Sunday, August 14, 2011

Olive Oil Almond Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

Please make this glaze. The cake is very good, but the glaze is AMAZING.

From here on, I will use this glaze at every opportunity. I imagine it would be good on banana cake, pound cake, sour cream cake, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies, or even a spoon. Enough said. Best. Glaze. Ever.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
zest of 1/2 an orange
1/2 cup orange juice

1. Whisk flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to combine.
2. In another bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and olive oil until light yellow and slightly thick. This will take a couple of minutes. Add the zest and the juice and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
3. Add the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth.
4. Pour batter into a 9-inch round cake pan that has been greased and floured.
5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes.

2 tbsp. butter
1 cup icing sugar
3 tbsp. cream (or milk)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

1. In a light colored pan, heat the butter until its color changes from yellow to golden brown. Be careful not to burn the butter!
2. While the butter is cooling, sift the icing sugar into a bowl.
3. Whisk in the cream until the mixture is smooth then slowly add the butter.
4. You want your glaze to be pourable but not too runny. If the mixture is too thick, add a few drops of cream at a time until your get the consistency you want.
5. Add the sliced almonds and mix gently.
6. Pour over cooled cake.

Mussels with Chorizo

Moules there anything better than briny, sweet mussels bathed in a sauce redolent with the taste of the sea accompanied by crisp, salty fried potatoes? Once in a while I will get a craving for this dish and yesterday was one of those days. So armed without a recipe, I just decided to wing it and make a big batch for me and the boys. I missed the frites, but the moules definitely hit the spot!

Mussels with Chorizo

2 lbs. mussels
6-10 inches of chorizo, cubed
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomato puree (or you could just crush some canned whole tomatoes)
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
1 tsp. sugar
handful of parsley, chopped

1. Wash mussels well with cold running water.
2. In a large pot, heat olive oil and saute the chorizo until the sausage renders its fat.
3. Add onions and garlic and saute until transluscent.
4. Add tomato, white wine, sugar and water.
5. Simmer for 5 minutes to let all the flavors meld together. Meanwhile season with salt and pepper.
6. Place all the mussels into pot and cover.
7. Cook until all the mussels have opened, about 15 minutes.
8. Adjust seasoning and add parsley right before serving.
9. Serve with lots of crusty bread to sop up all the sauce.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Arugula with Grilled Portabella and Blue Cheese

The title is the recipe.

Arugula (or rocket/roquette) is by far my favorite salad green. Sturdy, bitter, nutty. Yummy.

Portabellas (or portobellos) are one of my favorite mushrooms. Meaty, substantial, flavorful.

Blue cheese. Tangy, salty, creamy. Love. Any cheese for that matter.

Balsamic reduction brings all these together. Sweet, sour, smoky.

This is what makes a great salad...different flavors, different textures, all combining into one perfect mouthful.

Cider-brined pork chops

For our Christmas grab game at work this year, I snagged a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, which I put to use straight away. The original recipe called for grilling the chops, but since it was below freezing outside, grilling was a definite no-go. So I followed the recipe (almost followed the recipe, that is) and the result was definitely a make-again dish for the boys. I think the most crucial part is using a good cut of meat. I bought these pork chops from Cumbrae's, a local butcher known to supply fine restaurants around Toronto. These particular chops were from a Yorkshire-Duroc pig, a cross of two heritage breeds.

When I first started cooking, I didn't think that using heritage pork breeds, or free-run eggs, or dry-aged beef, or wild (non-farmed) salmon made a difference. But when that particular ingredient was the star of a dish, like here, I soon realized that the extra $$ was very well worth it.

Anyways, on to the recipe.

4 pork chops, each at least an inch thick.

3 cups apple cider
1/3 cup salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
10 peppercorns
3 bay leaves
3 star anise

1. Combine the ingredients for the brine.
2. Place the pork chops, making sure all the pieces are submerged in the brining liquid.
3. Brine in fridge for at least 8 hours (up to 24).
4. Remove chops from brine, rinse, and pat dry.
5. Heat a heavy oven proof pan on the stove (I used cast iron).
6. Place a bit of oil and when the oil is very hot, sear all sides of the chop, making sure to sear the top where the fat is (yum!!! crispy pork fat!).
7. Place chops in a 400 degree oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the pork is no longer pink but NOT overdone.

I used a thermometer to make sure I took the pork chops out just before they were done. Even though pork chops have a cap of fat, the rest of the chop can become dry and tough when overcooked.

I served this with a cranberry sauce, pan-roasted asparagus and broccolini and roasted rosemary potatoes.

Dates, Goat Cheese and Bacon

This picture may not look like much, but trust me on this one.

Grab some pitted dried dates, stuff with good aged goat cheese (I imagine some sort of blue cheese would be lovely too), wrap with half a bacon strip and bake in a 350 oven for 10-15 minutes until the bacon is slightly crisp. I actually did this in my toaster oven!

This goes so well with a glass of bubbly :-)