Archive for June, 2011

Ganache-Filled Brown Sugar Bars

June 30, 2011

Friends, it’s that time of year.  It seems that ever since I have kept this blog, I go out of town around the end of June/beginning of July.  Last year, I went to Cannes/Paris/London.  This year, I am going to Delaware.  Ahem.  Not that there is anything wrong with Delaware it’s just not, well, um, Cannes, Paris, or London.  I don’t think I will be shopping for copper pots or taking a train underneath the English Channel.  What I will be doing is getting quality time with Randy’s huge extended family.

Here is what I expect: a plane ride complete with ridiculous amounts of technology and lots of usually-forbidden snacks, two boys spending a week covered in sand and smelling of sunscreen and Popsicles, eating lots and lots of carbs, getting forced to sing and play guitar in front of  50+ family members, roller coasters and cotton candy on the boardwalk, and truly enjoying a vacation.

This has been a busy month.  I taught six classes in three weeks.  I didn’t do much cook-for-my-family cooking.  But I did manage to squeeze some yummy things in.  I have time to share the food but I don’t have time to write super witty and topical posts to accompany the recipes.  Forgive me?  I think after this treat you just might.

Sometimes I look at a recipe with few ingredients and scoff.  A “how could this be good?” kind of thing.  I’ll tell you how this can be good – brown sugar bars with chocolate ganache sandwiched in the middle.  The components of these bars are super easy to make.  Assembly is a little tricky.  Learn from my experience and mistakes:

Do butter and flour the pan well and definitely use the wax paper that is suggested.
Do dollop the batter all over the pan, this will make it easier to spread.
Do use a palette knife to smooth the top.
Don’t underbake.  Or overbake.
Do use a palette knife to coax the wax paper away from the pan before turning out onto a rack.
Don’t move the cake part around too much, this will make it crack.
Do make sure you put the cake on a cutting board that will fit in your refrigerator.
Do wipe your knife off in between cuts so you don’t get chocolate residue on the edges.  If you care about that sort of thing.  (I didn’t do this.)
Do use a ruler to make sure you get all your pieces the same size.  If you care about that sort of thing.  (See above.)
Do cut these in small pieces and be prepared for children in your life to go absolutely nuts for them.

Ganache-Filled Brown Sugar Bars
Adapted from Food & Wine
Makes 32 bars (or more if you cut them smaller)

½ cup heavy cream
½ pound bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

Place the chocolate in a mixing bowl.  Bring the cream to a boil over moderate heat.  Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for one minute.  Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the two together until smooth.  Let stand until firm, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Lightly butter a 10-by-15-inch baking pan.  Line the pan with wax paper; butter and flour the paper.

Whisk the flour with the salt.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar at medium speed for 3 minute.  Beat in the eggs 1 at a time.  Beat in the vanilla.  At low speed, beat in the flour in 3 additions; the batter will be fairly stiff.  Spread the batter in the pan.  Bake for 18 to 20, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Cover the baking pan with a large wire rack and invert.  Remove the pan and peel off the wax paper.  Invert the cake onto a large cutting board.  Using a serrated knife, halve the cake crosswise.  Spread the ganache evenly over one of the cake halves, leaving a 1/8-inch border.  Top with the other cake half.  Cover and refrigerate until the ganache is set, at least 2 hours.

Trim the edges of the cake.  Cut the cake lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 8 bars.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Soba Noodle Bowl

June 28, 2011

If you define summer as “school is out”, then this is the first week of summer in our house.  If you define summer as “sunshine and warm temperatures”, then we are still waiting.  This year, summer looks a little different for us.  Spencer’s preschool, the one Graham attended until he started kindergarten, goes all year.  There is no summer break except for a few days in August just before the official school year begins.  Which means that I have never had to make alternate summer plans for my kids – they just kept to their schedule at that sweet little school.

This year, Spencer will spend the summer in the beloved orange room of his school and I have found a fabulous day camp for Graham.  They go outside three times a day, go swimming twice a week, and go on a field trip every week.  (This week he will go to the Pacific Science Center which Spencer calls the Terrific Science Center and Graham calls the Perfect Science Center.  I don’t bother to correct them.)

Unlike during the school year, I will have both boys home with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  There are so many fun things to do in Seattle during these long days and I hope we get to a bit of everything.  I know we will have lots of lunch dates.

We don’t take our kids out for dinner that often but we do lunch out quite a bit.  One of their favorite places is a noodle joint called Boom Noodle.  The kids menu stars a bento box with fruit, rice, edamame, and tofu (or meat).  The boys get a huge kick out of it and usually clean their plate, er, box.  I always get the same thing there – a soba noodle salad with a super spicy wasabi kick.

I’ve been meaning to make this at home for a long time and when I found mizuna at the farmers’ market, I knew it was time.  I have no idea how to recreate that spicy dressing – it’s really more like a wasabi relish that is dabbed over the top, so I just left it off.  This tofu comes from another noodle bowl creation and I have to say, it is my very favorite way to eat tofu.  Even if you think you don’t like it, give it a try.

Three Years Ago: Turnip and Leek Gratin

Soba Noodle Bowl with Lemongrass Tofu
Dana Treat Original, Inspired by Boom Noodle
Serves 3

I would have preferred shiitake mushrooms in this dish but I used what I had on hand.

For the marinade:
2 inch pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 garlic clove, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed, minced
6 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1½ tbsp. mirin
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. water
½-1 tsp. red pepper flakes

12 ounces extra-firm tofu, blotted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces soba noodles
1 tbsp. sesame oil
Canola oil
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
½ an English cucumber, seeded, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
6 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 ounces mizuna, or other soft lettuce

Prepare the marinade and tofu:
Mix together all the ingredients except the tofu in a medium size bowl.  Taste for flavor balance and add more soy, honey, or lime juice to taste.  Put the tofu in a shallow baking dish (an 8×8-inch pan is perfect) and pour about 1/3 of the marinade over top.  Allow the tofu to sit for at least half an hour, turning the pieces periodically.  You can also refrigerate the pan, covered, for up to one day.  Reserve the rest of the marinade.  This will be your dressing.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Place the baking pan in the oven and bake until the marinade is absorbed and the tofu is developing a bit of outer crunch, 30 to 40 minutes.  Turn the tofu once during baking.  Set aside.

Prepare the rest of the ingredients:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the soba noodles and cook until just al dente, tasting to make sure, 5 to 6 minutes.  Pour the noodles into a colander and then immediately rinse with cold water.  Drain well, then toss with the tablespoon of sesame oil.  Set aside.

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough canola oil to coat the bottom, then add the mushrooms along with a large pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are nice and browned and there is no liquid in the pan.  Set aside.

Distribute the mizuna across the bottom of three serving bowls.  Divide the noodles between the bowls and then add small piles of the mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, and tofu to each bowl.  Scatter the scallions and sesame seeds across the top and drizzle the reserved tofu marinade over everything as a dressing.  Pass additional sesame oil and soy sauce at the table.

New Classes!

June 25, 2011

(New classes are announced!  Come learn some summer recipes!  Check here for details.)

If you come here on a semi-regular basis, there are probably a few things you know about me.  Most likely you know that I am a vegetarian, I love chocolate, I have two young boys, and I live in Seattle.  You may even know that I teach regular cooking classes that are open to the public.  But unless you have attended one of those classes, you probably don’t know this.  Each participant walks out with a Dana Treat.

I know there are lots of cooking classes available these days, both on a grand and small scale.  If you want to learn to cook or learn some new tips or how to work with certain ingredients, there is no shortage of places you can turn to – in Seattle at least.  I like to think that what I offer is a little different.  For example, at the end of each class, after the demonstration is finished, the group moves into our dining room to eat the main course dishes we have prepared.  The line between cooking class and dinner party blurs a bit.  More bottles of wine are opened and people stay past the 9:30 end time – I like that.

I like to begin my classes with a homemade nibble.  Start time is 6:30, almost always on a Thursday, and I know people are coming from work or from hectic home life and they are hungry.  Depending on the class, the first recipe we make and eat could be an hour from start time.  I know people need a snack.  Homemade crackers are a popular choice as are these nuts.  So yes, we start with a nibble and then end with a treat.  A Dana Treat.

When I am hosting a dinner party, I look forward to serving my food to friends.  I anticipate each course, kind of like sharing presents with our guests.  As we are all enjoying dinner and I feel the momentum of the evening settling, no longer diving headlong into the meal but starting to slow, I always get a feeling of sadness that the evening will come to a close.  That is when I am really happy that I have made a dessert.  I have one more thing to share, one more trick up my sleeve.  I love that.  I knew I would have that same sense with my classes.  I love teaching.  I look forward to each class and I put a lot of time into prep and the actual teaching.  At the end of my portion and as class participants are moving into the dining room, I feel a bit of that same sadness.  But wait!  There is still the Dana Treat.

The Treat is what I hand to them as they are putting on their coats, gathering their belongings.  It is a final thank you from me.  Maybe they enjoy it when they get home from class, maybe they save it until the next night, maybe it is breakfast, or maybe they eat it in the car on the way home.  That makes me smile.

This week I taught two Vegetarian Thai classes.  One of them got my most favorite granola as their Treat and the other class got these cookies.  I had the idea that I wanted to do something citrus-y – that that flavor would go well with the Thai food.  I found this recipe in the most recent issue of Bon Appétit.  Lemon, lime, and basil flavor these super simple to make cookies – a perfect sweet after homemade summer rolls, yellow curry, and coconut milk noodles.  I used a bit more basil than called for which is why they are a bit green.

One Year Ago: Asparagus and Caramelized Leek Bread Pudding
Two Years Ago: Fennel and Almond Soup with Saffron and Ricotta Dumplings
Three Years Ago: Mushroom Pearl Pasta with Sweet Peas and Goat Cheese
Lemon-Lime Basil Shortbread Cookies
Bon Appétit
Makes about 16

Yes!  I am aware this entire recipe is in italics.  Sorry about that.  I cannot seem to fix it.

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar, plus more more pressing cookies
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch chunks
2 tbsp. sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. finely grated lime zest
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Place flour, ½ cup powdered sugar, butter, basil, both zests, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor.  Pulse until large moist clumps form.  Measure level tablespoonfuls of dough; roll between your palms to form balls.  Place on a large baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart.  Lightly dust the bottom of a flat measuring cup with powdered sugar and press cookies into 2-inch rounds., dusting cup bottom with powdered sugr as needed to prevent sticking.  Sprinkle tops of cookies with sanding sugar, if using.

Bake until edges are brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.

Double Quinoa Salad

June 23, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Scottsdale to learn about Thermador and the amazing range they are unveiling in August.  I expected, with about 20 food bloggers coming, that they would feed us well.  And then I remembered the lunch I was served at BlogHer Food a couple of years ago.  If you were reading this or any blog around that time, you might recall that lunch was a three course meal put together by Bertolli’s Pasta.  Yes, they served food bloggers frozen pasta.  So, while I hoped Thermador would have planned a bit better, I was cautious.

It turns out there was no need for worry.  Our dinners out and the breakfast and lunch they served us on site were nothing short of amazing.  In addition to incredibly delicious and well-prepared food, there was plenty on hand for the two vegetarians in the group and also for our vegan.  I was very impressed.

One of the salads that the group prepared for lunch starred perfectly plump edamame and red quinoa, things that I would never have put together.  I took some on my plate with about 10 other things and truly enjoyed each thing I tasted.  I came home with that salad in my head and determined to recreate it.  But, seeing as I only had a few bites, I had to rely on my insufficient memory which put pine nuts in there as well as feta cheese.  (It seems neither of which were in the original.)  I found fresh fava beans in my market so opted to use those instead of edamame and I also decided to make the salad more focussed around the quinoa than the beans.  I also put in very little in the way of the dressing and added tomatoes for color and acid.

The result?  Basically nothing like what I had in Scottsdale but incredibly tasty.  Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to create something delicious.

One Year Ago: Flo’s Chocolate Snaps
Two Years Ago: Feta Radish Spread
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars

Quinoa Salad with Fava Beans, Pine Nuts, and Feta Cheese
Dana Treat Original
Serves 6-8 as a side

I always toast my pine nuts in the toaster oven.  Regardless of how you do it, you will need to watch them very carefully because they burn in an instant.

1 pound fava beans
½ cup black quinoa
½ cup white quinoa
2 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbps. fresh mint, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
6 ounces feta cheese, cut into small cubes
6 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Using a paring knife, split open the fava bean pods and extract the beans.  Discard the pods.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the fava beans.  Boil for 2 minutes, then drain.  When cool enough to handle, pop open the skin and take out the bright green bean.  Place in a large bowl.

Bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add both of the quinoas, give a quick stir, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to low.  Cook for 20 minutes, then check the pan.  If there is still liquid in the pan, cover and cook for another 5 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then add to the bowl with the fava beans.

Stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, and mint along with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Gently stir in the pine nuts and the feta cheese, followed by the tomatoes.  Mix just to combine.  Adjust the seasoning by adding more olive oil, lemon juice, salt or pepper to taste.

(Will keep for at least 3 days, covered in the refrigerator.  The mint will lose its color but the flavor will improve.)

Very End of Spring Pizza

June 21, 2011

I want, need, and crave variety in my diet.  I can’t eat the same thing over and over again and usually if I do repeat a recipe, it’s been months between versions.

However, writing a food blog means that sometimes repeating a dinner is necessary.  I make something I intend to write about and then, for one reason or another, I don’t photograph the meal, or I don’t write down a crucial ingredient, or I don’t keep notes as I am cooking, and presto! I’m making the same meal two days later so I can share it with you.

Last week when I had those friends over, I made this pizza.  It is a super seasonal, super local pizza and I loved it.  I was so proud of it.  I got a photo of it, I kept notes, everything I needed to share with you, my wonderful readers.  No need to make it again.  But I wanted to.  I wanted to eat it again.  Randy had been out of town that night and I wanted him to taste it.  I wanted to share it with a different group of friends and so I made it again.

The first time I got fresh porcini mushrooms at the farmers’ market, the second time I had to settle for morels.  (Poor me.)  Now, I recognize that in regions other than the Northwest, you are probably aren’t able to find either fresh porcinis or morels, stinging nettles, spring onions, or perhaps even Mama Lil’s peppers.  I could offer you a million different substitutions and variations.  But then it wouldn’t be this pizza.  The one I ate twice in a week.  I call this an original recipe but I am indebted to Mark Bittman for his fabulous dough recipe and to Jess Thomson for her nettle pesto.

Yes, I made pesto from nettles.  Those things that used to sting me while playing in the woods in 6th grade.  It sounds crazy but everyone who has tasted it (and there have been quite a few since I am currently obsessed with it), thinks it rocks.

One Year Ago: Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (make these now)
Two Years Ago: White Chocolate Almond Chunk Cookies and Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream
Three Years Ago: Spicy Lime and Herbed Tofu in Lettuce Cups

Late Spring Pizza with Nettle Pesto and Wild Mushrooms

Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

For the dough, I always use my stand mixer instead of the food processor but I’ve included his complete recipe.  I’ve made this pizza on the grill and in the oven and it works both ways.  I’m partial to the grill.

For the dough
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the pizza
Olive oil
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
6 ounces fresh porcini mushrooms, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. nettle pesto (recipe follows)
½ cup Mama Lil’s peppers
4 ounces goat cheese, broken into small chunks

Make the dough
Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the oil through the feed tube.

Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.)

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you’re in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) Proceed to Step 4 or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or a zipper bag and freeze for up to a month. (Defrost in the bag or a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature; bring to room temperature before shaping.)

When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide it into 2 or more pieces if you like; roll each piece into a round ball. Put each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.

Make the pizza
Preheat the oven to 500ºF.  Have a pizza stone set on the bottom rack.  Alternatively, preheat an outdoor grill to high.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the spring onions along with a large pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 6 minutes.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  Turn up the heat to medium-high and drizzle in more olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt.  Allow to cook without disturbing for a few minutes.  You want the mushrooms to really sear.  After about 3 minutes, give them a toss and allow them to cook for a few minutes more.  Remove to the same plate as the onions and set aside.  Season both to taste with salt and pepper.

Coat a pizza peel with cornmeal or flour.  Roll the pizza dough out onto a floured surface until it is the desired thickness.  (I like mine thin.)  Transfer the dough to the peel.  Spread the Nettle Pesto over the surface of the dough.  Scatter the spring onions and the mushrooms over top.  Fill in the gaps with the peppers, then finally, crumble the cheese over top.  Carefully slide the pizza on to the stone.  Cook until the crust is browning and the cheese is starting to melt, about 10 minutes.

If you are using a grill, place the dough (with nothing on it) on the grill.  Cover and allow to bake until marks appear and the bottom is golden, about 5 minutes.  Carefully turn the dough over and slide it back on the peel.  Place the toppings on as described above, then slide the pizza back on the grill.  Cover and cook for another 5 minutes then remove and serve.

Nettle Pesto
Adapted from Jess Thomson
Make 1 generous cup

The main change I made here is to use less olive oil.  I don’t like my pesto too oily but you can add up to a cup or more of olive oil if you prefer.

½  pound nettles
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
½ cup toasted pine nuts
½  teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ – ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer for the nettles.  Add the nettles directly from their bag and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. (This denatures their sting.) Dump into a colander to drain.  When the nettles are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a clean dishtowel and wring out as much moisture as possible, like you would for spinach.  You’ll have about a cup of cooked, squished nettles.  (DT: If you use a light colored dish towel, it will be stained brownish green afterward.  I would recommend using either a dark colored towel or paper towels.)

In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the paddle attachment, whirl the garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper to taste until finely chopped.  Add the nettles, breaking them up as you drop them in, and the lemon juice and whirl until finely chopped.  With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth.  Add the cheese, pulse briefly, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice.

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