matcha dark chocolate truffles

14 August, 2012 § Leave a comment

I stand firm in my belief that matcha should be in its own food group. Colorful, versatile, healthy, delicious…everything I look for in a superfood, check, check, check and check. Imagine how thrilled I was, having just bought a small tin of matcha (it’s surprisingly expensive!) at a local specialty foods store, to find a recipe for truffles! Just to give you an idea: very. I was very thrilled. So thrilled, in fact, that I made the huge batch pictured above for my mother for Mother’s Day last year. These little green balls of joy have been a staple in my truffle repertory ever since.

They’re relatively easy for such a fancy-looking truffle, and I love that they require no tedious chocolate coating at the end, as many truffle recipes require. The only difficulty you may come across is that in matcha that’s been sitting around for a while–see my recipe notes for more info. No adaptations excepting a minor recipe simplification or two.

Matcha Dark Chocolate Truffles Makes roughly 50 truffles
from Eric Gower’s The Breakaway Cook
8 ounces heavy cream
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon matcha, plus another tablespoon for dusting
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Scant 1/8 tsp of kosher salt

Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over gentle heat, add the maple syrup and brown sugar, and stir until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add one tablespoon of matcha, stir until dissolved, and set aside.

Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl and pour in the cream mixture. Mix thoroughly, and pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Smooth it out with a rubber spatula. Cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour (until you’re ready to make the truffles).

Using a spoon, scoop out a heaping teaspoon, and make a ball using the palms of your hands. Repeat until all the chocolate is used – you should wind up with about 50 truffles. Line them up on a tray or plate, and dust them with the additional matcha, using a fine sieve.

Notes
Cooling the truffle mixture is imperative for the truffles to keep their shape–when you mold them with your hands, the warmth of your hands rubbing them instantly heats the truffles. Work quickly and delicately, re-refrigerating if necessary.

Sometimes not-so-fresh matcha clumps up a bit, and you end up with stubborn little beads of matcha similar to those you get when sifting confectioner’s sugar. Once the matcha clumps up, it hardens in the saucepan as you cook them, which is unpleasant both taste- and texture-wise, so be careful.

herbed onion frittata with parmesan + ricotta

3 August, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m convinced that you really can’t go wrong when there’s a good cheese in a recipe, and in my book, ricotta is a very good cheese. I actually recall a New York Times article I read a few years ago titled, Suddenly, Ricotta’s a Big Cheese. Suddenly? Clearly, the Times was behind the times (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

When I’m making this frittata for myself, I usually opt for fat-free or part skim, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the whole milk variety makes this dish that little bit more delicious. I can vouch for the diet version, though, to be fair. Both are hearty and flavorful, and they could easily make for a tasty lunch if you’re not big on breakfast.

The recipe, originally from Bon Appétit (I found it on Epicurious last year) clearly states: “The key to making this dish is to have all the ingredients prepared before you begin sautéing the onions.” I can vouch for that, too. Prep can be tedious, but it makes everything so much easier when you want the dish to come together quickly. Thankfully, nothing in this frittata rendition requires too much effort, and in my experience it comes out picture-perfect every time. The frittata above is one I served my mother for Mother’s Day.

Herbed Onion Frittata with Parmesan + Ricotta Makes 4-6 servings
Adapted from Bon Appétit

2 cups egg replacement
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
3 large fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
3 large fresh sage leaves, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 tsp kosher salt or to taste
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper or to taste
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1/3 cup fat-free ricotta

Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a medium ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low; stir in egg mixture. Spoon dollops of ricotta evenly over. Cook until frittata begins to set, about 2 minutes. Place in oven; bake until just set, 7-9 minutes. Slide the frittata onto a platter. Cut into wedges; serve hot or at room temperature.

Notes
I never really measured exactly how much ricotta I tend to use, but it’s probably closer to a 1/2 cup than a 1/3, so it’s not necessary to follow the 1/3 cup guideline. If you love the stuff, dollop to your heart’s desire! Another option for this recipe is to use half real eggs and half egg replacement (as opposed to no real eggs); the frittata’s texture isn’t compromised either way.

four-grain peach pecan pancakes

31 July, 2012 § Leave a comment

Honestly, what’s not to love about pancakes? Golden and delicious, they’re probably one of the fluffiest, most filling breakfast foods I can think of. Usually, there are two things that people worry about in pancakes: the health-conscious are concerned about nutrition, and the rest are thinking, “How long until I can satisfy my growling stomach?”

Friends, I’ve finally found a pancake that tackles both: it’s quick and easy to make, without sacrificing any nutrients (or the yumminess factor). Don’t thank me–thank Jacqui from Good Things Grow, it’s her recipe. I made very minor changes to it based on ingredients I had on hand, as well as my experience cooking them (three mornings in a row, I might add.) I almost threw in chocolate chips instead of peaches, but I resisted temptation and didn’t regret it. Actually, the juicy slices of peach nearly made me forget my craving for chocolate.

For the past three mornings, I’ve eaten two of these pancakes topped with a little I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Light and a sprinkling of Splenda, for a salty-sweet contrast. Just the two kept me fully fueled til lunchtime, but if I’d been stuck with a third, you certainly wouldn’t have heard any complaints.

Jacqui recommends a thin slice of the whole pitted peach for fruit in every bite, but I keep organic slices in my freezer and they worked beautifully. Call me crazy (or lazy, or both), but I think my pancakes tasted a little bit better having skipped the part where I pitted the peaches myself. Hey, at least I chopped my own nuts!

4-Grain Peach-Pecan Pancakes Makes 6 pancakes
Adapted from Good Things Grow

1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornmeal
2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Scant 1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk or non-dairy equivalent
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
2 tbs honey (I used buckwheat honey)
1/4 cup egg substitute
Ripe peach slices, frozen or fresh

In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients, except for the pecans.
In another bowl, combine the milk, butter, honey, and egg. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Heat griddle or frying pan.

Pour 1/4 cup batter onto griddle. Place two or three 1/8-inch thick peach slices in the batter. When bubbles form on top, flip. Cook other side until golden brown. Serve with toppings and condiments of your choice.

Notes
For those of you who are wondering, in case the photo is too small to see, I use organic frozen peach slices from Woodstock Farms that I slice thin. I used buckwheat honey because I had some in my cupboard that I thought would blend into the earthy, hearty taste of the batter nicely. I used 1% milk because I prefer “real” milk, but Jacqui’s original recipe calls for almond milk. Also, you may know by now that I’m a huge fan of salty-sweet things, so I used 1/4 tsp light sodium salt and 1/4 tsp Kosher salt to make my 1/2 teaspoon. Lastly, as I mentioned, I ate these pancakes across a three-day period, and the batter kept perfectly in the fridge.

twice-baked sweet potatoes

24 July, 2012 § Leave a comment

Image from The Year in Food

Ah, the baked potato. The eponymous side dish that I would always forego in favor of greens when eating out…until now. These sweet potatoes are just like the fully-loaded ones you’d get at a steakhouse–if that steakhouse were a vegetarian restaurant and that steak were, say, a quinoa burger. Get the picture?

Essentially, these are the fully-loaded baked potatoes’ more colorful, more nutritious (and in my opinion more appetizing) cousins. They’re stuffed with kale, parmesan and greek yogurt before baking the second time, making for a fluffy, distinctive filling that’ll have you pining for another. And here’s the best part–another really wouldn’t be so bad.

As Judy Aldridge over at Atlantis Home, where I found this recipe (originally from The Year in Food) mentioned in her notes, the hardest part is really to scrape out the sweet potatoes without piercing or tearing the delicate skin too much. That being said, you 1) get the hang of it pretty quickly and 2) it is so worth it. Also, they keep well in the fridge. What’s not to love? Finally, a potato that truly is sweet…

No adaptations were made here…or needed, for that matter. All I have added is bits of commentary on the recipe.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes Makes 6 hearty halves
from The Year in Food

3 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 cup minced kale
1/4 cup strained Greek yogurt
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan, divided
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
salt + pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse sweet potatoes and prick the surface all over with a fork.

Roast in the oven on a cookie sheet until soft, just about an hour. Do not be alarmed if caramelized juices have seeped onto the sheet, and/or if the potatoes look a little shriveled. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle.

In a medium skillet over a medium low flame, saute the onions in a little oil until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the minced kale and sauté until the kale is soft, 2-3 minutes more.

Slice sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, carefully remove most of the sweet potato, being mindful to not tear the delicate skin.

Combine the sweet potatoes with the yogurt, onions, kale, thyme and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Marvel at how fluffy the filling becomes after the addition of the yogurt.

Spoon the filling back into the sweet potato skins. Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

Notes
I used fat-free Greek yogurt, and it worked beautifully, so feel free to do the same. Also, if you’re feeling lazy (like I was), throw the kale into a food processor to mince it. Finally, there’s no need to follow the guideline on Parm. The people I was cooking for were cheese lovers, so I was generous in my topping, and it formed a sort of ultra-cheesy crust. Yum.

sables korova (world peace cookies)

22 July, 2012 § Leave a comment

So, the title is my attempt to revert to the original name of what became Dorie Greenspan’s famous World Peace Cookies. I just think of A Clockwork Orange every time I hear ‘korova’, which isn’t that often anyway.

I made these cookies not only because they’ve gotten rave reviews on every food blog I like and trust, but because I needed a chocolate fix. And man, oh man, I think I’m fixed for good (read: maybe a day. Maybe.)

This post also marks the first in which I exclusively used my own photography!

I took the plunge and “fixed something that wasn’t broken” a.k.a. tweaked the recipe a bit, mainly because I wanted to make it slightly less of a fat-and-happy cookie, and more of a if-I’m-having-chocolate-it-will-be-of-the-milk-variety-thank-you-very-much cookie.

Enter Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips. There is much debate as to which chips are THE chips, and I don’t even think that these necessarily are, but they’re damn good for baking. I actually love Guittard chips, but Ghirardelli chips are a little better for baking, at least in my opinion, when you want ooey gooey chocolatey goodness. Guittard chips, however, are champs at retaining their shape.

I tried to tweak to a minimum, as this recipe seems to be pretty tried-and-true in the blogosphere. I’m sure that I would have been (almost) equally pleased with the original, even in the absence of milk chocolate. In short, I made these cookies a little bit milkier, healthier and saltier.

Sables Korova (World Peace Cookies) Makes 20 2-in cookies
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup high quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick salted light butter
3 tbs unsalted butter
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Generous 2/3 cup milk chocolate chips, preferably Ghirardelli

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butters on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour mixture, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour (or just be careful) and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly . Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate–I used my hands so as not to break up the chips.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes, turning the sheet after 6–they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack, sprinkle them with superfine sea salt if you’re like me, and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Notes
I don’t know what it was my changes to this recipe did, but my dough was not crumbly. It was delicious and salty-sweet, but not crumbly, even after refrigeration. Also, I prefer chewy cookies to cakey ones, and these came out heavily leaning towards the cakey side. The taste was nearly irresistible, but next time I might melt and cool the butter, refrigerate overnight rather than for a few hours, etc. This isn’t over, cookies!  (Of course, if you like cakey cookies, this is your ideal chocolate cookie recipe.)

beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts + cranberries

20 July, 2012 § Leave a comment

I used to hate salad. I mean, hated it. Wouldn’t go near the stuff. Nowadays, salad and I are becoming better acquainted, and this particular one is my not-so-new borderline best friend.

Beet salad is an unoriginal idea, I’ll admit. But if I told you that this particular beet salad is inspired by Sahale Snacks’ delicious Valdosta pecans and that it pleases even picky salad eaters, I must have done something right, right? You have to understand that this is a little nerve-wracking as it is the first recipe of my own to go up on my blog.

I prefer no-nonsense, 100% pure baby spinach for this salad, but I’m sure you more adventurous herbivores could make use of many other greens with great success. The beauty of this beet salad is in its versatility–there are a lot of interchangeable parts, which I love as I don’t always have every single ingredient on hand. That being said, the recipe below lists my most-loved, most-portable version. Feel free to tweak the measurements to your preference and let me know how it turns out! There’s only one thing I ask: don’t make this as a side salad. This is meant to be a big, green stuff-your-face-with-it salad that can only be tackled with a large fork and a larger appetite.

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Walnuts + Cranberries Serves one

Baby spinach (depending on how leafy you like your salads)
1-2 large baby beets
Scant 1/4 cup dried cranberries
Black pepper, preferably freshly ground
8 walnut halves, preferably raw
2 tablespoons goat cheese
Balsamic glaze or vinegar

Transfer desired amount of baby spinach to container you plan to eat your salad from. Add baby beets sliced into 1/2-inch cubes or strips, whichever you prefer. Pepper the cranberries generously (trust me on this one) and add, making sure the pepper sticks. Add walnuts in odd pieces, breaking them with your fingers. Cut desired amount of goat cheese off a log and crumble in. Drizzle with balsamic glaze or vinegar, mixing with a fork as you go to ensure that all ingredients as well as the glaze is incorporated–leave no leaf behind.

Enjoy!

Notes & Product Recommendations
The measurements and ingredients above are, as in most salads, completely tweak-able. Pecans would be fine in place of walnuts (though I would toast them, so you don’t miss the crunch.) I never found the need to toast the walnuts; they lend appropriate crunch without it. The pepper brings out the cranberries’ flavor, a trick I learned from the Valdosta pecans mentioned above. In fact, if ou can find the Valdostas, you could sub those in for both the walnuts and cranberries, they’re just less cost-efficient. Normal beets would work just as well, I just choose to use baby beets as they’re easy to work with–the same reason why I use a log of chèvre–and occasionally come in fun flavors (I highly recommend all Love Beets products, if you can get them). Now, for my last recommendation (promise!), Blaze. I think this is carried in most grocery stores. It literally changed my life–it has the texture of delicious, fine quality aged Italian balsamic without the $$$ price tag. Plus, its packaging makes it a snap to use. Apparently there is a range of Blaze flavors as well, but I’m a simple girl when it comes to salad dressing.

raspberry-coconut macaroons

17 July, 2012 § Leave a comment

Image from Things We Make

As a self-proclaimed francophile, I’m naturally inclined to prefer macarons over macaroons. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen, however, nearly converted me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had the same effect on you.

These macaroons are so easy and pretty that they give you no excuse not to stock up on the simple ingredients required and make a batch right now. I wouldn’t even be offended if the grocery store temporarily took precedence over reading the entirety of this post (I’ll keep it short, promise.)

Image from Smitten Kitchen

The key here is NOT to mix the ingredients until well-blended–rather, the marble effect of the white on pinky red is, in my opinion, what makes the macaroons so pretty. To be honest, though, what I liked most about making them was the smell. While cookies make the whole house smell good while they’re in the oven, the generous amount of almond extract in these little guys made my Cuisinart burst with nutty goodness that seemed just pungent enough to reach my nose. Mmm.

Image from Things We Make

The adjustments I made to Smitten’s version were minor–I switched out the sugar for Splenda and used light sodium salt. The only major difference between hers and mine was the addition of white chocolate. I simply couldn’t resist. Things We Make had the idea, and there was really no question as to whether it would be delicious. Now, it should be noted that the macaroons hold their own. They don’t need the chocolate, but if you’re willing, I think white chocolate really took them up a notch. Because the chocolate is added at the end, it’s easy to accomodate even the non-chocoholics (gasp!) in your life.

Raspberry-Coconut Macaroons Makes 30-35 macaroons
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

14 ounces (400 grams) sweetened, flaked coconut
2/3 cup (130 grams) Splenda
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon Morton Lite salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
6 ounces (170 grams or 1 1/4 cups) fresh raspberries (if washed, patted very dry)
White chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor, blend the coconut for a minute. Add Splenda, blend another minute. Add egg whites, salt and almond extract and blend for another minute. Add raspberries and pulse machine on and off in short bursts until they are largely, but not fully, broken down. Some visible flecks of raspberry here and there are great. When you open the machine, you’ll see some parts of the batter that are still fully white while others are fully pink. Resist stirring them together.

With a tablespoon measure or cookie scoop, scoop batter into 1-inch mounds. You can arrange the cookies fairly close together as they don’t spread, just puff a bit. Scooping a little of the pink batter and a little of the white batter together makes them look extra marble-y and pretty.

Bake cookies for 25 to 30 minutes, until they look a little toasted on top (I didn’t allow them to brown as in the image above because I liked them better that way, but bake to your preference.) Let them rest on the tray for at least 10 minutes after baking, as they’ll be hard to move right out of the oven. They’ll firm up as they cool, but still remain softer and less dry inside than traditional macaroons. (As in, over a week later and the texture is virtually unchanged. Go moisture!)

Notes
If you’re choosing to go the white chocolate route–and I applaud you if you do–this is where it finally comes in. Melt however much white chocolate you’re planning to use in either a double boiler or a microwave safe bowl, and wait just a moment after removing from heat so it’s not so drippy. Dip each macaroon in the chocolate halfway and replace it on the baking sheet, allowing the chocolate to harden before storing the macs. If you so choose, you can dip just the bottom or even the whole macaroon, but I thought that half chocolate and half pinky white looked especially nice. Alas, I have no evidence left because all of the macs got eaten before I remembered to snap a picture.