Friday, May 28, 2010

Chocolate Cherry Pudding Cake

Today's recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Pear Pudding Cake.  I heard an interview with Ms. Lawson  on NPR in January 2009, in which she described this cake.  It was a cold January day, after the mania of the holidays.  She made it sound so inviting, so comforting without any pictures, that I went to the website and printed out the recipe.  I made the other recipes from the show, but for some reason didn't get to the cake. 

I'm on a mission to use up things I have on hand, so instead of pears, I used a can of dark sweet cherries, which are my favorite.  I made 1/2 the recipe for our small household, and fit to the ingredients on hand.  

1 can (15oz) dark sweet cherries
1/2 C + 1T sugar
6 1/2 T flour
2 T cocoa powder
5 T softened butter
1/2 t baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400.  Butter a 1 qt baking dish.  Drain the liquid from the cherries, and put cherries in baking dish. 

In a food processor, combine remaining ingredients. 

Process until you have a thick batter

Spread batter over cherries.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing

What I Learned
Very good, but a bit sweet.  Add a pinch of salt to the batter, and decrease the sugar by one tablespoon.  Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for added decadence.

Dish Bitch
Food processor
baking dish
measuring cup
measuring spoons

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The Holy Grail

NYC doesn't recycle yogurt containers anymore.  This is pretty outrageous in my opinion, and every week, when I chuck the empty quart sized container in the trash, I cringe.  I know I could reuse the containers etc etc, but that only goes so far.  I mean how many yogurt containers can you reasonably use?   Or store in a NY apartment?

Yogurt making seems pretty easy.  I've read many different recipes, using a crockpot, the oven, a yogurt maker, but I decided to try Dr. David Fankhauser's method.  He is a professor of biology and chemistry, and gives a detailed, illustrated description of the process, with a handy step by step chart. I used his recipe for ginger ale a few years ago, and was impressed by his method.   I felt confident that I would be successful with his recipe.

So I made a 1/2 gallon batch and it was a success!  I have two quarts plus one cup of gorgeous yogurt in the fridge.  I used our favorite brand of locally produced, crunchy granola, sandal wearing, hippie commune yogurt for starter.  I used our favorite brand of milk (see above).

The most daunting part of the process was sterilizing the jars. I used Dr. Fankhauser's steaming method.  It was easy.  I used my pasta pot.  It was tall enough for the jars and the insert made things easier to manage. 

PLEASE NOTE: this is my shorthand version of the process.  I recommend that you go to Dr. David Fankhauser's page for the complete process.

Place jars, lids, and funnel into the pasta pot (with insert). Add water to the bottom of the jars, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, turn off heat and let stand.

Meanwhile, heat 1/2 gallon of milk in the large pot, using a flame tamer to prevent scorching. Bring milk to 195 degrees. While you are waiting for the milk to boil, fill your sink with cold water, enough to reach halfway up your milk pot. When the milk reaches temperature, cover and place the pot in the sink.  At this point, uncover the pasta pot, and remove the insert. 
Scalding the milk.  Note the candy thermometer clipped to the pot, and the flame tamer between the pot and the grate to prevent scorching and boiling over.
Let the milk cool to 130 degrees.  Place 1/2 c milk in the pyrex cup, and add enough yogurt to make 3/4 cup.  Stir with the whisk to make a slurry, then add it to the milk pot, stirring well.

Pour the milk into the canning jars using the funnel.  Put on the lids.  Check the water temperature from the steaming pot.  When it reaches around 130 degrees, pour it into the cooler.  Place the jars in the cooler and cover.  Let rest for 3 hours.

I forgot to take a picture right away, so what you see is what is left after two days of lassi for breakfast.  I also have 1 half pint jar of yogurt in the back of the fridge to use as a starter for my next batch.

Voila!  Trash free yogurt.  It has the same texture as the starter yogurt: a bit lumpy with a substantial amount of whey.  The picture below is very dark, but it show the texture.  It looks kind of like cottage cheese, but the texture is smooth and soft.  If you want a smoother looking texture, whisking will help.

Sweet Lassi (2 servings)
1 1/2 C yogurt
About 1 1/2 C fruit
2 T maple syrup or honey
Optional: 2 T milled flax seed

Whiz in the blender.  Use frozen fruit or add ice cubes if desired.

Salty Lassi (2 servings)
2 C yogurt
pinch of salt
pinch of cumin
ice cubes

Whiz in the blender.  Optional: toss in a cucumber.

The Dish Bitch
Pasta pot with insert
2 quart sized canning jars with lids
1 half pint canning jar with lid
Large, heavy bottomed pot
candy thermometer
glass measuring cup
cooler (one that can hold a six pack)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Royal Artichoke Risotto

For Week #8 I'm continuing with the Artichoke theme.  I created this recipe to highlight beautiful long stemmed artichokes we picked up a couple of days ago.  It was delicious.  I the future I will make this for company and/or spring holidays. The picture above shows the finished dish, in a 13x9 baking dish.  The picture below shows one choke and the stems in 10" steam canner before steaming. 

The preparation is a bit lengthy.  You can prepare everything in advance, and store in the refrigerator.  Just let them come to room temperature before baking.

2 long stemmed King artichokes
Olive oil
1 lemon

3 T olive oil
1 med onion, chopped
16 oz arborio rice
1 lemon
1 qt of vegetable broth
3/4 C grated romano cheese

Up to 5 days in advance: Trim the long stems from the artichokes, and peel off the outer layer with a vegetable peeler.  Put artichokes and stems on a rack in a large pot.  We used one pot per 'choke: stock pot with pasta insert and one deep pot with a steamer rack.  Squeeze 1/2 a lemon over each 'choke, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with olive oil.  Add water to reach the bottom of the 'chokes and steam for 1 1/2 hours.

When cool enough to handle, scoop out the center leaves and hairy choke.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Heat a deep pot over med high heat.  Add olive oil, then onion.  Peel the tough fibrous, stringy outer layer from the artichoke stems, and chop the tender inner part of the stem.  When onions are tender add the stems and stir to coat with oil.  Add rice and stir to coat.  Let cook a few minutes then squeeze lemon juice into pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits.  Stir 1/2 of the vegetable broth into the rice.  When it starts to bubble, and the remaining broth.  Cook, stirring occasionally until rice is al dente.  Preheat the oven to 350.

Stir 1/2 C cheese into risotto.  Fill artichoke cavities with risotto, then press the leaves to close the choke around the filling.  Sprinkle cheese on top.  Place in 13x9 pan, cover with foil and bake for 20 -25 minutes or until heated through. 

To serve: let stand 10 minutes.  Slice the artichoke in half from top to bottom to expose filling.  Serves 4 as a main course.  Cut each choke into quarters to serve 8 as an appetizer.

What I learned
1. Be diligent about removing the outer fiber on the stems.  I accidentally added a few of the fibers to the was very unpleasant!
2.  If you have help, one person can hold the artichoke open in order to add the filling.  I think a wide mouthed canning funnel will make this job easier for 1 person.  Hot risotto sticks to skin!
3.  You will have leftover risotto.  Refrigerate.  The next day or so, form into patties, bread and panfry.
4. Combine crushed garlic, chopped parsley, juice and zest of one lemon and olive oil to dip the leaves. 
5.  Next time I will use the pressure cooker, and cook the chokes one at a time.  I think the pressure cooker is the best method for cooking larger artichokes with a tougher heart.

The Dish Bitch
1 pasta pot with insert and lid
1 large steam canner with lid
steamer basker
cutting board
garlic press
baking dish

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What you hear

One of the things I really love about my neighborhood is the rich soundscape.  Tonight, I can't sleep. As I walk the floor, I'm really aware of how quiet it is.  There's whir and wine of the occasional car, helicopter buzzing by, once in awhile a plane.  In the background, the sound of a river flowing, that is actually the BQE.

In a couple of hours, the Staten Island Ferry will resume its horn blasts to announce it's leaving the dock, and the MTA work trains will start rumbling through, blowing their horns.  The "flowing river" will turn to "rushing river" as morning breaks.

Sometimes there's the pop and explosion of FIREWORKS as yet another cruise ship makes its way out of the harbor.  Sometimes there's music, thumping of bass from cars, kids playing or the ice cream truck sing-songing.  There's the sound of people, walking talking, arguing, walking their dogs, just doing their thing.

And languages: I think I'll try counting those instead of sheep.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


For 52 Weeks of Baking Week #7, I made Cornbread in a cast iron "wedge" pan.  The recipe is from the Lodge Cast Iron Cookware website

1 1/4 C cornmeal
1/2 t salt
1T baking powder
2/3 C flour
1/4 C sugar
1 egg
1 C milk
1/4 oil
3 T mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 425.  Spoon a dollop of shortening into a skillet and place in oven while preheating.  Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine wet ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup.  Pour wet ingredients into dry, mix well.  Remove skillet from oven.  Pour batter into skillet and bake 20-25 minutes.

What I Learned
1.  This recipe makes enough batter for a larger pan, most likely an 8" square or a 10" skillet.  I overfilled the cups and still had about 1/2 C of batter left.  Next time I will fill the cups less and pour the remaining batter in a cornstick pan.  I like the circus tent/ flower/ wheel of the year effect that resulted from the over filled cups. 

2. Surprisingly, it was fairly easy to remove using a pancake turner type spatula. Just cut along the score lines with the spatula, then gently wiggle it between the straight edge of the pan and lift up the cornbread.  I did follow the directions to heat the pan in the oven.  I did not have shortening, so I greased the pan with sunflower oil prior to heating.  I took care to get into the corners of the pan, and greased the top of the spokes.

3. I used stoneground white cornmeal.  This gave the bread texture, but it was a bit gritty.  Next time I will try a finer grind.

4.  I think the recipe could be improved with a bit more sugar.  I think 1 T would do the trick, either added to the batter or sprinkled on top of the batter before baking.

5.  Mayonnaise.  Weird.  You could taste a hint of it.  I think an extra tablespoon of sugar will counteract the slight flavor.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Artichoke Frittata

Barnacle Bill and I LOVE artichokes.  It is one of the very few vegetables that we will buy, regardless of origins.  Seriously, we are artichoke addicts.  One year, just after Thanksgiving, we bought a case of artichokes.  The price was right, around $10 for 30 artichokes. We cleaned, steamed, marinated and froze them.  It was a satisfying project that kept us happily feasting on 'chokes through the winter.

A couple of years ago we went to California in November. We ate artichokes to our hearts content: in soup, in bread, in salads. For breakfast the day we left the Central Coast, we had artichoke omelets at Duarte's Tavern in Pescadero, CA. They were amazing: a tender crepelike omelets folded around a pile of sliced al dente artichoke hearts and mozzarella cheese.
This week we went a little crazy.  On Wednesday, we bought 4 normal artichokes.  On Thursday, during a rare stop at Whole Foods, we were tempted by 2 lovely long stemmed King artichokes.  I will ask Bill to take a photo: my photography skills will not do them justice.

Anyway, inspired by the memory of a great vacation, Swapbot Baking and a fridge full of beautiful 'chokes, I made frittata for breakfast.

Arichoke Frittata

4 large artichokes
1 lemon

4 eggs
2 oz cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoonful chopped garlic
salt and pepper

Up to five days in advance:
Trim the tops of the artichokes, and peel the stems with a vegetable peeler.  Place them upside down in a in a pressure cooker on and squeeze lemon juice over all.  Sprinkle with salt, and add water to cover the tops of the 'chokes.  Bring pressure cooker up to full pressure, and cook 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool naturally.  Place in a container and store for up to 5 days.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Clean the artichokes by pulling off the outer leaves, and removing the choke.  Slice the hearts and stems. Heat a cast iron skillet on the stove.  Whisk eggs, salt and garlic in a bowl, gently fold in 'chokes and cheddar.  When the skillet is hot, add oil, then add egg mixture to the skillet in the oven.  Bake 20 - 25 minutes or until the frittata is puffed and brown.

What I Learned
The pressure cooker is an excellent way to cook artichokes.  It is energy efficient and much quicker than boiling or steaming.  Using a crockpot is also a timesaver.  Prep as you would for the pressure cooker, but put in your crockpot on high for 4 hours.   The outer leaves will retain a little bit of artichoke heart: save them to serve with dip.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tarocco Orange Salad with Avocado, Chicken and Tortilla Chips

It's been really hot for the past three days.  I made this salad tonight to avoid heating up the apartment.  It was surprisingly good: creamy, crunchy and chickeny. The blood oranges are a beautiful color, and their juice colors everything in this salad a deep red.  Next time I will add the avocado just prior to serving, in order to keep the beautiful creamy green color intact.

The hardest part of this recipe is supreming the oranges.  It's one of those tricks that really makes a dish special.   Please click for instructions for supreming an orange from Coconut and Lime Blog. 

4 Tarocco oranges, supremed, juice reserved
2 avocados, large dice
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, diced
juice and zest of one lemon
Breast meat from 1 rotisserie chicken, large dice
black pepper to taste
broken tortilla chips
blue cheese with bacon salad dressing for garnish

Toss first 7 ingredients together in a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours.  For each serving, place two handfuls of broken tortilla chips in a bowl, and top with the chicken salad.  Garnish with a small dollop of salad dressing.

Dish Bitch: :)
cutting board
bowl with lid

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Braided Loaf with Muhammara

This week I'm a bit short on time, so I decided to make a loaf of bread using the dough I stashed in the freezer a couple of weeks ago. 

Braided Loaf
olive oil
herbs (optional)

If the dough is frozen, let thaw in the fridge overnight.  Let the thawed dough rest on the counter for 1/2 hour.  Divide dough into three portions, and roll each into a long snake.  Braid the snakes into a loaf, starting at the center and braiding to the end, then turning the loaf around to braid the other half.  Brush with olive oil on both sides, and place on baking sheet.  Cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until the dough looks ripe and nearly doubled.  Sprinkle with salt  and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40, or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.   

What I Learned:
Despite the mummified appearance, the loaf had a good crust and even crumb.  Next time I will take a picture of the cut loaf.  Frozen dough didn't seem to rise as quickly as freshly made dough.

I did take a picture of the sliced bread: here it is topped with Mahammara (recipe below)

Muhammara (Pomegranate and Walnut Spread)

1 1/2 C walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 1/2 T Turkish seedless red pepper paste (used Mamoun's)
1 1/2 T pomegranate molasses
1 t crushed garlic
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cumin
1/3 C olive oil

Blend 1/2 C walnuts, molasses, garlic, salt, and cumin in blender or food processor, gradually adding oil.  Combine with remaining walnuts in a bowl.  Serve with toasted pita bread, crackers or as a condiment.