Archive for September, 2009

Nutella Pound Cake

September 18, 2009


Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we?  I saw this Nutella Pound Cake recipe in this month’s Food and Wine and had to make it.  I decided to double the recipe which I almost always do with this sort of treat.  Things baked in loaf pans freeze well and it is so little effort to double.  Then, one night when your husband calls you and says that so-and-so is coming to dinner, you have a dessert just waiting for you in your freezer.

I needed some treats for preschool teachers so instead of baking the cakes in two 9×5 in pans, I baked up 4 mini loaf pans and one 8×4 inch pan.  The baking time had to be adjusted so I gave it my best guess and then just checked on them frequently.  The mini loaves were done at around 35 minutes and those turned out fine.  I left the larger pan in for another 10 minutes.  It didn’t look quite done but the toothpick came out clean so, against my better judgement, I took it out of the oven.


When I went to unmold it 15 minutes later, the entire middle ran out all over my counter.  Apparently it needed a little more time in the oven.  I did manage to save the ends and let me tell you, this is an amazing cake.  Do yourself a favor though and just follow the recipe.


One Year Ago:  Pissladière

Nutella-Swirl Pound Cake
Food and Wine
Makes one 9-by-5 inch loaf

This recipe tells you to use a handheld mixer but I used my stand mixer instead with good results.

1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
One 13-ounce jar Nutella

1.  Preheat the oven to 325°F.  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.

2.  In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed utnil 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.

3.  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.

4.  Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into 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.

Make ahead: The pound cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

What Do You Do With Chard?

September 16, 2009


Chard. It’s not the sexiest of vegetables. But if are part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), chances are you have gotten it in your produce box. Or if you are a vegetarian looking to boost your iron (dark leafy greens are a known source of iron), chances are you have bought it. Now what to do with it?

I’ve used chard a number of ways and I can’t say that I love it. I actually like kale better, as long as it is cooked way down. But in this dish the chard actually added to the overall flavor instead of just being a guest invited for nutritional purposes only. So often you will see recipes that call for the leaves only – what to do with those colorful stems? This recipe uses both the leaves and the stems brilliantly.

Here is what this dinner is not:

1) A “stick to your ribs” meal
2) Something eat on those days when you can’t seem to feel full, no matter what you eat
3) A meal to serve to non-adventurous eaters

Here is what this dinner is:

1) Healthy and very tasty
2) Something to make when you may have overindulged over the course of a day or two
3) Food that you can eat to your heart’s content without feeling like you need to loosen your belt

Because I am an oldest child and a rule follower, I tend to follow recipes the first time I try them. After that I take liberties. I made this once before for my clients and found it a little…lacking. This time I added just a bit of small pasta to give it more body and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese just before serving. A little more substantial and a lot more yum.


Chickpeas and Chard with Cilantro and Cumin
Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
Serves 3-4

If you don’t want to add the pasta, you might consider serving this over rice. You can use any type of chard here, but the red will give you that gorgeous color.

Olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
Pinch or 2 of saffron threads
3 ounces small pasta such as orzo or diatilini
2 garlic cloves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/2 tsp. ground cumin, or more to taste
2 tsp. tomato paste
14 chard leaves with stems
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Heat a wide skillet over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and the saffron. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 minutes. Meanwhile, pound garlic with 1/2 tsp. salt, the cilantro, parsley, and cumin to make a rough paste. (DT: I used a mortar and pestle for this.) When the onions are golden and soft, add the paste to the pan along with the tomato paste and work it into the onions.

2. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until very al dente. (Pasta will cook a little more when added to the mix.) Drain and reserve.

3. Slice the chard leaves off their stems. Put them in a wide pot with 2 cups of water and cook, covered, until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Set the leaves aside ina colander, reserving cooking water.

4. Trim the chard stems so that you’re left with planklike pieces of even width. Cut the planks into strips, then into fine dice and drop them into the reserved chard water. Simmer until tender, about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat. Scoop out the stems, set aside. Reserve the cooking water.

5. Add the chickpeas to the onion along with the chard cooking water. Add the cooked pasta. Coarsely chop the chard leaves and add it as well. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the stems. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Serve dusted with Parmesan cheese.

Holly B’s Bruschetta

September 15, 2009


Last Tuesday I wrote about Holly B’s French Bread. I still had some of the biga in the refrigerator (it lasts up to 2 weeks there), so I decided it made sense to make the other bread in the book that uses a biga. I have seen the Pugliese loaves on the bakery’s shelves and they are a sight to behold. Large, round, and covered with flour they are a tribute to the powers of yeast. In the book, Holly says that she uses the Pugliese loaves to make the Bruschetta that is always on offer in the bakery. I needed an appetizer last week and I figured this was the perfect option.

Alas, I had a baking failure. I have heard from countless people that they are afraid to make bread. I get it that yeast can be scary but up until very recently, I have never baked a bread that didn’t turn out. I have had moments of doubt where I think I have killed the yeast and then, lo and behold, all rises as it should and the bread turns out great.

As I was preparing this dough, it seemed awfully wet and sticky. The recipe says, in several places, that the dough will be sticky and needs to be floured well and often. I followed those directions, I let it rise for the required time (3 hours!), attempted to shape the loaves, and realized that it was not going to turn out well. The dough was the consistency of sludge. I don’t know where I went wrong but I persevered, baked the bread, and threw it away when it came out about as risen as a pancake.

Onward. Instead of a home-baked Pugliese, I used a large round loaf from the grocery store and proceeded with this recipe. This is not rocket science. Take a few very good ingredients, mix them together, put them on toasted bread. But like many simple things, this tastes like so much more than the sum of its parts.

When I decided to take on my own personal Holly B’s challenge, I decided to not change the recipes at all. What good is it to praise a book, bake your way through it, and then deliberately alter the recipes? With this one though, I just had to. Holly advises you to make a garlic infused oil which you liberally slather over the bread before baking. I know olive oil is a healthy fat and all that, but I just can’t eat bread that has been soaked in oil. And if I can’t eat it, I can’t ask my guests to. Instead, I lightly drizzled the bread with olive oil, baked it until starting to brown, and then ran a raw garlic clove over the surface of each piece. I’ve left the recipe as it appears in the book below.


To buy Holly B’s book, With Love & Butter, visit this site.

One Year Ago: Rosemary Aïoli

Holly B’s Bruschetta
With Love & Butter
6 Servings

Of course, you could really use any kind of bread to make these. I think cutting slices from a large round loaf gives you more of a wow factor.

6 1/2-inch thick slices from a large round loaf of bread
3 cloves garlic
6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 ripe Roma tomatoes
6 large, fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 375°F with the rack in the middle. Arrange the bread on a cookie sheet. Press the garlic into a small bowl containing 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir the garlic into the oil and smear the mixture evenly onto the top sides of the bread slices with your fingertips.

Toast the garlic bread until crisp and golden brown, about 20 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the baking. Remove from the oven and cool.

Pare the ends of the tomatoes and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place them in a medium bowl and drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Medium chop the basil and throw into the bowl with the tomatoes. Toss everything around until it’s all oil-coated.

Arrange the tomato slices artfully atop the bread slices. Scrape the bowl with a spatula and make sure any remaining juice makes it onto the Bruschetta. Serve with wine, some good cheese, or just solo – any time of day.

A Perfect Nectarine Tart

September 13, 2009

(We interrupt our regularly scheduled food blog post with a technical update. If you have recently tried to subscribe to this blog either via RSS or email and have gotten an error message, that has been fixed. Please try again and thank you.)


Do you have a mentor? I don’t but I wish I did. My husband has one who used to be his boss and now is just an incredibly wise person who he talks to frequently and bounces ideas off of. He is like a kind uncle who knows you really well and who has great advice to give. We had him and his partner over for dinner the other night. He has sat at our table in London, in our previous house in Seattle, and now in our current house. I know he likes to cook and that he appreciates good food. I thought giving them a good wow in the dessert department would be nice.

Nectarines are my favorite fruit. I love just about all fruit but nectarines are at the top of my list. They are so incredible right now in this part of the country and I am trying to get my fill of them before they disappear. I have been putting them in salads and salsas and I just eat them out of hand. And so I was very happy to have an excuse to make this incredible tart.


This tart is on my all-time favorite desserts list. I only make it at this time of year – when the farmers’ market practically smells of nectarines. It has so many things to recommend it. It can be mostly made in advance, it is incredibly quick to put together, but most of all the flavors are intoxicating. A healthy dose of crystallized ginger both in the filling and sprinkled over the top make it appropriate to serve with all kinds of food. I often make more “international” food when we have adventurous food guests and pairing dessert with some of those dishes can be challenging. I think because of the ginger and the fruit here, it goes well with just about anything.

I have been on an ice cream making kick lately. For this tart I opted to make the Honey Lavender Ice Cream found in David Lebovitz’s incomparable The Perfect Scoop. I am lucky to have lots of lavender growing in my front yard. I was initially worried that the ice cream may have a soapy flavor because a healthy amount of lavender steeps for a long time in the custard. Not to worry. The flavor is very distinguishable but is lovely and light and plays beautifully off the honey. And it went perfectly with the tart. And Randy said it was the best ice cream he had ever eaten. Enough said.


One Year Ago: Zucchini Stuffed with Chickpeas and Israeli Couscous

Nectarine and Marscapone Tart in Gingersnap Crust
Adapted from Bon Appétit
8 Servings

25 gingersnap cookies; coarsely broken (about 6 ounces; about 2 1/4 cups pieces)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 8-ounce container marscapone cheese
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. grated lemon peel
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger

4 to 5 small nectarines, halved, pitted, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup peach jam, warmed
2 tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger

For Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind gingersnaps in processor. Add butter and blend until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press mixture over bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Bake crust until color darkens, pressing sides with back of spoon if beginning to slide, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.

For Filling: Beat first 6 ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in crystallized ginger. Spread filling in prepared crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

For Topping: Overlap nectarine slices atop filling in concentric circles. Brush with jam. Sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger. Serve or refrigerate for up to 6 hours.

Thai Green Curry

September 10, 2009


I may be the last person in the food blogging world, but I have joined a CSA. It’s something I have been meaning to do for years but didn’t for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is the overwhelming number of choices to make. We are fortunate to have an abundance of farmers’ markets and an abundance of farmers in the Pacific Northwest and choosing one farm from which to get magnificent produce…it was too much for me. Give me a few good choices and I’m very good at making decisions. Give me too many choices and I shut down.

A few weeks ago I decided enough was enough and took the plunge with Nash’s Organic Produce. One of the many reasons I chose them is that you get a box from them from June through December. Spring is usually a cold and rainy season for us, so if you were to visit a farmers’ market in May, what you would find is a lot of lettuce and some apples. Eventually all manner of peas make their way to the stalls and then there are the berries which are truly glorious and start late June. But for me, the really exciting stuff doesn’t start until August and even September. That is why I am thrilled that we have weeks and weeks ahead of us to get incredible quantity, quality, and variety from Nash’s.

Oh, but how to use all that amazing produce? It’s a good exercise for me actually. After years of menu planning for my clients and having my shopping list done every Friday, it’s nice to have some freedom and some creativity with what I cook. It’s also a challenge but a good challenge.

This week, the first thing I saw when I opened the box was bok choy. Asian food was a no brainer. There were also a couple of green peppers in there so I immediately thought of green curry. I turned to my trusted Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook and proceeded to make my own green curry paste and get some tips on how to turn it into dinner. There is a recipe for a green curry dish in there, but it is pretty spartan so I made it my own.


Thai Curry previously: Winter Vegetables with Thai Red Curry

UPDATE: Based on some of the comments, I have a few things to update here. If you are not familiar with the term, a CSA is a share in a farm (it stands for Community Supported Agriculture). You pay them money up front and then you get a box of produce from that farm for a given number of weeks. Every farm handles it differently but most do not allow you to choose what you get. It’s like getting a little surprise Christmas box each week. In the curry recipe, do not hesitate to use “lite” coconut milk. I almost always use the lower fat lower calorie stuff in my cooking.

Thai Green Curry Paste
Adapted from Real Vegetarian Thai
Makes about 1 cup

If you are afraid of spice, do not fear, this paste isn’t really hot. I recommend scraping the seeds and membranes out of the chiles to keep things under control. If you love heat, leave the seeds in all or half the chiles.

5 fresh green serrano chiles or 4 fresh green jalapeño chiles
1 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
3 stalks lemongrass
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and stems
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shallots
2 tbsp. coarsely chopped garlic
1 tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh ginger
Zest of 1 lime
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black or white pepper

Stem the chiles, scrape out the seeds and membranes, and chop them coarsely. Set aside. In a small skillet over medium heat, dry-fry the coriander seeds until they darken a shade or two, shaking the pan or stirring often, 2-3 minutes. Tip out onto a saucer. Toast the cumin seeds in the same way, until they darken and release their rich aroma, 1-2 minutes. Add to the saucer along with the coriander, then grind the spices to a fine powder in a mini food processor or coffee grinder. Set aside. You can substitute the same amount of ground spices, dry-frying them together for a minute or two and stirring often to prevent burning.

To prepare the lemongrass, trim away and discard any root section below the bulb base, and cut away the top portion, leaving a stalk about 6 inches long, including the base. Remove any dried, wilted, and yellowed leaves. Finely chop the stalk.

Combine the lemongrass, the chopped chiles, and the ground toasted spices with the remaining ingredients in a blender for mini processor and grind them to a fairly smooth purée, stopping often to scrape down the sides and adding a few tablespoons of water as needed to move the blades. Transfer to a jar, seal airtight, and store at room temperature for up to 1 day, or refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Thai Green Curry with Zucchini and Peppers
Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

You can, of course, use jarred curry paste here. If you are vegetarian, just be sure to check the label – sometimes they contain shrimp paste. Thai Kitchen’s brand is decent. Jarred paste tends to be very strong, so use a small amount and add more if you need to.

Peanut oil
1 large shallot, cut into thin rings
1 large green pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, quartered, and sliced into 1″ pieces
12 oz. extra firm tofu, cut into 1″ cubes
1 -5oz. can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 -14 oz. can coconut milk
2-3 tbsp. green curry paste
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
4 stalks of a large bok choy, or 2 baby bok choys, stalks thickly sliced and leaves coarsely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add just enough peanut oil to coat the bottom, then add the shallots. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Add the green peppers and cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes, or until the peppers are very soft and starting to brown. Add the zucchini, bamboo shoots, and tofu and cook until the zucchini is soft, about another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour about 1/3 of the coconut milk into a small saucepan and heat just until hot. Stir in the curry paste and, using a spoon, mash it into the coconut milk. Once it is combined well, add it to the vegetables and tofu, stir well, then add the rest of the coconut milk to the pot. Add the brown sugar, the bok choy stems, and the soy sauce. Stir everything together, lower the heat, and allow to cook until the flavors are well blended, about 15 minutes. A few minutes before serving, stir in the cilantro and the bok choy leaves. Allow to wilt slightly. Serve over jasmine rice.

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