicken broth and blend to as smooth a puree as you can. Transfer to a small bowl.

Without rinsing the blender, combine the green tomatoes and tomatillos with another 1/2 cup of the broth and puree. Pour into another bowl. Again, without rinsing the blender, combine the roasted onion and garlic with the toasted bread, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, banana and 3/4 cup broth. Blend to a smooth puree and pour into a small bowl.

Finally, without rinsing the blender, scoop in half of the chiles, measure in 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid, blend to a smooth puree, then pour into another bowl. Repeat with the remaining chiles and another 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.

Preparing the mole:
From four purees to mole. In a very large (8- to 9-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela), heat 3 tablespoons of the lard or oil (some of what you used for the chiles is fine) and set over medium-high heat. When very hot, add the tomato puree and stir and scrape (a flat-sided wooden spatula works well here) for 15 to 20 minutes until reduced, thick as tomato paste, and very dark (it'll be the color of cinnamon stick and may be sticking to the pot in places). Add the nut puree and continue the stirring and scraping until reduced, thick and dark again (this time it'll be the color of black olive paste), about 8 minutes. Then, as you guessed it, add the banana-spice puree and stir and scrape for another 7 or 8 minutes as the whole thing simmers back down to a thick mass about the same color it was before you added this one.

Add the chile puree, stir well and let reduce over medium-low heat until very thick and almost black, about 30 minutes, stirring regularly (but, thankfully, not constantly). Stir in the remaining 7 cups of broth, the chocolate and avocado leaves (if you have them), partially cover and simmer gently for about an hour, for all the flavors to come together. Season with salt and sugar (remembering that this is quite a sweet mole and that sugar helps balance the dark, toasty flavors). Remove the avocado leaves.

In batches in a loosely covered blender, puree the sauce until as smooth as possible, then pass through a medium-mesh strainer into a large bowl.

The mole can be done to this point several days ahead; it gets better, in fact. Cover and refrigerate. Finish the dish shortly before serving.

Preparing the black mole with braised chicken:
Finishing the dish. Return the mole to the same pot and heat it to a simmer. Nestle the leg-and-thigh quarters of the chicken into the bubbling black liquid, partially cover and time 15 minutes, then nestle in the breast quarters, partially cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

With a slotted spoon, fish out the chicken pieces and transfer them to a large warm platter. Spoon a generous amount of the mole over and around them, sprinkle with the reserved sesame seeds and set triumphantly before your lucky guests.

Serves 8, with about 10 cups of sauce, which will mean leftovers to make enchiladas or more chicken with)

Variation: Chilhuacle chiles are very difficult to find unless you're in Oaxaca (even then they're sometimes hard to obtain). Without them you can make a very respectable black mole with 6 ounces (12 total) dried mulato chiles, 2 1/2 ounces (8 total) dried pasilla chiles and 1 ounce (4 total) dried guajillo chiles.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Grilled Peaches with Thyme, Mascarpone and Honey

6 large ripe peaches, halved and pits removed
6 T honey, plus more for serving, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

Preparing the peaches:
Preheat a grill to medium-high.

Place the peaches cut side down onto the grill and cook until lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the grill. Transfer the peaches, cut sides up, to a grill-proof baking dish or baking sheet and drizzle evenly with the 6 tablespoons of honey. Sprinkle with the thyme, then place the dish on the grill and cover the grill. Continue to cook until the peaches are soft, about 5 minutes, again depending on the grill. Remove the baking dish from the grill and divide the peach halves between 6 dessert plates. Divide the mascarpone evenly among the plates and drizzle with additional honey, if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 6


Ten-Minute Tomato Sauce

Even better the next day.

3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, grated
5 cloves garlic, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
kosher salt
freshly ground white pepper
4 Roma tomatoes, cored, halved and diced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 (20-ounce) can whole tomatoes

1/2 cup basil leaves, stemmed and washed

5 small NY strip steaks, bone-in, if desired

Preparing the sauce:
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic slices and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for about 2 minutes then add the fresh tomato, sugar and oregano. Stir to blend and add the canned tomatoes. Cook for an additional few minutes over high heat, stirring from time to time. Taste for seasoning, add the basil leaves.

After the sauce has finished cooking, cook the steaks using your preferred method. Add the steaks to the hot sauce and allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 6


PD's Creme Brulee

2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup white granulated or light brown sugar

Preparing the creme brulee:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In a heavy-bottomed medium non-reactive saucepan, heat cream with vanilla bean over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring to ensure it does not burn; do not let boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the vanilla bean, or save for another use. Strain cream through a fine mesh sieve.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar. Add about half the cream mixture, a little at a time, to the egg mixture, whisking until well blended. Then pour the egg mixture into the remaining cream mixture. Stir until completely blended.

Pour the custard into 4 (9-ounce) ramekins or custard cups. Place the dishes in large baking pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the mixture is set in the center (it should still wiggle when shaken). Carefully remove the dishes from the baking pan. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. Let creme brulee stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving.

Divide 1/3 to 1/2 cup white or light brown sugar in a thin, even layer over each custard, covering it completely. To caramelize the sugar, light a propane torch and hold it so the flame just touches the surface. Start at the center and spiral out toward the edges of the ramekins. If the sugar begins to burn, pull the torch away and blow on the sugar to extinguish the flame.

Serves 4

Variations: Finely grate orange zest or bittersweet chocolate over the creme brulee before adding the sugar for caramelizing.


Stuffed Tomatoes

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 pear, ripe but firm, peeled and diced
3 T slivered almonds
1 vanilla bean
6 red tomatoes, top removed like a "hat", the pulp scooped out and reserved
1 lemon, zested
1/2 orange, zested
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 mint leaves, stemmed and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups orange juice
1 whole piece star anise
6 scoops of homemade or Haagen Daas vanilla ice cream

Preparing the stuffed tomatoes:
In a medium skillet, heat sugar with water. Heat until it melts and becomes a caramel.

In a medium bowl, mix together the pears and the almonds. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the insides into the bowl with the pears, reserving the pod.

Add the orange juice and the vanilla pod to the caramel and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the star anise and reduce for 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the reserved tomato pulp, lemon and orange zests, cinnamon and mint to the bowl with the pears and add 1/4 of the caramel mixture. Stir to blend.

"Stuff" the insides of the tomatoes with the mixture and top with the "hats". Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the tomatoes into a baking dish and pour the caramel into the base of the dish.

Place the pan in the oven and cook, basting from time to time, 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve the tomatoes, with the remaining caramel, and vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6


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