Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Mixed vegetable and farro soup

November 29, 2010

Even though the temperatures in Atlanta have only just recently started to dip down to seasonal levels, I was eyeing this recipe in F&W magazine (it’s from Mario Batali’s NYC market/restaurant Eataly).  The photograph of the dish alone looked like it could comfort and warm my tummy on a chilly day.  Unfortunately, the end result didn’t quite live up to expectations.

The soup is easy enough to make, and most of the ingredients could easily be hanging around your house.  However, even after sitting for a day (I never eat soups on the day I cook them), the flavors were just…meh.  My husband joked that the problem was that the soup was vegan, and that a smidge of pork fat would surely solve the problem.  But doesn’t there have to be a way to spruce up a bland vegetarian dish?  I mean, I’ve eaten plenty of meatless meals that had more pizazz than this one.  I refuse to believe that lack of meat necessarily equals lack of flavor.

Take a look at the recipe and let me know what YOU would do to kick it up a notch.  I’d love to move this into the regular rotation, but it’s gonna need some work.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can borlotti or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds. Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil.

Recipe: Chipotle-Rubbed Salmon Tacos

June 28, 2010

Now that I have a tortilla press (actually, I have two – the first one turned out to be a little too small for flour tortillas, so we ordered the next size up), I am always looking for new, yummy taco recipes.  This one had been calling out to me for a while, since it involved heart-healthy salmon and a decent amount of fruits and veggies.

This dish would be great even with store-bought tortillas.  The flavors and textures are awesome – you get spice, you get citrus, you get creamy, you get crunchy.  There is a fair amount of chopping involved, so prep takes a little bit of time, but the end result is definitely worth it.  Try this on your next taco night!

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 pound skinless wild Alaskan salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 tortillas
  • Salt
  • 1 Hass avocado, mashed
  • Apple-Cucumber Salsa (see recipe below)
  • 1 cup finely shredded cabbage
  • Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the lime juice. In another small bowl, combine the chipotle powder with the orange zest and sugar. Rub each piece of salmon with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and then with the chipotle–orange zest mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes.

    Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake for about 8 minutes, until they are softened and heated through.

    Meanwhile, heat a grill pan. Season the salmon with salt and grill over high heat until nicely browned and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

    Gently break each piece of salmon in half. Spread the mashed avocado on the warm tortillas and top with the salmon, Apple-Cucumber Salsa and the cabbage. Drizzle each taco with the lime mayonnaise and serve right away.

    For the apple-cucumber salsa, combine the following ingredients in a large bowl:

  • 1 Granny Smith apple—peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cucumber—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt to taste

  • Recipe: Beer-Braised Chicken Tacos

    May 11, 2010

    My husband loves my cooking, to be sure.  However, I always solicit constructive feedback when I try a new recipe – and he can usually come up with something that he feels would make the dish better.  Sometimes his comments are as simple as, “I think this needs more salt,” and other times he comes up with elaborate ways to enhance the flavors and textures (he may not cook, but he knows food).

    So, imagine my surprise when this dish resulted in NO criticism whatsoever.  When I asked if there was anything that should be tweaked or changed, the result was dead silence (well, actually, it was more like chewing noises).  Both my husband and I agreed that the meal was perfect as-is, and that the only thing that could improve it would be homemade corn tortillas (and lo and behold, a tortilla press arrived in my mailbox a few short days later…).

    The original recipe from Food and Wine called for turkey, but there was none of that to be found (and I tried Kroger, Publix, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market).  Bone-in chicken worked perfectly, and don’t be afraid of the dark meat!  With the skin and fat trimmed, it ain’t gonna hurt ya.  And it’s so tasty!  I can’t wait to make this again – it’s a bit time-consuming (all braised meats are), but it is totally worth it.  Enjoy!

    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • Two pounds bone-in chicken thighs and/or drumsticks, skin and fat removed
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    • 1 medium white onion, cut into 1-inch dice, plus minced red onion, for serving
    • 1 large oregano sprig
    • 1 large jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
    • 1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
    • 1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped or torn
    • One 2-inch cinnamon stick
    • One 12-ounce bottle Mexican dark beer, such as Negro Modelo
    • 1 cup water
    • 12 corn tortillas
    • Chopped cilantro, for serving

    In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until richly browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

    Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the casserole along with the garlic, diced onion, oregano, and jalapeño and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato, poblano, and cinnamon stick and cook, stirring, until the tomato releases its juices.

    Return the chicken to the casserole, add the beer and water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, turning once, until the chicken thighs are tender, about 1 hour. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let cool. Discard the oregano sprig and cinnamon stick and boil the sauce over high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 12 minutes.

    Preheat the oven to 350. Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake for about 8 minutes, until softened and heated through. Remove the chicken meat and shred it. Transfer the sauce to a food processor and puree. Return the sauce to the pot and stir in the shredded chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the chicken onto the tortillas. Top with minced onion and cilantro sprigs and serve.

    Barley Salad with Apples, Cranberries, and Pine Nuts

    March 15, 2010

    I’ve been keeping a food and exercise diary for a while now, and as I reviewed my entries the other day, I noticed that there was a direct correlation between my weight fluctuations and my carb intake.  I’m not going to go all Atkins on your asses, have no fear – after all, it is triathlon training season, and I need proper fuel – but I realized that I should be incorporating more complex carbs and healthier grains into my diet in order to satisfy my starchy cravings.

    This recipe from Food & Wine magazine came at the perfect time.  It’s a great make-ahead base for really delicious meals – just grill some chicken breast or bake some fish, and voila, you’ve got a balanced lunch that will make your co-workers jealous.  The first step is when you cook the barley and scent it with the thyme and onions (and you could certainly serve it just like that, if you prefer).  Then you add the “dressing” and the mix-ins (for flavor and texture), and the dish really comes together.  The original recipe calls for pomegranate seeds, but I couldn’t find any – and actually, the dried cranberries made a wonderful substitution, as there was plenty of juicy crunch from the apples.  This should keep for about a week in the fridge – if it dries out a bit, just add a little more oil and vinegar to spruce it up.

    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 1/2 cups pearled barley
    • 1 small onion, finely diced
    • 2 thyme sprigs
    • 2 3/4 cups water
    • Kosher salt

    In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the barley and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly toasted; the grains will turn slightly opaque just before browning. Add the onion and thyme and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the water is absorbed and the grains are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Fluff the grains and discard the thyme sprigs. Season the grains with salt.  Allow to cool completely.

    • 1/3 cup pine nuts, preferably from Italy (2 ounces)
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
    • 1 small shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 4 cups thyme-scented
    • 1 large tart apple, such as Honeycrisp, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

    Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

    In a bowl, whisk the oil with the vinegar and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Add the Thyme-Scented Short-Grain Brown Rice, pine nuts, apple, pomegranate seeds and parsley; toss before serving.

    The Four Coursemen

    February 19, 2010
    1 Comment

    Supper clubs – especially those of the secret or underground variety – seem to be all the rage these days.  The AJC recently published an article on a couple of local versions, and their reasons for being range from testing out the beginning phases of restaurant ownership, to creating a more socially focused dining experience, to highlighting celebrity chefs and making money.  Heck, my future brother-in-law runs a pretty darn successful “underground restaurant” out of a teeny tiny San Francisco apartment (you can check out some of his menus here).  My first true supper club experience came last month in Athens, Georgia, when my husband and I were fortunate enough to eat with the Four Coursemen.

    I first heard of “T4C” when Food and Wine magazine published a short piece about the group’s concept and featured some of their recipes.  Further Googling also showed another mention, this time in Garden and Gun magazine, and a host of random photos and blog posts about previous dinners.  The idea was certainly intriguing – a bunch of buddies who love food and cooking, inviting strangers into their home and experimenting (both socially and culinarily).  So simple, yet so compelling.  I quickly signed up for their email list, so that I would be notified of upcoming events.

    It wasn’t until the end of January that our calendars were empty enough to attempt to RSVP for a dinner.  An email went out, indicating that the website would be open at a certain time on a certain date, and only at that exact moment would people be able to try to reserve seats (of which there are only 24).  Luckily for me, I was able to have my hand on the ol’ buzzer at the precise time, and I scored two coveted spots at the table.  I learned later that this particular dinner, on January 23, 2010, sold out in about 2 minutes.  Jason and I were really stoked as we drove up Highway 316 to Athens, dressed up and ready to experience something special.

    We arrived at the secret location (only disclosed once the RSVP was accepted and confirmed) and milled around for a bit, chatting with other guests and sipping on pre-dinner drinks (wine pairings are included with the meal, but folks brought their own libations for before and after); there seemed to be a good mix of return customers and first-timers.  When the proverbial dinner bell rang, we all sat down at two large, communal tables and began the feast.  Every course was explained and every wine pairing discussed, but not in a pretentious or intrusive way.  Instead, the guests really got to hear and understand where the ideas for the dishes came from, and why certain wines were meaningful to the sommelier, and why particular ingredients were favorites of the cooks – that sort of thing.  Here’s what we ate and drank…

    “Oyster Po’Boy on a Half Shell” – served with a demi sec sparkling wine.  These were Blue Point oysters, which I love, and my only complaint was that the cornmeal batter was a bit heavy.  The slaw underneath the oysters was really tasty and added a nice crunch to the dish.  Very refreshing, particularly when paired with the selected wine.

    “Slow-cooked Salmon with Apple and Grana Padano Ravioli, Thyme, Saffron Beurre Blanc, Celery Leaves” – served with an Italian Sauvignon blanc.  This was by far my favorite dish of the night.  The salmon was stunning, both in quality and presentation (my crummy camera doesn’t begin to capture the beautiful color of the fish), and the ravioli was tender and intensely flavorful.  The dry white wine was a perfect complement to the buttery notes of this course – it was an absolutely beautiful pairing.  Even my husband, who is normally somewhat picky about fish, ate the entire thing, even the skin (which he usually avoids like the plague). 

    “Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon Lardons, Vanilla Brown Butter, Brazil Nuts” – served with a California Pinot noir.  The flavors of this soup were nice, but the texture was a bit off for me (first, I prefer something a bit thicker and smoother, and second, the soup was separating a bit, as you can see from the photo).  The Brazil nuts were an unexpected but pleasant surprise, and the smoky bacon stood up nicely to the wine.  Overall, I’ve definitely had better-executed butternut squash soups, but I appreciated the thought that went into the dish.

    “Roasted Tri-Tip Beef with Red Wine Poached Egg, Arugula” – served with a Ridge (California) Zinfandel.  You don’t see tri-tip on too many high-end menus, but if it was prepared like this, it would be a best-seller.  What a delicious play on steak and eggs!  I was a little worried about my husband during this course as well, since the only way he’ll usually eat eggs is scrambled with cheese (LOTS of cheese, so he can’t taste any egginess).  But, he surprised me again and devoured the dish, poached egg and all.  With the richness of the egg, I definitely appreciated both the leaner cut of meat and the bitter arugula.  Having visited the Ridge winery before, I was really looking forward to the pairing, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

    “Orange and Lavender Steamed Pudding with Honey Creme Anglaise” – served with a French blanc de blanc.  Lately, I have been much less interested in dessert, usually preferring an additional savory course to something sweet.  This evening was no exception, though I definitely appreciated the effort.  The flavors were appropriately delicate, and I loved the creme anglaise, but I found the pudding itself to be way too dense.  Jason really enjoyed it, though, so perhaps I was just hoping that they’d bring out another portion of the salmon dish.  Hey, a girl can dream!

    After dinner, once everyone had paid (the requested minimum donation was $60, which I thought was MORE than fair, given the amount and quality of food and wine we were served), the atmosphere in the house turned into one of great joy and celebration.  The guests were able to talk to the chefs and the sommelier – and, more importantly, to each other – about the meal and the experience.  The feeling of camaraderie was truly amazing – people were sharing stories, sharing wine (and even some homemade infused spirits), and sharing a very special experience.  If we didn’t have an hour-long drive home, we could have stayed and partied all night.  Maybe it was just because I was back in Athens, but something about the evening with the Four Coursemen brought back all the youthful exuberance of my college days.  I’m sad to report, however, that it did not bring back the alcohol tolerance of my college days.  Live and learn.

    T4C is a special group of people, and I wish them much success in all of their endeavors.  If you ever get the chance to dine with them, dive in and don’t look back – I think you’ll really cherish the experience.

    Recipe: Green Chicken Masala

    January 20, 2010
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    When Jason and I were visiting DC for our honeymoon, we had a late dinner at Rasika, an upscale Indian restaurant.  We enjoyed creative cocktails, delicious palak chaat (a crispy spinach dish, sooooo good), chicken tikka masala, garlic naan, and some incredibly spicy goan fish curry (with the most perfectly cooked mahi mahi I’ve ever had).  The real star of the meal, though, was the green chicken masala that Jason ordered.  The meat was tender, the sauce was simultaneously spicy and refreshing…it was just a superb dish.

    Since Jason couldn’t stop talking about his delicious meal, I decided to search for something similar to make at home.  Lo and behold, in a back issue of Food and Wine, I found Chef Vikram Sunderam’s recipe for green chicken masala.  Victory!  I gathered up all of the ingredients and set to work.  The recipe itself is quite simple, with “saute, simmer, and stir” being the primary cooking method.  The herbs and spices made the kitchen smell so damn good, and as I was winding down with the preparations, I absolutely couldn’t wait to dive into my exciting, restaurant-quality dinner.

    Well…close, but no cigar.

    The dish was very tasty, and the chicken was crazy tender, but there was really no spicy kick at all.  I was somewhat suspicious when I read the recipe and it only called for one seeded jalapeno, so now I know to trust my instinct and use something hotter.  I should have known that a mainstream mag would dumb the dish down somewhat, to account for those who have a low spice threshold.  Despite the lack of tongue-scorching, I definitely want to make this dish again and see if I can get it closer to the real thing.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    • 2 cups cilantro leaves
    • 1 cup mint leaves
    • 1 jalapeño, coarsely chopped
    • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
    • Kosher salt
    • Basmati rice, for serving

    In a blender, combine the cilantro, mint, jalapeño, garlic, lemon juice and water and puree until smooth.  In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and turmeric and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden in spots, about 7 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and cook for 1 minute. Add the cilantro puree and coconut milk, season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is slightly reduced and the chicken is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with basmati rice.

    Recipe: Roasted Pork Loin with Orange-Herb Sauce

    November 5, 2009

    A few weekends ago, when it was chilly and raw and all I wanted to do on a Saturday night was curl up with my critters, I decided to try a dish that just screamed comfort  This recipe came from one of the chef features in a recent Food and Wine magazine, and it called out to me with its piggy goodness and warm, citrusy sauce.

    The dish was delicious, and fairly simple and straightforward to make (if a bit time-consuming).  The meat was nicely browned on the outside, but it also had that consistent moisture and tenderness that comes from roasting.  The sauce was great on the pork AND on the accompanying baked potato.  As a bonus, it filled the house with a lovely herbacious aroma.  It’s not terribly fancy, but it was exactly what I needed on a fall evening.  Enjoy!

    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
    • One 1 1/2-pound boneless pork loin
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1 cup fresh orange juice
    • 1/2 cup chicken stock
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 5 black peppercorns
    • 1 rosemary sprig
    • 1 oregano sprig
    • 1 parsley sprig, plus 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves

    In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the oil with the garlic. Add the pork, turn to coat and let stand for 1 hour.

    Set a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium ovenproof skillet, heat the remaining oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper and add to the skillet, fat side down. Cook over moderately high heat until richly browned, 4 minutes. Brown the pork on the remaining sides, then turn it fat side up. Add the orange juice, stock, wine, peppercorns and herb sprigs and bring to a boil.

    Transfer the skillet to the upper shelf of the oven and roast the pork for about 35 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 145°. Transfer the pork to a carving board.

    Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan and boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, 15 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley. Carve the pork and serve with the orange sauce.

    Pork loinPork with citrus herb sauce

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    Eat on $60 – Day 2

    October 13, 2009

    Monday morning brought a whole new set of challenges to our Eat on $60 experience.  First, we had to account for ALL of our meals (not just dinner like the previous day).  Second, with my husband participating in fitness boot camp, I had to pack him a lunch (and snacks) that would satisfy his metabolism requirements while complying with the monetary limitations.  Finally, it was Monday morning, and I was groggy and cranky.  You know how it is.

    Before I launch into how we did on Day 2, let me throw some info at you.  After all, this challenge is about more than just scrimping and saving for a week – it’s about cultivating awareness of hunger issues, both locally and nationally.  Did you know that according to the 2006 U.S. Census, more than one in five Georgia children live in poverty.  That’s 491,794 children under the age of 18 who face hunger issues as a part of their daily lives.  I know food was a HUGE part of my childhood, so that really is a devastating figure for me.  If you want to read more and learn about ways you can help, a visit to the Atlanta Community Food Bank website is a great start.  There are some really cool events coming up that will raise money to address the very issues we are trying to bring to light with this challenge.

    Okay, back to Monday’s eating.  Here’s how it broke down…


    Betty – energy bar ($1.08), coffee (2 cups at $0.12 each = $0.24).  Total – $1.32

    Jason – yogurt ($0.60), Smart Start cereal ($0.30), coffee (1 cup = $0.12).  Total – $1.02

    When I got to work and started crunching numbers, I smacked myself on the forehead when I realized how CRAZY expensive those energy bars can be.  We eat them out of convenience, sure, but also because we usually involved in some sort of athletic pursuit (boot camp for Jason, triathlon training for me) and those bars are a great way to get nutrients while running/biking.  My disappointment was evened out somewhat by the cheapness of our store-brand, made-at-home coffee.  And it got rid of my morning crankiness just like the expensive coffee shop stuff!


    Betty – 2 leftover pork chops ($1.96), leftover applesauce ($0.61).  Total – $2.57

    Jason – chicken salad sandwich (bread $0.14, chicken $0.47, mayo $0.66 = $1.27), crackers ($0.20), Fig Newtons ($0.37).  Total – $1.84

    Again, lunch made me smack myself upside the head.  I didn’t really NEED two pork chops, but lunch is usually a pretty large meal for me (a habit I picked up in Spain), and I just didn’t think I would be satisfied with one.  The applesauce was delicious once again.  As for hubby’s meal, the crackers and Fig Newtons were already in the pantry before the challenge, so I divided out their total cost to a per-serving number, which was not as bad as I anticipated given that they were the individually wrapped variety.


    Betty – Nutella pound cake ($0.79 per slice, breakdown below).  Total – $0.79

    Jason – gala apple ($0.41, on sale), energy bar ($1.08).  Total – $1.49

    The Nutella pound cake had been calling my name since I saw it in the most recent Food and Wine magazine, so I baked it up to see if it would fit into the challenge.  It worked out to a pretty reasonable per-serving number, and it was really delicious.  Nutella itself is pretty expensive, but thankfully, Kroger makes a store-brand hazelnut spread that worked out beautifully and kept the recipe cost much lower.  Here it is:

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour ($0.15)
    • 4 large eggs, at room temperature ($0.08 each, on sale = $0.32)
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract ($1.00, my best guess)
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder ($0.05)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt (free)
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened ($2.00)
    • 1 1/4 cups sugar ($0.21)
    • One 13-ounce jar Nutella ($2.59)

    Total – $6.32.  There were 8 slices, so that works out to $0.79 per slice.

    Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour. In a glass measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer. Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread half of the Nutella on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining Nutella. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife. Do not overmix. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut the cake into slices and serve.

    For dinner, I decided to make a pizza at home, based on this recipe from Cooking Light magazine.  Unfortunately, the math somehow got messed up in my head, because once I added everything up and broke it down per serving, I realized that the dish didn’t quite fit within our budget.  Grrrr.  In any case, I got a store bought pizza crust ($2.59), put some pesto sauce down as the base ($4.49!!!!), and covered the pie with two servings of roasted chicken ($0.94), one cup of halved red grapes ($0.69), half a package of store-brand shredded mozzarella ($0.84), and a couple of cloves of garlic ($0.50).  The total came out to $10.05, and we broke it down into three servings ($3.35 per serving).  In hindsight, we probably could have broken it down to four servings.  Lesson learned.  The pizza was delicious, and I definitely want to make it again, but I will find a way to make it cheaper, perhaps by making my own crust and/or pesto.

    Eat on 60 pizza

    At the end of the day, my food added up to $8.28, and Jason’s added up to $7.70.  So, our total spent on Day 2 was $15.98 (making our total for the week-to-date $19.16).  Certainly, that number is WAY less than what we normally spend, but it was significantly over the daily budget we were shooting for.  We learned a lot, though, and pledged to alter our habits a bit on Day 3 in order to get ourselves more in line with the proper numbers.  Did we succeed?  You’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out…

    Recipe: Honeyed Yogurt and Blueberry Tart with Ginger Crust

    February 20, 2009

    While I am not a gifted baker, I do have a couple of easy, go-to desserts that are signatures for me.  For example, my homemade key lime pie gets rave reviews, but it involves only a handful of ingredients and minimal time in the oven.  Unfortunately, such a simple dessert ends up boring me a little, as there is no challenge and no butterflies about what guests will think when they taste it for the first time.

    The picture for this dessert in Food and Wine magazine really caught my eye, thanks to the lovely fluted crust and the bright, plump blueberries.  Thankfully, after some “meh” recipe experiences, this one totally delivered.  The crust is simple and tasty (it would have been simpler if I had a working food processor, but it still worked out), and the no-bake filling is tangy and just sweet enough.  The visual is also pretty impressive, making this a perfect way to thrill your guests without spending all day in the kitchen.

    • 10 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces
    • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • Pinch of salt
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 large egg white
    • 2 cups Greek-style nonfat yogurt, drained overnight
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 1/2 cups blueberries (9 ounces)

    Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers with the crystallized ginger, sugar and salt until finely ground. Add the butter and egg white and pulse until the crumbs are evenly coated. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned. Let the crust cool completely.

    In a medium bowl, mix the drained yogurt with the honey. Spread the yogurt in the crust and arrange the blueberries over the surface of the yogurt. Cut the tart in slices and serve.


    Recipe: Cilantro-Flecked Corn Fritters

    February 19, 2009

    This recipe had so many delicious elements, so I thought it would be a killer accompaniment to the yogurt lamb skewers.  I think that’s still true in theory, but the fritters didn’t turn out at all like I expected.  First, I don’t think I cooled the corn and cilantro mixture long enough, and it didn’t crisp up very well while frying.  Next time, I think I’ll try using my deep-fryer, as hot splattering oil didn’t make things any more fun in the kitchen.  Also, these fritters were supposed to be served with a chile-mint sauce, but it turned out AWFUL.  It called for serrano chile, mint leaves, and water, which sounded good in my head, but when it was all mixed together it was a soupy, mixed-up mess.

    Here’s the basic recipe for the fritters–again, I think they COULD be great.  They definitely tasted good, especially since I used some killer local organic cilantro that was the most flavorful I’ve ever had.  I’ll work on the texture and the sauce, and I’ll get back to ya.

    • 4 medium ears of corn, shucked, or 2 1/2 cups frozen corn (I used the latter)
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for pan-frying
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tablespoons whole cilantro leaves
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • All-purpose flour, for dusting

    In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the ears of corn over moderately high heat just until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cobs; you should have 2 1/2 cups. If you’re using frozen corn, boil it for 2 minutes, then drain.

    In a medium skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the ginger and two-thirds of the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the corn and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and puree. Scrape into a bowl. Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Form into 2-inch patties and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

    Preheat the oven to 350°.  In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Dust the fritters with flour and tap off the excess. Add half of the fritters to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until browned and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Drain the fritters on paper towels. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining fritters. Arrange the fritters on a platter. Serve right away.

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