Thursday, May 28, 2009

Veggie Guinness Chili

What to do with the rest of the Guinness can tragically going flat in my fridge after
last night's cake? What to do, what to do...

After a few minutes of trolling recipes for something stout-y, I quickly realized that any dish relying on this Irish-est of Irish beers would have to be equally Irish itself. Which left us with two main ingredients: beef and potatoes. Strikes one and two. Cabbage? Three, and out.

Luckily, there are some really weird people out there -- and I mean really weird -- that get eerily excited about consuming beer at every possible hour of the day, in whatever form, flavor, or freaky combination they can dream up. I chose conservatively from their creations, and ended up with a pretty robust bowl of a tomatoey soup-like concoction that David has been praising for days. Thought I might as well share, in case you wanted Guinness for dinner and dessert.

Our version was vegetarian, meaning we chopped up and simmered a random assortment of veggies from the fridge, but you could easily start it by browning some meat and building from there.

Vegetarian Guinness Chili
(serves 4, or 2 people for 2 days; total time about 45 minutes)

1 small onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic
*1 small potato (we used sweet), diced
*4-5 mushrooms, thick sliced
*1 cup cauliflower florets
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup Guinness
1 cup veggie broth
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
lots and lots and lots of black pepper
Toppings: cheese, sour cream, green onions

  1. In a hefty pot, saute your vegetables in about 1 Tbsp of oil, until they start to color, about 8 minutes. Add flour and cook 1 minute. Stir in beer, tomatoes, broth, and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer 20-30 minutes, until vegetables are tender and stew has thickened.
  2. Add salt and lots of pepper; feel free to also use chili powder, Tobasco, or some other heating agent to spice things up. Top with cheese/sour cream/onions if desired.

* So, we used the vegetables we had on hand, including a cob of corn that I cut the kernels from and threw in at the last minute. Tasty. Don't feel bound by this list of veggers. Use whatever you can/have/want/like.

Peanut Butter Banana Cake (and Crap-that-was-easy Vanilla Gelato)

Phew. It is cake week here in the Love-Smith house. I think I'm making up for not having baked anything in, like, a whole week by going all out. Last night, Irish car bomb cake....tonight, Elvis.

I believe I have mentioned before my deep, abiding love for peanut butter -- particularly in conjunction with bananas. Understanding that too much of this treat might leave me squeezed into an ill-fitting sequined unisuit, I thought a miniature sweet might be just the ticket.

Soooo...I took a banana cake recipe from Epicurious, threw in some chocolate chips, then topped it off with Ina Garten's p.b. icing. All divided by 17. Here's how it works:

Peanut Butter Banana Cake
(serves 2-3; start to finish, about an hour)

for the cake:
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp cake flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/4 cup mashed banana
1 Tbsp buttermilk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 beaten egg or 2 Tbsp egg sub
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

for the icing:
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup peanut butter (preferably natural)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and flour a small pan (5-inch round worked well for me; 4-6 inch square would work too). In a small bowl combine flour through salt. In another small bowl, mix banana, buttermilk and vanilla.
  2. With a mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add egg and beat well. Add remaining ingredients, alternating between dry and wet mixtures. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle chocolate chips over top, if using. Bake until cake begins to color and toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, beat butter, p.b., sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl until combined. Add milk and beat until smooth and fluffy.
  4. If your cake is on the thinner side, slice in half and make a tiny layer cake by spreading icing on middle and top (I didn't have enough for the sides, but if I had it may have been too much). If your cake is thick, just frost top and sides. Ta-dow!

Crap-that-was-easy Vanilla Gelato

Wanting something cool and smooth to cut the taste of the sure-to-be-rich cake, I scoured the net for a quick ice cream recipe that might just rely on that can of sweetened condensed milk I was stowing in my cabinet -- which would also cut out the time and patience that a custard ice cream would require. Based on my fridge and the various recipes I could cobble together, here's the quite successful result:

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (I used low fat)
1 cup light cream or half and half (fat free would be fine)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk it all together and throw it in your ice cream maker. So far (I started this whole process about 3 hours ago), the gelato is still soft-serve style, but I think a night in the freezer will firm it up good. Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm calling it gelato because it relies on more milk and less cream, which is basically the difference between the Italian frozen treat and our American version (that, and a slower "churning" process which results in a denser, often richer-tasting product). This also means that, because of its make-up, gelato is better at warmer temperatures than ice cream. So, when it does firm up in your freezer, be sure to take it out 15-20 minutes before you plan to enjoy it, and stir it up good before serving.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Irish Insanity Cake

Apologies for the some-time hiatus, but there was traveling and then there was general busyness and then there was a whole week in there when I had no one to cook for. I now completely understand why single people never eat. Where's the motivation? It's so much trouble for just you. And there's no one to wash your dishes.

Well, anyway, here's to the times you're eating with your roommates or significant others or just get tired of the supermarket salad bar.

Specifically, here's to the time when you want a pretty spectacular dessert flavored with not one but TWO irish boozes: Guinness and Bailey's Irish Cream. Zing! Start with a chocolate stout cake, frost it with some Bailey's buttercream, then drizzle it all with a deep, dark chocolate ganache. The best part is, my little recipe makes 3-4 servings of cake, depending on your baking pans, so you won't be tempted (and believe me, you would be tempted) to polish off an entire layer cake by your lonesome.

Guinness Cake with Bailey's Irish (Butter)Cream and Chocolate Ganache
(Adapted from Bon Appetit; serves 4; total cook, cool, and ice time, about 1 hr)

For the Cake:
1/4 cup Guinness
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) butter
3 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 beaten egg (or 2 Tbsp egg substitute)
2 1/2 Tbsp sour cream

For the Frosting:
4 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 tsp Bailey's

For the Ganache:
2 Tbsp cream (heavy or light, whatev)
2 oz. dark chocolate
  1. For the cake: preheat oven to 350º. Carefully melt together butter, cocoa, and Guinness until smooth. Cool slightly. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, sugar, soda and salt in a small bowl, and eggs/sour cream in another. Slowly add chocolate-Guinness mixture to egg/sour cream, whisking constantly. Add dry ingredients and fold in.
  2. Grease and flour a cake pan. I happen to have a 6-inch square cake pan, which made perfect sized layers, but a 5-7 inch round would do OK too. You could also go smaller and make a thick cake instead of layers, just increase the baking time a bit. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool.
  3. For the frosting: beat butter creamy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, beat well. Add Bailey's teaspoon by teaspoon until you reach desired consistency. Yum. Cut cooled cake in half and frost as you would a full layer cake.
  4. For the ganache: gently melt (or microwave) the chocolate and cream together, stirring smooth. Pour over frosted cake.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Honey Whole Wheat Biscuits

I like to think that somehow, the whole wheat in this recipe cancels out the butter. No? Not the case? So I shouldn't have eaten three out of the four biscuits it made this morning? Oops.

Honey Whole Wheat Biscuits
(adapted from Whole Grain Baking -- a real gem of a cookbook -- start to finish, about 25 minutes; makes 4 biscuits)

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp bread flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 Tbsp cold butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp honey

  1. Preheat oven to 400º. Mix together dry and wet, separately. Add buttermilk/honey to flours all at once and mix with a fork just until combined. Dump out onto a well-floured counter surface and knead it just 3 or 4 times, till it becomes a lump mass. (Sprinkle it with extra buttermilk if need be.) Press into a 1-inch thickness and cut biscuits using about a 2-inch diameter cutter. You'll probably get three, then combine scraps -- handling them as little as possible-- press again and cut one more.
  2. Brush tops with buttermilk and bake for 15-18 minutes. Serve warm.

Holy Expletive Brownies (with Strawberry Milkshakes)

Don't even think about judging me for posting two different brownie recipes over the span of a single week. Don't pretend like you don't love brownies and when you make a pan and they're gone all you want is some more brownies. Don't act like all brownie recipes are created equal, either. And, for the love of pete, don't skip this recipe.

Unless you like stale, cakey brownies, in which case this dessert is not for you. They're gooey, they're deeply chocolatey, and they are worth every single calorie. Also, they are best thick, so if you don't have a small enough pan (say, 4-inch square at the largest), use a cupcake tin sprayed down pretty heavily, and fill the molds at least 1/2-full. Actually, the brownie pictured here is a little on the thin side....

Holy Expletive Brownies
(adapted from The Little Black Book of Chocolate by Barbara Benjamin; start to finish time about 40 minutes)

2 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Combine butter and chocolate in a small saucepan or a microwave safe bowl. Melt them together slowly over low heat on the stovetop or in 20-second increments in the microwave, until you can stir it smooth. Let cool slightly.
  2. In a bowl, whisk eggs until foamy. Add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk just until combined (don't overbeat). Gradually add chocolate mixture, whisking all the while. Add flour, again whisking just until combined. Stir in pecans.
  3. Pour into small greased baking pan, about 4-in square max. You want it good and thick. Bake for 20 minutes, then start checking for "doneness." Take it out when the batter has has set up in the middle but a toothpick inserted in center does NOT come out clean--it will continue to cook a bit as it cools. Depending on your oven, you may need to give it another 5 minutes or so. Exercise your will power for at least 10 minutes before digging in.

Maybe you noticed the strawberry shake in the background of my picture there. Here's a pretty simple "recipe" that serves 2 people just perfectly: combine 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 cup ice cream and 1 cup milk in a blender. Voila. It's not a bowl you over, face-imploding diner shake, but it gets the job done.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bacon-Seared Scallop Salad with Green Goddess dressing

Remember Green Goddess dressing? I don't. It was a trendy, 1970s California-foodie thing, I'm pretty sure, which temporarily made it onto grocery shelves before promptly disappearing again. Seeing as I wasn't even a gleam (as they say) at that point, I only recently discovered the super herby, super green, super California concoction. Thanks to an article by Molly Wizenberg in a recent issue of Gourmet, I got to skip the traditional mayonnaise-based history and go straight to her modern take on the dressing, built instead around avocados. Brilliant, right? Right.

Unfortunately, Gourmet has not put her article nor her recipe online, but I'll give you a cheater version here, one that serves 2-4 folks, depending on the size of your salads (or whatever else you're slathering it on), and uses mostly basic and easy-to-find ingredients.

Because it is Friday and because I had a week so exhausting that I may have crashed my bike this morning and because I got paid today, I sprung for one of my favorite ingredients of all time: scallops. If only you knew how easy these were to make--about as easy as they are impressive to whomever you're cooking for. They take no time, need virtually no additional seasoning, and are buttery-delicious when it's all said and done.

SO, put together green goddess + seared scallops and = dinner!

Bacon-Seared Scallop Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
(dressing adapted from Molly Wizenberg's recipe in May '09 issue of Gourmet; entire meal from start to finish--including eating--can be completed in under 30 minutes)

The salad:
5 large (or 7 smallish) scallops for each human you're feeding
1 slice bacon
Salt and pepper
Washed and chopped greens of your liking (we used mesclun mix)
Optional: additions for your salad (we used freshly shucked corn and grape tomatoes)

The dressing:
1/2 ripe avocado
1 small (or 1/2 med-large) garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
*Small squirt anchovy paste or 1/2 tsp minced anchovy fillet (optional, but it's traditional!)
pinch sugar
3-6 Tbsp walnut or olive oil
2 Tbsp cream or milk
1 Tbsp each of freshly chopped parsley, basil, thyme, and cilantro
1/2 Tbsp shallot, minced

  1. First, make the dressing. In a food processor, combine avocado through sugar and blend well. (Alternately, do it in a bowl with a fork and some patience.) Slowly drizzle in oil, continually blending (whisking) until smooth. I happen to like a lot of tang, so I usually use equal parts vinegar and oil. If you like a smoother dressing, use the full 6 Ts of oil. Whisk in cream. Stir in herbs and shallot; cover and stash in the fridge until you're ready. If the dressing is too thick, add more oil or even water to your liking.

  2. Next, the scallops. Dice the bacon strip and cook in a hot pan, stirring to prevent sticking. Remove cooked bacon to a paper towel, leaving drippings behind. Pat scallops dry with a paper towel, then salt and pepper one side. Place seasoned side down in hot skillet, then salt and pepper other side. DO NOT TOUCH for 2 minutes; you're getting the good, crusty sear. Flip in the order that you initially laid them down and allow to cook 2 minutes more. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

  3. Now, assemble. Divide lettuce between two plates and top with add-ins, if using. Drizzle a little dressing over your greens and toss gently. Place warm scallops atop each salad and spoon more dressing over. Top with bacon pieces.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gordon's Burritos

We must tip our collective hat to our brother-in-law, Gordon, for introducing us to this fantastic meal. I say "we" because David plays a very active part in the preparation of this meal, mostly (I believe) because it involves bacon. Apparently bacon is David's territory.

Once, long ago, on a family beach vacation (from which I am still sporting a tan -- ahem-- burn line), each of David's family members was assigned a night to prepare a dinner. Gordon, who lived in Paraguay for a number of years, brought this dish to the table and we were hooked. We've been attempting it regularly ever since, usually with David first calling Gordon and saying, "Ok, what goes into your burritos?"

The best part of this meal is that it can be on the table in under 20 minutes. What am I saying? The best part of this meal is the bacon. The basics are thus: (1) chicken strips cooked in bacon grease and sprinkled with cheese, (2) a fresh salsa made of chopped tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, and (3) tortillas. You'll see we did things a little different, but only because of what was already in the fridge.

Gordon's Burritos
(total prep/cook time, about 20 minutes; serves 1-2)

4 slices bacon
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 large or 2 medium chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/2 cup shredded cheddar, colby jack, or monterey jack cheese
1 cup diced tomato (I used grape, but you can use whatever)
1/2 medium onion, diced (use the rest of the one from above)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
*optional: some peppers of your choice for heat
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 avocado, sliced thin
lime slices
sour cream
corn tortillas
  1. In a heavy skillet, cook the bacon. Take out and drain on a paper towel. Toss sliced onion into bacon drippings and sprinkle a little salt. Stir 3ish minutes, until softened. Remove from pan.
  2. Salt and pepper chicken strips and place in single layer in still-hot pan (if you've lost some of the fat in the pan, add more oil). Cook 5-7 minutes and flip. Cook 4-6 minutes more. Return cooked onions to pan and stir. Sprinkle cheese on top and allow to melt, about another minute. Top with crumbled, cooked bacon.
  3. While chicken cooks, chop and toss together tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and vinegar (and some heat agent like peppers or Tobasco, if you want). Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Slice lime and avocado wedges. Bring it all to the table.
  4. Now make a delicious burrito with your tortilla, a bit of cheesy-bacon-onion-chicken, a spoonful of salsa fresca, a slim slice of avocado, and a blop of sour cream. You will run out long before you're ready to be done.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

Oh yeah, you read that right. It's banana cream pie -- but perfected by the addition of perhaps my favorite food of all time, peanut butter. So many reasons to get carried away here: the salty ... the sweet ... the peanut butter and banana sandwich I ate almost every day for lunch in high school ... the opportunity to share something in common with Elvis ... pie ...

This recipe leapt from the pages of Bon Appetit's grievously caloric spread on "Diner Desserts" and grabbed me by the tastebuds (every one of them). Knowing how much I was sure to love it, and also painfully aware of my nonexistent will power, I took to downsizing immediately.

With every bite of this delicious dessert, David and I marveled at how perfect it was. The crust is sweet and crunchy like toffee; the vanilla pudding is perfectly balanced; and the final layer is like eating peanut butter-flavored air. Fluffy, delicious, peanutbuttery air. May just have to make it again tomorrow.

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie
(Serves 2; total prep/cook/cool time, about 2 hours)

Vanilla Wafer Crust
1 1/2 oz vanilla wafers (about 8)
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 Tbsp sugar

Vanilla Pudding Layer
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
pinch salt
1/4 c heavy cream
2 Tbsp whole milk
1/2 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter
1 banana
lemon or orange juice (just for tossing banana)

Peanut Butter Layer
3/4 oz cream cheese, room temp
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp heavy cream

  1. For the crust, either throw everything in the food processor and blend until uniform or smash wafers and sugar in a ziplock bag until fine, then melt the butter and stir together. Press into 2 individual tart pans, large muffin tins, or a mini pie plate. Bake at 350º for 10-12 minutes. Cool.
  2. For the pudding, in a small saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add dairy and yolk and mix all very well. [Sorry about the yolk, there's no shortcut around this, you need the egg to thicken the pudding. Just crack an egg over a dish to catch the white and then split the yolk in half. Have the white-and-half-yolk for breakfast tomorrow.] Over medium heat, cook the mixture--stirring constantly--until it boils and thickens, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in vanilla and divide between cooled crusts. Chill 30 min - 1 hr (until set).
  3. Take the banana and slice it thin, about 1/4-inch slices. Toss in orange or lemon juice to prevent browning. Once the pudding is set, lay out bananas over surface, reserving a few for garnish, if you want.
  4. For the peanut butter layer, blend cream cheese and powdered sugar until well mixed. Add vanilla and peanut butter and blend some more. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Fold it into the peanut butter mixture, a little at a time, being very gentle. Spread over banana layer and return to fridge for another hour or two, until fully chilled and set up.
  5. Garnish with reserved bananas and eat, eat, eat.
As usual, some notes....

I used individual miniature tart pans, but maybe you'd rather use muffin/cupcake tins. The only way this pie could have been improved is if I had made them deep rather than wide. The tins might be tricky when it comes time to extricate, though. Also, you could probably get away with less-than-full-fat milks in the pudding, but you may want to up the cornstarch if you do.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tasty white pizza + Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Everyone and their moms in the food world have been spewing about a recent book by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Their premise sounded intriguing enough to me: you make a dough that's wetter than your usual kneaded bread, you let it rise on it's own at room temperature, then you just store it in the back of your fridge, snipping some off when you want to bake. You can take as much or as little as you want at a time, and the dough is good for almost two weeks.

Well, I finally broke down and bought the book. I cracked the spine and started scanning, and half an hour later I had read it cover to cover. I promptly marched into the kitchen and made my first "loaf," and I am now a total convert. If you like the smell, taste, or even just the idea of freshly baked bread, buy this book. If you don't trust yourself with yeast breads, buy this book. If you want to make all kinds of crusty-edged, multi-flavored, savory-and-sweet breads with seriously minimal effort, BUY THIS BOOK. Just buy it.

Now, to dinner. I used the book's European Peasant Loaf recipe for pizza dough. The recipes are written in sizable quantities, because you can mix up a bunch and bake it off for two weeks. I halved the amounts given, and it made the perfect amount for one large pizza (serves 4), or two small (serves 2). I cut off half and made just enough for me and the man.

White Pizza
(total prep/rise/cook time, about 3 hours; if you have the dough premade, only about 40 min)

Dough (European Peasant Loaf)
(adapted from
Artisan Bread, total prep/rise/cook time 4 hours)
3/4 cup lukewarm water, from the tap
3/4 Tbsp yeast (active and instant are both fine)
3/4 Tbsp salt
1/4 cup rye flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl or food-safe container, stir together water, yeast, and salt. Add flours and stir to make a shaggy dough (you may need to wet your hands and get in there to incorporate all flour). Cover lightly and let rest at room temperature 2 hours. Seriously, that is IT. It will rise and flatten out on its own.

After 2 hours, you can either move it to the fridge and use it over the next 12 days, or cut off what you need and use it immediately.

Toppings for the pizza
This is a white pizza, which = no tomato sauce. Just plenty of olive oil and cheese.

Caramelized onions (see below)
1 head roasted garlic (see below)
5 thin spears of asparagus
1 baby yukon or fingerling potato, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated manchego, parmesan, asiago, monterey jack or some combination of the above cheeses
1 Tbsp fresh thyme

To caramelize onions (the cheater way), take 4 medium red onions and slice thin. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a microwave safe plate. Cook on full power 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Heat a small skillet with about 1 Tbsp of oil and add partially cooked onions plus a healthy pinch of salt. Stir to coat. Then add 2 Tbsp each of: white wine, water, white vinegar, and brown sugar. Sprinkle in some thyme if you have it. Stir until most of moisture has evaporated. Set aside.

To roast garlic, take 1 head of garlic and slice the whole thing in half. Slather in olive oil, then wrap in foil. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400º. If not cooked, return to oven or squeeze the cloves out into a skillet and finish there. [This can be done in large quantities and/or ahead of time. Store roasted garlic, wrapped, in the fridge.] In a small bowl, squeeze out the roasted cloves and add a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Using a fork, mash it into a paste.

To cook:
20 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven with your pizza stone** to 500º. Flour the surface of the stored dough, snip off about half, and place it on a well floured counter top. Form into a ball, then either roll or stretch into a 10-inch circle. Allow to rest until oven is ready.

When your oven and stone are heated, carefully pull out the pizza stone and awkwardly move the dough onto the stone (it will start to cook immediately, don't be frazzled). Working quickly, smear the garlic paste all over the dough. Then layer caramelized onions, half the cheese, the asparagus and potatoes [toss them in oil first!], and the other half of cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the whole thing. Return to the oven until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

When it's done, sprinkle with fresh thyme, slice, and eat up.

***If you think you're going to be a regular pizza eater, or if you want to make super crusty bakery-style bread, get a pizza stone. You heat it up with the oven, so when the dough hits the hot stone it immediately begins to form a crust. This is the easiest (only?) way to get that crust in a home kitchen. You can get a nice one online or, I've heard, you can just buy a quarry tile from your local hardware store for a lot cheaper.