Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate, Coconut and Nutella

Those three have been on my mind lately and have their way into various recipes.

I've had a strong dessert craving

Here, we have 4 tiny Nutella-coconut empanadas with chocolate drizzle.

I made the smallest batch of pastry dough ever with: a scant 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sugar
pinch salt
1 tablespoon shortening - yes, Crisco!! OMG I am going to Foodie-Hell. I didn't want to defrost butter from the freezer.
a teaspoon or so of ice water

Then, I mashed together a filling of roughly equal parts Nutella, cream cheese and shredded, sweetened coconut. I rolled out the pastry fairly thinly and out out rounds with a 2-inch biscuit cutter, filed them, moistened the edges with water, folded them over and crimped the edges.

Glaze with an egg wash and then bake in a preheated oven at 400 F for 20 minutes. Let cool a bit and then top with a chocolate glaze drizzled over the top. Easy.

Next up is this bittersweet chocolate-coconut silk - based on the chocolate cream from this recipe for Deadly Chocolate Delice. I will be featuring my take on this recipe later this week. I had leftover chocolate creme, so baked it in a crème brûlée dish.

In. SANE. This is a bit of deep, rich, silky, intensely bittersweet chocolate heaven with a touch of coconut, one of my favorite flavor combinations.

Here is a closer look at the smooth filling.

This is only a 4-ounce dish, but it's more than enough for this dish. This is meant to be eaten slowly and savored, almost contemplated.

If you are not a fan of dark, bittersweet chocolates, this is not for you. Switch to semisweet. :)

Finally, we have this mini chocolate-hazelnut cake with brown sugar caramel filling and Nutella ganache.

The cake is based on this recipe for a chocolate layer cake, but I cut it way down to make 3 mini cakes in 8-ounce ramekins instead of two 10-inch round cakes. The cake is insane: Delicious, moist. rich, everything that a chocolate cake should be.

The Nutella ganache was simplicity. I warmed some chopped dark chocolate with cream in a double boiler until the chocolate melted and then added a good dollop of Nutella, took off the heat and stirred
until eveything was smooth and lovely.

The caramel filling was a nightmare. I have found my culinary bête noire. It is candy and caramel. I ruined the first batch of so-called foolproof salted caramel and the gae up, amid the reek of scorched sugar and made a filling from butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and cream.

The results were fantastic, and the kids enjoyed their cakes.

All in all a pretty successful week.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mini Lemon Tarts


Who doesn't love pie? Whether it's a pie made from beautifully ripe apples or juicy berries, or a pie featuring a luxurious custard or silky mousse filling, what's not to love about succulent sweetness encased in a flaky, buttery pastry?

Last Saturday, I got some beautiful lemons at the farmers market, so I could make some more mayo. A small batch of mayo doesn't require very much lemon juice though, so I still need some more lemon-centric dishes. Lemon curd is probably on its way, but first, a refreshing lemony tart.

I should have blind-baked this pastry a bit longer so that it'd be more golden-brown, but it was delicious nonetheless.

A lot of people claim that they can't make pies at home because pie crust is too hard. Sure, pastry can be delicate. It takes some practice so that you can develop a feel for it, but there is nothing quite like being able to turn out a beautiful, flaky pastry.  For some fantastic tips on making a better pie crust, go to King Arthur Flour.

Mini Lemon Tarts

Makes two 4-inch tarts


For the pastry*:
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ice water

For the filling:
  • 1/4 of a lemon, rind and all, seeds removed
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • lemon juice
  • sugar


1. Make the pastry: Sift the flour, salt and sugar together, and cut the butter into small cubes and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Alternately, you can use a food processor or a pastry knife.

2. Dribble the ice water in until the dough clumps together into a ball. I think I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons. It's better to add a bit of a time - it's easier to add more water to a too-dry dough than it is to remove moisture form a too-wet dough.

3. Once you can press the dough into a ball and it holds itself together without being sticky, sandwich the ball of dough between two sheets of waxed paper, placing it in a ziplock bag and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

5. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and using a  bowl that is about 2 inches larger in diameter than your tart pans, cut out 2 circles and lay them in the tart pans. Place a layer of aluminum foil into each tart shell and line it with pie weights or dried beans to help keep the pastry from buckling and bubbling up. Place the tart pans on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 - 10 minutes, then take out and let cool on the cookie sheet.

6. Make the filling by blending together the lemon, rind and all, egg, sugar and butter in a blender until thoroughly processed. This could take up to 3 minutes. Strain if needed to get any stubborn pieces that refuse to give up the ghost.

7. Pour the filling into the tart shells.  Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until the filling has set.

8. Cool the pans on racks.

9. To serve: Mix the blueberries with a teaspoon of lemon juice and roll in sugar. Top the tarts with the sugared blueberries and enjoy.

  • This pastry recipe made enough for three 4-inch tarts, but the filling only made two tarts. I made a mini quiche for my lunch with the third tart. :)
  • I need a Vita-Mix blender or something, because it took forever for the lemon rind to get blended, even then, I had to strain the mix to get out some fairly large chunks.

Pastry scraps. What to do with that leftover pie pastry that you can't stretch into another tart shell?

Well, don't throw them out! Roll those pieces out thin and dust liberally with cinnamon and sugar, set them on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes or so or until the bottoms are golden-brown. Careful, these burn quickly. Eat while hot, straight off the cookie sheet.

My dad, who was a child during the Great Depression, said his mom called these sugar pies. I bet that they were a welcome treat for kids during lean times.

Fresh sugar pies

A closer look at the cinnamon sugar.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chicken Fricassee with Ramps and Baby Bellas

We're still hard and heavy into the ramps here. They're finding their way into every meal, from our scrumptious morning ramps and scallion omelette with ham, cheddar and chives, which my daughter has requested every morning for breakfast since so scavenged my Sunday morning omelette:

to a light lunch of spaghetti with ramps, made the way I do spaghetti aglio e olio:

I pulled out some chicken pieces and chicken stock from the freezer to clear out the older stuff  to make room in there for this season's new crop of stock and purees.

I found a recipe for braised chicken thighs with morels and ramps in a white wine cream sauce, which seemed to me to be basically a chicken fricassee, which my kids love. I had a package of baby bells malingering in the fridge for the past week or so, and I knew I had to use those suckers up before they went to the dark side, so this recipe seemed perfect.

I still had half a head of cauliflower to use up, and some leftover cheese sauce from our weekend mac-and cheese, and what vegetable pairs better with a cheese sauce than cauliflower? All the pieces were falling into place. YES! I will clear out the fridge and freezer. Instead of the usual quinoa and rice pilaf, I made German potato pancakes and added a small bunch of ramps to the batter for some interesting, and tasty green Kartoffelpuffer.

Chicken fricassee, steamed cauliflower with white cheddar sauce and ramps and potato pancakes:

The kids plowed through this last night, leaving me only one little thigh and cauliflower floret for the pictures.

Chicken Fricassee with Ramps and Baby Bellas

  • 8 chicken pieces - thighs and drumsticks
  • approximately 1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
  • dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound baby bellas
  • 1 bunch ramps, 10 - 12, whites and greens chopped 
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cup dry white wine - I used a Pinot Gris
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • additional chicken stock or water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large dutch oven over high heat.

2. Fill a large ziplock bag with about 1 cup of all-purpose flour, a teaspoon of dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon paprika. Shake to mix. Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry then place in the bag. Press out as much air as you can and seal the bag tightly, then shake until the chicken pieces are nicely coated with the flour mixture. Take out each piece, shaking off hte excess flour adn set them on a platter.

3. Add olive oil and 3 tablespoons of butter to the pre-heated dutch oven. Once the butter has all melted and the oil begins to shimmer, add chicken pieces to the pan in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Brown the pieces for 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove the browned chicken pieces to a platter to rest.

4. Lower the heat to medium and add 2 tablespoons butter to the dutch oven and saute the chopped ramps and shallots for 4 - 5 minutes, then add the chopped mushrooms and let cook down for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.

5. Increase the heat to high and de-glaze with white wine, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom. Lower the heat and simmer until the wine to reduce by a third. Add 2 cups of chicken stock, the bay leaf and  thyme sprigs. Lay the chicken pieces in the dutch oven and top with the sauteed vegetables on top of the chicken.

6. Place the dutch oven in the oven and braise for an hour and a half.

7. Place the chicken pieces on a serving platter. Place the dutch oven on a burner over low heat and add cream and chicken stock until it is the consistency you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chicken with sauce over top.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup

It's fridge-and-freezer clean-out time. Last weekend when I opened the freezer to grab a package of frozen peas, I nearly got beaned by a block of frozen-solid butternut squash; another time, I narrowly escaped an avalanche of baggies filled with stock cubes - shellfish, veggie, chicken, beef, I've got all sorts of homemade stock in there. In order to store new items in there now, I have to play an intricate game of freezer-tetris. I haven't seen the back of the freezer in ages, so yes, it's time to clear out some of the things in there.

The kids are off school this week, and expect a real lunch and snacks every day - the nerve!- so I imagine that I'll be able to go through my packed fridge and freezer at a pretty good pace even if it means just throwing together small meals from random ingredients.They're finally at a more adventurous eating age, so we can try out new things. Gone are the days when all they will eat is buttered and parmed spaghetti or boxed mac-n-cheese. Thank God.

For lunch yesterday, I made a roasted cauliflower soup and crostini with pesto using some of the ramps I got this weekend. The kids cleaned their soup bowls pretty quickly: Score 1 for Mom.

Roasted Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup

Serves 3


  • 1/2 head small cauliflower, roughly chopped or broken into florets
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt 
  • 1/ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 strip of peppered bacon
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsnip, chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery root, chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable stock - or chicken stock
  • 2 fresh sprigs of thyme
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • fresh sprigs of thyme


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Toss the garlic clove, shallot and cauliflower florets with a tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes or until the florets are browned on the edges. Place in a bowl when they've finished roasting.
  2. Chop the bacon into 1-inch pieces and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon pieces to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain.
  3. Add the chopped onions to the bacon fat and cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, then add the parsnip and celery root. Cook until the vegetables are softened.
  4. Add the roasted vegetables, 2 sprigs of thyme and the stock to the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, adding a bit more stock or water as needed. 
  5. Blend the soup with an immersion blender or in a blender until it is the consistency you  like.
  6. Add the cheddar and heavy cream, stirring until melted.
  7. Serve topped with reserved bacon and more thyme.

Monday, April 9, 2012


I used some of the ramps to make a pungent pesto. I had no pine nuts, and I knew that some recipes called for other nuts, such as walnuts and sometimes sunflower seeds, so I decided to use some pistachios.

Because I think that pesto is at its best when really fresh, I wanted to make a small batch, so I tried using the Cuisinart immersion blender and the cup it came in, but no. Ah, no. That was a no-go. I switched over to my food processor, which is a little big for small batches, so I had to add a little bit of water and keep scraping down the sides of the bowl, but it all worked out in the end.

This pesto is lovely, with quite a mighty bite! With the ramps in their raw form, the pesto was a little too strong for my kids, so the next time I make this, I may blanch the ramps first to reduce some of their pungency.

I had the pesto on crostini to accompany our lunch of roasted cauliflower and cheddar soup.

Then for dinner, I made a pesto pizza with slices of fresh tomato, because what pairs better with pesto than mozzarella and tomato? Besides, it's PIZZA.

Ramps Pesto


  • 1/4 cup roasted, salted pistachios
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 bunch of 3or 4 small ramps, whites and leaves, coarsely 
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan 
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil - I used a little less than 1/4 cup
  • a few tablespoons of water as needed
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  • a smidge of lemon zest to taste


  1. Blend everything in a food processor, scraping down the sides until you get the consistency you like - I happen to like a pesto on the chunky side versus one that is very liquidy, but the beauty of pesto is that it is easy to make adjustments.
  2. Serve immediately or store tightly covered in the fridge with a small layer of olive oil on top to help keep it from browning.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


It's that time of year in the eastern US - ramps season. Ramps, also known as wild leeks, wild garlic and ramson, and in French, ails des ours, or bear's garlic, are a wild perennial that grows extensively in deciduous forests from the southeastern US all the way up into Quebec.  You can read more information on ramps in "Wild Leeks - April's Wild Food of the Month,"

They've become the darling of the foodie set over the past few years to the extent that there are concerns of over-harvesting. Ramps grow in the wild, so they are generally foraged, not cultivated, so would-be foragers are encouraged not to pull up more than 10% of a crop. They've been so over-harvested in Quebec that people are now banned from foraging for them to allow the population to revitalize.

Check 'em out, similar to scallions, but with flat, wide leaves:

A closer look at the bulbs:

Some ramps have a white bulb with a purplish stalk that transitions to the green leaves, while others have a stalk that remains whitish green, like these. I've read that the ones with the purple stalks have more of a bite to them while the green-tinted ones are milder.

Whatever the case, they're a wonderful, pungent, garlicky-oniony addition to your dish.

After an unsuccessful search for them at the regional farmers market, I found some yesterday at Wegmans for $12.99/lb, looking fresh and young, still with the dirt clinging to them. I grabbed a small bundle of them and have had a riot of wonderful recipes running through my mind. Although I will almost certainly make a risotto and a spaghetti dish with the ramps, one of the most tempting sounding preparations is sauteed ramps with bacon as a side for fried eggs.

So far my lovely ramps have made it into deviled eggs, which also feature my homemade mayo:

a bacon and ramps pizza:

and this morning, a ramps and scallion omelette with ham, cheddar and chives:

It was funny - I'd made this omelette for myself for a fresh and tasty Easter breakfast, and I was standing in the kitchen with my fork poised over the omelette (yes, sometimes I eat standing at the counter), when my younger daughter came into the kitchen saying, "Mommy, what... is... that... SMELL?! It smells so delicious!"

I had her grab a fork and, to be fair, I called my older daughter down and within 2 minutes, the three of us devoured it. The lovely aroma of sauteed ramps hung in the air for a while afterward, and my younger daughter would stop from time to time and say, "Oh, Mommy, that still smells soooo good!

So, the kids approve of ramps, always a good thing. :)

Some recipes that intrigue me are Spaghetti with Ramps, Ramps Risotto, Creamy Potato and Ramps Soup, Crepes, and Compound Butter... just for a start. :)

I read an article on how you can re-grow scallions in a jar of water, so I thought I'd give it a try with a few of my ramps. I'm also planning on planting a few of the bulbs in a shady spot in my backyard to see if anything might pop up in a few years, as this blogger is trying. Can't hurt!

For more info on ramps:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Boston Brown Bread

You can't have baked beans, like I had yesterday, without Boston brown bread. My mom used to save coffee cans so we could have fresh brown bread, and I remember how wonderfully moist and fragrant fresh brown bread was right from the can while it was still warm.

You don't have to wait until you have baked beans to enjoy this bread, though. It's very easy; it takes just a few minutes to get the batter together no yeast means that there are no special temperature requirements and no kneading. Then you can steam it in a pot on a back burner and forget about it for 2 -1/4 hours.

See here it's steaming away, almost done:

And fresh from the pot, I can hardly wait to let it cool, but it's necessary.

10 minutes.

I can wait that long.

And look! When you turn it out of the can, it has the "authentic" ridges from the coffee can!

I wish the Internet had smell-o-vision. You have no idea how fragrant this is right now as it is awaits being sliced, still steaming, all plump and moist.

Boston Brown Bread... with a hint of maple

  • Shortening or butter for greasing coffee can
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 allspice berries, crushed, or about 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/8 cup molasses
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raisins


1 metal coffee can, 6 inches tall by 4 inches in diameter. I used a 10-ounce Café Bustelo can – make sure you remove any paper or plastic wrapper from the outside of the can and wash well to remove any residual adhesive


1. Fill a large stock pot with enough water to come 1/3 of the way up the sides of your coffee can. Set a steamer rack inside the pot, or if you don’t have a steamer rack that will fit inside your stock pot, lay a kitchen towel on the bottom of the pot. Turn the heat to medium to get the water simmering.

2. Grease a cleaned-out coffee can with shortening or butter. In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, rye flour, corn meal, baking powder and soda, salt, allspice, cinnamon and raisins.

3. In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together the molasses, maple syrup, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until the batter is well-incorporated and smooth, with no lumps.

4. Pour the batter into the greased coffee can.

5. Cover the coffee can tightly with a double thickness of aluminum foil and secure with a rubber band. Set the can in the pot on the steamer rack or towel, cover the stock pot and turn the heat to high.

6. Once the water has come to a boil, reduce heat to low and let the water simmer bread for at least 2 hours and 15 minutes. Check to see if the bread is done bypiking it with a toothpick or cake tester. If it’s clean, the brad is done. Otherwise, cover the pot and keep steaming until done.

7. Once the bread is done, remove the can from the pot and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of the container.

8. Slice and eat warm with butter.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Maple chipotle baked beans

For a while now, I've been craving real from-scratch New England baked beans. Some months ago I read up on bean varieties and came across several mentions of Steuben or Maine yellow eye beans being the best choice. I couldn't find them available anywhere in the stores here, so I bought a package on Amazon.

Check 'em out - creamy pale skin with a mustard-brown splotch marked with a tiny eye:

A closer look:

Many sources stated that a classic bean pot had the perfect shape for baking beans perfectly each time, so I  lucked out and found this vintage stone bean pot from eBay for $15 - a steal!

Then I had to find the right recipe to yield sweet and tangy beans, fragrant with molasses and spice. I knew I wanted to use maple syrup, but I also knew that after last year's successful maple-apple-chipotle barbecue sauce (recipe to come), that a touch of chipotle to the beans would bring a deep smokiness and hint of heat that would be a great pairing for the maple and molasses.

I looked through a bunch of different recipes, made note of the commonalities in procedure and ratios and jumped in.

Basically, I winged it, but winging it got me this:

Delicious sweet and tangy baked beans.

Maple chipotle baked beans

  • 1 lb. yellow eye beans
  • approx. 1/2 cup of onion-type things: I used a combo of shallots and onion
  • 2 strips thick-cut peppered bacon (1.8 oz.), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T molasses
  • 2 T maple sugar (you can sub in brown sugar if you can't lay your hands on granulated maple)
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dried chipotle pepper - soaked for an hour in hot water, cut into chunks - about 1/4 cup total
  • 1/2 cup strained reserved soaking liquid from the chipotle pepper
  • water to cover


1. Place the dried chipotle pepper in a bowl and cover with boiling water, Let sit for an hour, and then strain the soaking liquid, reserving ½ cup. Chop the chipotle and set aside.

2. Rinse the beans and put them in a large pot, cover with water plus an inch cover the beans, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for an hour over very low heat.

3. Preheat oven to 300 F. Chop the onion or shallot into large chunks and set aside.

4. Mix together the maple syrup, ketchup, Dijon mustard, molasses, maple sugar, Kosher salt and reserved soaking chipotle liquid and add the chopped chipotle and onion or shallot.

5. When the beans are tender, drain them and place in a bean pot, then add the bay leaf and bacon pieces and pour in the maple-chipotle sauce. Stir well, then add more water until the beans are covered.

6. Cover with aluminum foil and then nest the lid down tightly and bake for 5 hours or until the beans are fully cooked. Check every hour or so, stirring the beans and adding water as needed to keep the beans covered. The beans are done when they are tender to your liking - some people like them mushy; others like a bit of bite left to them.

7. Serve hot, preferably with a slice of piping-hot Boston brown bread topped with a pat of cold butter:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Homemade Mayo

I'm finally back in the kitchen, making yummy things, although the desire to cook and eat comes and goes - such is depression.We've been living on bagels, toast and spaghetti aglio e olio because they are quick and easy.

I was emboldened to make homemade mayo after I saw a friend talking about hers. It was quite a treat, and I used it as a slathering sauce for some baked salmon last night. Very good. The next time I make this, I will adjust the amount of acid in the recipe because this came out just this side of sour.

Homemade Mayo
-adapated from The Food Lab: Two Minute Mayo


  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • salt to taste


1. Place the egg yolk, water, vinegar, and mustard in an immersion blender cup or other compatible container - it should be tall and with a mouth large enough to fit your immersion blender. A wide-mouthed quart mason jar is a good choice.

2. Pour all of the oil into the cup and then place the immersion blender in the cup, with the head resting on the bottom of cup and turn it on to the highest setting. Gradually raise the immersion blender through the mixture until it is creamy and all of the oil is emulsified.

3. Season to taste with salt. Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


This was delicious, but very tangy, verging on sour. Next time I may try lemon juice or a mixture of lemon juice and vinegar or knock down the amount of acid to 2 teaspoons.
Related Posts with Thumbnails