Month: September 2015

Gobs of Chocolate Cookies

(recipe makes 32 large cookies)

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You will need 7 cups of bittersweet chocolate chips – 42 ounces.

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4 1/2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

3 1/2 C bittersweet chocolate chips
2 C pecan pieces, toasted

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1 stick butter, soft
2 C brown sugar
1 1/2 C sugar
8 eggs
2 t vanilla

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3 1/2 C of bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao), melted

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2 T brewed espresso

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In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, powder, soda and salt. Whisk well to combine. Add 3 1/2 C of chocolate chips and pecans. Stir to coat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and both sugars. It will look sandy. Remove paddle and scrape down bottom of bowl to insure even mixing.

Combine eggs and vanilla in a pourable container. Drop eggs, one at a time, into butter/sugar mix. Mix well after each addition. Batter will look like smooth frosting.

Melt 3 1/2 C of chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl in short time increments at 50% power. Stir, place back in microwave and cook in 30 second increments – always at 50% power. Residual heat will melt all of the chocolate. No need to nuke until everything is melted! Stir to achieve a smooth consistency.

Add melted chocolate into egg mix and blend on slow speed. Add espresso and blend. Finish incorporating by hand.

Add chocolate mix to dry mix and fold together. A few streaks of flour are ok. Portion dough onto a cookie sheet for chilling. I used a large ice cream scoop. Smaller portions are fine too. Refrigerate. Once dough is chilled, you can place portions into a freezer bag for baking later. Once you go to the trouble of preparing this amount of batter, you might as well go ahead and have a few on reserve.

For baking, place chilled dough portions on a parchment lined baking sheet. Careful not to crowd the cookies. Place into a preheated 325 degree oven. Bake for 11 minutes, rotate and bake for an additional 11 minutes. Large cracks will appear on the tops. Remove cookie sheet from oven and tap sheet pan on the counter. This will “deflate” the cookies. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Then, remove them to a cooling rack for further cooling.

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OOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMGGGGGGGG

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Asian Slaw

(recipe serves a crowd 15-20, adjust portions down for a smaller batch)

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2 heads Napa cabbage, leaves thinly sliced

1 head purple cabbage, thinly sliced

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Cut out the “spine” of the cabbage leaves.

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I added 2 T of dark sesame oil to the dressing recipe.

I added 2 T of dark sesame oil to the dressing recipe.

2 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips

2 large jalapeño peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips

1 small bag of shredded carrots

1 small package of snap peas, blanched and cut in half on the diagonal

1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

1 bunch green onion, finely chopped

1 bunch of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Black sesame seeds for garnish

1 recipe of Orange Soy Ginger Vinaigrette

All ingredients, except mint, can be prepared earlier in the day. Add mint and dressing just prior to serving. Toss. I did not add additional salt or pepper. The dressing and fresh herbs deliver the flavor.

All ingredients, except mint, can be prepared earlier in the day. Add mint, dressing and sesame seeds just prior to serving. Toss. I did not add additional salt or pepper. The dressing and fresh herbs deliver the flavor. Photo does not show black sesame seeds. They really are a nice addition.

Pan Roasted Salmon over Lentils

For lentils:

4 C of chopped vegetables (equal portions of diced onion, celery, carrot)

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4 strips of slab bacon, diced and cooked in  2T of olive oil

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Cook bacon in the soup pot. Once it is crispy, remove to a paper towel-lined plate and pour off excess bacon grease.

Cook bacon in the soup pot. Once it is crispy, remove to a paper towel-lined plate and pour off excess bacon grease.

Rinse one pound of lentils.

Rinse one pound of lentils.

Finely chop 6-8 garlic cloves.

Finely chop 6-8 garlic cloves.

Add 1/4 C of olive oil to the soup pot that has bacon residue. Add vegetables, garlic, a pinch of salt and cracked pepper and sauce until vegetable begin to soften. Add about 3 T of tomato paste and mix in well. Continue to sauce until paste begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Deep brownish coloring on the bottom of the pan is desirable. Careful with your heat. This is flavor enhancing at its best! Once the pan bottom is sticky, add 1 C of red wine. Scrape up bits and bring mixture to a boil. Evaporate most of the wine until a thick bubbly consistency is achieved.  
Add 1/4 C of olive oil to the soup pot that has bacon residue. Add vegetables, garlic, a pinch of salt and cracked pepper and sauté until vegetables begin to soften. Add about 3 T of tomato paste and mix in well. Continue to sauté until paste begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Deep brownish coloring on the bottom of the pan is desirable. Careful with your heat. This is flavor enhancing at its best! Once the pan bottom is sticky, add 1 C of red wine. Scrape up bits and bring mixture to a boil. Evaporate most of the wine until a thick bubbly consistency is achieved.

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Add fresh thyme, 5-6 bay leaves, 6 C of vegetable stock and reserved bacon. Bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat. Simmer until lentils are tender. Additional stock may need to be added. You are not looking for a “soupy” consistency. So, just keep enough stock in the pot to prevent lentils from “drying” out. Adjust season with salt and pepper. Lentils, of course, can be prepared a day ahead. These lentils are great the next day as a soup. Just add additional stock to achieve desirable consistency. Leftover lentils can be frozen too.

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For salmon:

I used Norwegian Center Cut Salmon Filets. Rinse filets and pat them dry. Preheat a non-stick/oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Add 2T of olive oil to the hot pan. Oil should easily travel over the bottom of the pan. Slight smoking is ok. Generously season the filet with salt and cracked pepper. Carefully place the filet in the pan. A good sizzle is desirable. Add additional filets. Do not crowd the skillet. Use two skillets or cook in batches if you are preparing a large amount of fish. Allow the fish to sizzle, WITHOUT TOUCHING!, until it is cooked about halfway through. You can watch the side of the filet as the color turns. Carefully turn fish over. A nice brown crust should be revealed. Place fish into a preheated 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes to finish cooking. Fish should feel just firm to the touch. Remember that cooking continues outside of the oven!

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For presentation:

Place a portion of warmed lentils on a plate. Top lentils with the pan roasted filet. Drizzle EVOO over the top of the salmon.

In a bowl, very lightly dress baby arugula and cherry tomatoes with EVOO, white wine vinegar and a spritz of salt and cracked pepper.

Mound salad mix on top of salmon. Lovely meal.

Gorgeous brown crust. Crisp texture and a hint of sweetness as you bite into a succulent piece of flaky salmon.

Gorgeous brown crust. Crisp texture and a hint of sweetness as you bite into a succulent piece of flaky salmon.

A favorite around here.

A favorite around here.

Roasted Figs with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Slice figs in half, lengthwise. Trim stem off. Slice a small piece off of the opposite side so that the figs will sit level. Place a piece of slab bacon, already cooked about 90 % through on top of the fig half. Top bacon with a piece of blue cheese. Drizzle EVOO over cheese.

Slice figs in half, lengthwise. Trim stems off. Slice a small piece off of the opposite side so that the figs will sit level. Place a piece of slab bacon, already cooked about 90 % through, on top of the fig half. Top bacon with a piece of blue cheese. Drizzle EVOO over cheese. I used brown turkey figs from California.

Place figs into a preheated 300 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until figs and cheese have softened.

Place figs into a preheated 300 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until figs and cheese have softened.

Remove figs from oven. Place on a platter and drizzle with balsamic syrup. Serve with a side of chili spiced pecans.

Remove figs from oven. Place on a platter and drizzle with balsamic syrup. Serve with a side of chili spiced pecans.

Everyone needs at least two.

Everyone needs at least two.

Pots of Chocolate

(recipe makes 12 small pots of chocolate)

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Begin with 10 ounces of good quality bittersweet chocolate. I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao. Cut into small pieces. Place chocolate into a pourable bowl.

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In a small bowl, combine 1 T of vanilla, 1 T of water and 1/2 t of instant espresso powder. Set aside.

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In a mixing bowl, combine 5 egg yolks, 5 T sugar and a pinch of salt. Whisk well until smooth ribbons form on the end of your whisk.

Add 1 1/2 C of heavy cream and 3/4 C of half and half to the egg mix. Whisk to combine. Place mixture into a heavy bottomed sauce pan and place on the stove over medium high heat. Whisk constantly until temperature reaches about 165 degrees. The mix will begin to thicken and stick on the bottom of the pan. Pour the custard mix over the chopped chocolate through a fine mesh strainer. Allow the mixture to sit for about 30-45 seconds. Slowly whisk the mixture until chocolate melts completely and a smooth texture is achieved. Add reserved vanilla mix to the chocolate. Whisk to combine. Careful that you do not beat the mix. Just slow whisking to thoroughly combine all ingredients.

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I used small mason jars purchased at HEB. Approximately 7.95 for a dozen jars. Portion melted chocolate mixture into “pots”. Gently tap the jars on the counter to release any air bubbles. Let them sit on the counter for about 30 minutes to cool to room temperature. Place the jars of chocolate in the refrigerator, uncovered, until thoroughly chilled. Once chilled, screw the lids on. So simple. Chocolate pots will hold for several days. Great make ahead dessert.

For service, add a dollop of whipped cream, shaved chocolate and some fresh raspberries or strawberries on the side. Place the fruit in the jar lids and drizzle some orange blossom honey over the top.

For service, add a dollop of whipped cream, shaved chocolate and some fresh raspberries or strawberries on the side. Place the fruit in the jar lids and drizzle some orange blossom honey over the top.

Brussels Sprout Salad

Slice brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Then slice each half crosswise into very thin strips. A bit tedious. Good knife work required!

Slice brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Then slice each half crosswise into very thin strips. A bit tedious. Good knife work required!

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To the sprouts, add matchstick slices of Pink Lady apple, toasted walnuts, chopped Italian parsley, grated Parmesan Reggiano, salt, cracked black pepper, fresh lemon juice and EVOO.

To the sprouts, add matchstick slices of Pink Lady apple, toasted walnuts, chopped Italian parsley, grated Parmesan Reggiano, salt, cracked black pepper, fresh lemon juice and EVOO. Use a cheese grater for the parmesan so that you get large slivers.

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For a side portion, figure 4-6 sprouts per person. Eyeball remaining ingredients. The sprouts provide great texture, the apple is tart and sweet, the cheese is salty, the walnuts offer crunch and sweet and the parsley provides freshness and color. Don’t be shy on the pepper or salt. Just keep tasting and adding as needed. A good balance of lemon juice and EVOO pulls it all together. This really is a winner.

Fresh Fruit Tart

This recipe makes one 9-inch tart. It is lifted from Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipes 2014.

It’s an impressive dessert and can be broken into parts for easier preparation. Give it a try. Your call on the fruit topping.

For crust:

1 large egg yolk

1 T heavy cream

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 1/4 C flour

2/3 C confectioner’s sugar

pinch of salt

8 T butter cut into 1/4 inch pieces and chilled in the freezer

Combine eggs, cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Mix well. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Process to combine. Sprinkle frozen butter pieces over the flour mix and pulse 15 times until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg mix through feed tube while machine is running. Process until dough begins to gather around the blade. I had to add a smidgen more of cream. Remove dough and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill. I did this the night before and baked the crust the next morning. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow it to sit on the counter for 15 minutes. Flour counter and dough and roll out evenly until you have a 1/4 – inch thickness. Constantly check to make sure your dough is not sticking. Loosen dough from counter and add additional flour to prevent sticking. Work quickly. Once your round is large enough ( about 11-inches in diameter) for the tart pan, roll the form onto your rolling-pin and unroll it onto the tart pan that has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Trim off excess. Patch where needed using excess dough. Sides and bottom should have a uniform thickness – 1/4-inch. Place tart shell onto a baking sheet and put it in the freezer until frozen. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take frozen tart shell out of the freezer and place a double layer of aluminum foil on top. Place dried beans on top of foil to weight the foil down. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove beans and foil. Place shell back into the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes until golden. Remove and cool on a baking rack.

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For pastry cream filling:

2 C half and half

1/2 C sugar

pinch of salt

5 egg yolks

3 T cornstarch

4 T butter, sliced into 6 pieces, room temperature

1 1/2 t vanilla bean paste, or extract

In a sauce pan, add half and half, 6 T of the sugar, salt and bring to a simmer. In a bowl, combine egg yolks,  the remaining 2 T of sugar and cornstarch. Whisk until smooth. Add a ladle of the warmed half and half mix to the egg mix. Whisk slowly to combine and temper. Add remaining half and half to the egg mix and whisk to combine. Place the custard mix back into the sauce pan and place over medium heat. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat and add butter pieces one at a time while whisking. Add vanilla and whisk. Pour thickened custard through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl for chilling. Press plastic wrap directly on top of warm custard. Place in the refrigerator and thoroughly chill. This can be done up to 2 days ahead.

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For assembly:

Evenly spread vanilla cream into tart pan. Layer fruit on top. Whole berries work best as they don’t “leak” juices into your cream. Kiwi provides great color. Make sure they are not too ripe. Glaze fruit with some warmed apricot jam. I thinned it out with a few drops of water. Assemble about 30 minutes prior to serving and chill. Ooh and aahs are sure to come forth.

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Cucumber and Yogurt

Bulgarian Whole Milk Yogurt (my favorite)

3-4 Mini cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and chopped small

Fresh dill, chopped

Fresh mint, chopped

Spritz of salt

Thinly sliced radishes

Portions are your call. I like it chunky.

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Combine ingredients and chill for 15 minutes or so. Best prepared just prior to service.

This is refreshing and a nice side to the chicken dish.

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Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with Roasted Veggie Tapenade served over Grilled Pita with Hummus and Shredded Leaf Lettuce

(recipe serves 4)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used organic)

4 t salt (for brine)

Ice water

For quick brine:

In a mixing bowl, dissolve salt in enough water to completely cover the breasts. I used a whisk to make sure the salt was completely dissolved. Add a couple of handfuls of ice to the water. Rinse breasts and place them in the ice bath and refrigerate for 2 hours or so. Remove breasts and rinse again. Pat dry with paper towels. Place an oven proof skillet on the stove top and preheat over medium high heat. Add  2 T of olive oil. It should smoke slightly and travel easily on the bottom of the pan. Season chicken with a generous amount of salt and cracked pepper. It is important not to season until you are ready to place the chicken in the pan. Place breasts top side down. You want a good sizzle. Also, you don’t want to crowd the skillet. Cook in batches. If oil is splattering too much, cut heat down a bit. DON’T MOVE CHICKEN. You want to leave the chicken alone until it has cooked about halfway to two-thirds through. Then, you can peak. If the crust is brown enough, turn it over and cook for a few more minutes. Once all breasts are browned, place them in a preheated 425 degree oven for 5-8 minutes to finish cooking. The thickest part of the breast will feel just firm to the touch. Remove and allow chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

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Beautiful crust, still moist.

For roasted veggie tapenade:

1 small yellow onion, cut chunky style

6 mini sweet peppers, cut into large rings

1 pint of cherub tomatoes

Garlic oil and cloves (place 6-8 whole cloves into a small sauce pan, cover with olive oil and simmer until garlic is softened and golden)

Salt and cracked pepper

Dried oregano

6-8 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

1 T of capers, drained

Place veggies in a bowl. Drizzle garlic oil over the veggies and stir to coat. Place veggies on a foil-lined baking sheet. Generously season with salt, pepper and dried oregano. Place into a preheated 450 degree oven, roast for 12 minutes or so. Shake baking sheet to move veggies around and then rotate pan. Cook for an additional 12 minutes or until edges begin to char slightly. Remove and cool. Place veggies back into a bowl. Add garlic cloves, olives and capers. Additional garlic oil can be added to moisten and flavor.

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Thinly slice greenleaf lettuce and lightly dress with EVOO, lemon juice and a spritz of salt.

Thinly slice green leaf lettuce and lightly dress with EVOO, lemon juice and a spritz of salt.

Brush pita with reserved garlic oil and grill. I used a panini press. A non-stick skillet would also work.

Brush pita with reserved garlic oil and grill. I used a panini press. A non-stick skillet would also work. You want it slightly crispy.

Spread a nice layer of highmade hummus on top of pita. Drizzle additional garlic oil over the hummus.

Spread a nice layer of highmade hummus on top of pita. Drizzle additional garlic oil over the hummus.

Place dressed lettuce on top of hummus in a small mound. Add sliced chicken.

Place dressed lettuce on top of hummus in a small mound. Add sliced chicken.

To finish, add tapenade, chopped parsley, feta crumbles, lemon wedge and an additional drizzle of garlic oil. FLAVOR GALORE!

To finish, add tapenade, chopped parsley, feta crumbles, lemon wedge and an additional drizzle of garlic oil. FLAVOR GALORE!