chocolate peanut butter triple layer cake

This is the biggest (tallest) cake I've ever made. The Tiramisu cake might have come close, now that I think of it, but trust me: this cake is massive. It's also extremely rich. And extremely delicious.

The cakes are not too sweet, but they are very, very soft. The cream cheese/peanut butter frosting/filling is rich and tastes, essentially, like reese's peanut butter cups.

And as if that weren't enough, you dump peanut-dark chocolate ganache over the whole thing. Seriously, we're gilding the lily here. Gild away.

I didn't say it was pretty, but once you have your fork in your mouth you won't care. I promise.

Recipe taken from Smitten Kitchen
Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes

This cake is INTENSE. Serve it in the thinnest slices possible, and keep a glass of milk handy.

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 (the book says, I say a heck of a lot more)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosting, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.


nyt chocolate chip cookie

At least seven people mentioned this recipe to me before I got around to making it. The New York Times did an article on the best chocolate chip cookie, and this is their final recipe. What sold me on it? Sea salt.

I think what put a lot of people off making this is that the dough must sit for 12-36 hours. When people want cookies, they want them now. It's hard enough to wait the helf-hour to an hour it takes to make regular cookies. Who thinks of wanting cookies 36 hours ahead of time? I think that this is probably also one of the reasons that more people don't make bread: the rising time. When you realize that you want bread with dinner, you don't usually have five hours until then to put it together. But I digress.

I made these for a trip to a music festival at pemberton, in canada. An eight hour drive plus two days of camping seemed to me an excellent excuse for cookies, and as I was unemployed I had the time in advance to make them and let the dough sit for its 36 hour siesta. The cookies that this recipe makes are indeed huge and delicious. It's hard to finish a whole one on your own, but the variety of textures that the large cookie yields is worth the effort. Crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, it's every kind of cookie at once. And the salt on the top sets off the sweet flavors and prevents the whole thing from being overwhelming. It's the perfect complexity. Really, it's all about the salt.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Jacques Torres
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
(I used all all-purpose flour, to no ill effect)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.


raspberry simple syrup

I know, I haven't updated this in ages. It's been a wild summer, and I didn't cook as much as I had anticipated I would. Instead, I traveled a lot, including a week in Hawaii. Hate me.

At the beginning of the summer, I bought a case of pellegrino and a flat of raspberries. One of my favorite things about summer is the excuse to drink a ton of italian sodas. My favorite simple syrup is raspberry, but you can make all kinds-- last summer I did cucumber, lemon, mint, and lime. They work excellently in mixed drinks.

Really, simple syrup is so simple that a recipe is sort of useless. You take sugar and water in whatever ratio suits your sweet tooth (I do 2 sugar to 1 water, but I've seen 3:1 and 1:1) and heat it over the stove until the sugar is dissolved. Then you turn the heat off, add the base for your flavor, and let it steep for a while. Strain the mixture, let it cool, and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last at least a month, if you can keep your hands off it that long.


corn muffins

corn muffin with rosemary

I love cornbread, but the one time I tried to make it I failed. It was dry, the flavor was off, and I think I ended up tossing most of it out. I was worried that these muffins would be too cakey or too dry, but they turned out to be delicious. I used roasted corn (frozen, from Trader Joe's) and I added 1 TBS of rosemary to the batter. The muffins are actually good for a couple of days and they toast well. I will definitely make them again.

This was the first thing I made out of Dorie Greenspan's book, but I'm going to link to the Smitten Kitchen recipe because that's easier than typing it all out myself. So there.

Dorie Greenspan’s Corniest Corn Muffins
Baking from My Home to Yours
via Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 12 regular-sized muffins or 48 miniature ones

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons corn oil (I used olive oil since it was handy)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup corn kernels (add up to 1/3 cup more if you’d like) - fresh, frozen or canned (in which case they should be drained and patted dry)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg, if you’re using it. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg and yolk together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough - the batter will be lumpy, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the corn kernels. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (12 minutes for minis), or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.


fresh pasta, redux

Because I'm a masochist, I decided to make fresh pasta again, using the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I did this on the same day that I made the debacle that was the hazelnut brown butter cake. Did I mention that I'm a masochist?

a pasta "nest"

This recipe involves no bowl. No spoon. Nothing but a smooth countertop, the ingredients, and your hands. Oh, and lots of time. I had nothing better to do because I had a cake in the oven, so hey, why not throw together some pasta dough?

You make a ring of flour and crack the eggs into it, adding the few other ingredients as well. Then, with your fingers, you start to stir, incorporating flour slowly from the walls as you go, trying not to slosh egg over the sides and all over your counter and floor.

the pasta nest becomes a nest of goo

Eventually you work almost all of the flour in, and the dough becomes, well, dough, rather than goo. At this point you can start kneading, and go for as long as you can. Pretend it's exercise. Then the dough sits for a while, and then you put it through the machine.

sheets of pasta dough

first in sheets and then in ribbons.


Boil it for a few minutes (until it floats) and then finish it in whatever sauce you intend to use. Cooking it for the last minute or so in the sauce gives it a more rich flavor.

pasta in tomato-butter sauce

The sauce I used was very simple because I wanted to be able to taste the pasta. Tomatoes, butter, and an onion are all you need.

Making your own pasta is, as silly as this sounds, really rewarding. Like bread, it's not as hard as it looks and when you're done you can't believe you actually did it. It's also--like bread--so much more tasty than the store-bought kind.

I have one more recipe to try. This one was certainly the most labor-intensive of the bunch.
From Smitten Kitchen
Seven-Yolk Pasta Dough
Adapted from French Laundry Cookbook

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon milk

Mound flour on a board or other surface and create a well in the center, pushing the flour to all sides to make a ring with sides about 1-inch wide. Make sure that the well is wide enough to hold all the eggs without spilling.

Pour the egg yolks, egg, oil and milk into the well. Use your fingers to break the eggs up. Still using your fingers, begin turning the eggs in a circular motion, keeping them within the well and not allowing them to spill over the sides. This circular motion allows the eggs to gradually pull in flour from the sides of the well; it is important that the flour not be incorporated too rapidly, or dough will be lumpy. Keep moving the eggs while slowly incorporating the flour. Using a pastry scraper, occasionally push the flour toward the eggs; the flour should be moved only enough to maintain the gradual incorporation of the flour, and the eggs should continue to be contained within the well. The mixture will thicken and eventually get too tight to keep turning with your fingers.

When the dough begins thickening and starts lifting itself from the board, begin incorporating the remaining flour with the pastry scraper by lifting the flour up and over the dough that’s beginning to form and cutting it into the dough. When the remaining flour from the sides of the well has been cut into the dough, the dough will still look shaggy. Bring the dough together with the palms of your hands and form it into a ball. It will look flaky but will hold together.

Knead the dough by pressing it, bit by bit, in a forward motion with the heels of your hands rather than folding it over on itself as you would with a bread dough. Re-form the dough into a ball and repeat the process several times. The dough should feel moist but not sticky. Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you clean the work surface.

Dust the clean work surface with a little flour. Knead the dough by pushing against it in a forward motion with the heels of your hands. Form the dough into a ball again and knead it again. Keep kneading in this forward motion until the dough becomes silky smooth. The dough is ready when you can pull your finger through it and the dough wants to snap back into place. The kneading process can take from 10 to 15 minutes.

Even if you think you are finished kneading, knead it for an extra 10 minutes; you cannot overknead this dough. It is important to work the dough long enough to pass the pull test; otherwise, when it rests, it will collapse.

Double-wrap the dough in plastic wrap to ensure that it does not dry out. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before rolling it through a pasta machine. The dough can be made a day ahead, wrapped and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before proceeding.

The sauce I took from another food blog (a Seattle-ite also). Next time, I think I will try a puttanesca.

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan
Via Orangette

2 cups whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices (about one 28-oz. can)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt, to taste

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a very slow but steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free from the tomato. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed.

Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.

Yield: Enough sauce for about 1 pound of pasta, or 4 servings


hazelnut brown butter cake

I'm sorry I've been so lax about posting. I have no excuses, other than that I've been eating instead of blogging. I have a backlog of about 3-5 things to get up here and I promise I'll get to it posthaste.

the ganache, it's taking over the world

So, about this cake. I intended to make it ages ago, because the name has the words Hazelnut and Brown Butter in it, and that's all I really needed to know. Then I read the recipe and saw that I had to get the skins off the hazelnuts and I had whip egg whites to stiff peaks, and I balked. De-skinning hazelnuts is a pain in the ass and I have an irrational fear of whipping egg whites, because I'm certain that I can't do it properly.

WELL. This cake is proof that you can do EVERYTHING wrong and your cake will still taste like these:

I blanched the hazelnuts with baking powder and then scrubbed them and rubbed them in a towel to get the skins off. Fail. I roasted them in the oven and then rubbed them so vigorously that they started breaking. And the skins stayed on. In frustration I gave up and dumped the nuts in the food processor anyway, looking like this:


I ground them up with the other ingredients and then realized I probably didn't grind it fine enough. Oh well. Onward.

The brown butter got a bit over-brown. It didn't smell burnt, but it was more like Nearly Black Butter. Shit. Move on.

I have a new mixer. I was excited about this because I knew it could do the egg-white-whipping very quickly. Directions said on High, 8 minutes. I walked away and two or three minutes later I peeked into my mixer and all hell had broken loose. The eggs had become overbeaten IN 180 SECONDS. Speedy fucking Gonzales, that mixer is. After the nut debacle, I wanted to toss the whole mess in the garbage, but I figured fuck it, I'd gone this far. I won't regale you with the horror of blending the butter-nut-flour mixture into the eggs, but suffice to say that the contraption looked nothing like batter until the very last stage. I tossed it in the oven and hoped that the damn thing wouldn't explode.

In the end, what I had looked like a cake.

speckled hazelnut cake

I frosted (well, ganache-d) the sucker and tasted it. And holy hell, it was good.

ganache spilleth over

So, have no fear. Even if everything goes wrong, miracles occur in the oven.

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
Stolen from, as usual, Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques (I must have this cookbook.)

Chef Goin served this as her wedding cake. I have learned that anything served as a wedding cake by someone who cooks is AMAZING.

5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts, blanched to remove dark skins*
1/2 pound unsalted butter (plus 1 tablespoon melted extra for greasing the pan)
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the cake
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
5 extra-large egg whites (I used 6 since I was using
large eggs)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell nutty. Let them cool.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan. Brush the pan with a little melted butter and line the bottom with the paper.

Place the rest of the butter in a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, and using a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. To make sure not to lose any of the seeds, run your vanilla-coated knife through the butter. Add the vanilla pod to the pan, and cook the butter until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Set aside to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.

Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until they’re finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the granulated sugar and mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture forms very stiff peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold. Transfer the whites to a large mixing bowl.

Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites, a third of a time. Remember to scrap the bottom of the brown butter pan with a rubber spatula to get all the little brown bits.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour**. Cool on a rack 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the paper, and turn the cake back over onto a serving platter. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar or cover with ganache (below).

* Do not fear if your blanching-and-rubbing or your roasting-and-scrubbing doesn't yield perfectly naked nuts. It's okay. Keep going.

** Mine was done at 40 minutes so check yours even earlier, okay?

Draping Ganache for 10-inch Cake

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or finely-chopped chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Spread over the top of the cake.


Vegan Quinoa Paella

Right now this is one of my favorite things to make when I really want to impress parents or houseguests or celebrate a birthday or non-birthday or whatever. Nothing’s better than feeding people delicious food, and this one blows the mind. Mmmm, actually, talking about this will be difficult to do right now. I just finished eating the leftovers of a slightly quicker version I made last night, and I’m afraid I might just go sneak some more bites after this write-up…

Living in Buenos Aires, it’s impossible to eat completely vegetarian, much less vegan. Well, it’s possible, I guess, but ill-advised. The meat and dairy here are just too effin’ good. Still, I have a sensitive tummy, and too much meat makes Annette a very unhappy and tired girl. So I found a version of this recipe online when looking for something vegan and chock-full of veggies. It’s nothing like an actual Spanish paella dish (*drool*), but seriously yummy in its own regard. Don’t expect in this recipe any attempts at replacing the saffron-y or seafood-y goodness of a Spanish paella (if you haven’t had a Spanish paella, go to a Spanish restaurant with the million friends you have and order this for your table right now). This paella, however, totally does the trick for a super healthy meal. Quinoa is practically a miracle grain - a complete protein with a ton of nutrients and amino acids; it’s easy to digest and even gluten-free! Though fairly protein-heavy, this meal is at least balanced by a ton of energizing vegetables. And it’s vegan and unbelievably delicious.

The paella is pretty easy to prepare for the most part. Most of the time is spent chopping vegetables, and the tofu can be fried quickly. Just cut tofu into strips, lay them in a single layer in hot oil and flip over once a side has browned. Don’t forget to add soy sauce for flavor! I like my tofu pretty crispy, because it adds a nice texture to the softer quinoa. A recipe I follow loosely for a Twice-fried Tofu is below. As hastily and incompletely as I make this, it still ends up delicious. It's really very difficult to mess up Fried Tofu.

Really, what I love sooo much about this dish is the variety of textures. It’s most like a paella in this way, I guess, which I’m completely fine with. It’s like a texture rainbow party; I can’t get enough of it. OMG and the leftovers are even better, especially if you fry extra tofu with them. As for the veggies, you can pretty much add whatever you’d like. I’m sure this would be amazing with broccoli florets and other greens. The possibilities are endless when you are already pretty much raping all that a paella traditionally is. Yay!

The quicker version I made last night is basically just whatever vegetables I had at the time, parsley instead of cilantro (because cilantro is almost impossible to find in the city), and no tofu or chickpeas or artichoke hearts. It wasn’t the same, but still yummy. The version below probably takes about a half hour to 45 minutes prepping and blanching and frying, and about 20 minutes cooking.

Vegan Quinoa Paella
(Recipe adapted from What the hell_does_a vegan eat anyway?)

1 tb olive oil
1 small red onion (I’ve only used yellow, but it’s delicious either way)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 tb smoked paprika
salt and pepper

1.5 cups water

1 red bell pepper (you can roast them or just put them in, sliced in strips)
1 cup green beans, blanched for 2-3 minutes
3 or 4 artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
tofu, fried (Twice-fried tofu recipe below)
2 large or 3 small ears of corn
1 tbs cilantro, chopped (I use a lot more because I am obsessed with cilantro)
chopped almonds for garnish
4 or so lemon wedges

1. Chop veggies. (I like to put them in little size-appropriate bowls and organize them according to when I will add them, because this kind of stuff is fun to me.)

2. Bring water to boil in pot (for green beans).

3. Rinse and drain quinoa.

4. Blanche green beans.

5. Fry tofu, put aside.

6. In a large saute pan, on medium-low heat, add oil and sauté onions for 3-4 minutes, then add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes more.

7. Add quinoa and sauté for 2-3 minutes (you want to toast the quinoa a little bit in this part).

8. Add paprika, salt and pepper and stir. Then add water, bring to a boil, reduce and then simmer for 10-12 minutes until quinoa is cooked.

9. Add bell pepper, green beans, chickpeas, artichoke hearts and fried tofu on top of quinoa, cook for another 2-3 minutes until heated through.

10. Garish with almonds and cilantro. Serve with lemons.

I’d say this serves about 4-5 people with a high chance of leftovers.

Twice-Fried Tofu
Recipe from What the hell_does_a vegan eat anyway?

16 oz. extra-firm tofu cut into eight rectangular cutlets
canola oil

Cut the tofu into eight individual cutlets.

If you're smoking the tofu, add the hickory chips to your smoker box and process for 20-30 minutes. Remove the tofu from smoker box.

Over med-high heat add the canola oil and pan-fry until golden brown on both sides (about 8 minutes). Remove from pan and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Or, you can refrigerate the tofu at this point, up to a day in advance.

Slice the tofu diagonally into strips about a 1/4" thick. Add about 1 tsp. of canola oil to the pan, and return to med-high heat, turning occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Lower the heat to low, add tamari to taste (about 1 tbs.) and continue to cook for an addition 1-2 minutes until the tofu begins to get crispy.

If you don't have a smoker, you can add 1 tsp. of smoked paprika right after the tamari.


garlic buttermilk biscuits, baked eggs

I came home from Portland early on Sunday specifically to host the potluck, and I'm glad I did: Javier brought octopus! Boiled and then coated in olive oil, coarse salt, and hot paprika, it was delicious.

javier's octopus

The process I described is really all there is to making the octopus, but the real skill lies in being able to tell when it's done. I can't help you there: Javier manned the stove for that one. I can tell you how to make the dish(es) I contributed: baked eggs and garlic biscuits.

garlic rolls

I had garlic biscuits at a restaurant called the Screen Door in Portland, and they were very good. Because I was sharing with others, I got only the bottoms of the biscuits. I thought: a whole one must be even better! I had been planning to make chive biscuits for my potluck, but the chives had gone bad over the weekend and I was craving garlic. I just swapped minced garlic for the chives and off I went.

baked eggs

The baked eggs looked delicious, and when I made them, they were quite good (and they were all eaten) but I thought they were a bit bland. As it turns out, I'd forgotten the pepper and the parmesan. Lesson: don't forget the flavorings!

Both recipes from Smitten Kitchen
Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms
Gourmet, June 2004

10 oz baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced (2 cups)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan (I forgot this, and I'm kicking myself. Cheese makes everything better.)

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.

Bring 1/2 inch water to a boil in a 10- to 12-inch ovenproof heavy skillet or pot (not cast-iron), then add half of spinach and cook, turning with tongs, until wilted, about 30 seconds. Add remaining spinach and wilt in same manner, then cook, covered, over moderately high heat until spinach is tender, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water. Gently squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible, then coarsely chop.

Wipe skillet dry, then cook onion and garlic in butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and increase heat to moderate, then cook, stirring, until mushrooms are softened and have exuded liquid, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and chopped spinach and bring to a simmer. Remove skillet from heat and make 4 large indentations in spinach mixture. Break an egg into each indentation and bake, uncovered, until egg whites are set but yolks are still runny, 7 to 10 minutes. Lightly season eggs with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with cheese.

Buttermilk Garlic Biscuits (these originally called for chives)
Adapted from Dot’s Diner, Boulder, CO (adapted again from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 12 servings.

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar (originally recipe calls for 2 tablespoons)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Using fingertips, rub 3/4 cup chilled butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in chives. Add buttermilk and stir until evenly moistened. Using 1/4 cup dough for each biscuit, drop biscuits onto baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart.* Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

It says "12 servings" but I ended up with 17 biscuits and some extra powder in the mixing bowl... I think the recipe needs perhaps a bit more buttermilk (to make the powder into dough). You can either make larger biscuits (to end up with 12) or hope for 18-20 if you stick with 1/4 cup.


garlic spears

I'd never had garlic spears before, but now that I have tried them, I want them every day. Garlic meets asparagus. Need I say more?

garlic spears

I chopped the ends off and washed the spears. Eaten raw, they are spicy like raw garlic. I sauteed the whole spears in butter and olive oil until the flavor mellowed a bit and they were bright green. I added pepper and lemon juice and devoured them. They're at the farmer's market now, which is awesome. I bet they would be great chopped up over a pasta. I cut one up into very thin slices and put it into a turkey burger, which was very good also. Have any of you had these before? What did you do with them?

garlic spears


fresh pasta saga

I am totally intimidated by fresh pasta, despite the fact that it contains no yeast. I'd never made it, and I'd written it off as Something Other People Make, until I found this blog. The author is vulgar, snarky, hilarious, and a butcher. I was in lust. He makes pasta seem manageable somehow, in between all the swearing and drinking.

And that's pretty much what it's like.

fresh home-made pasta

I had three recipes to choose from: his, one at smitten kitchen, and the one that came with the pasta machine I bought at Ross that day. I opted for the one that came with the machine because it yielded enough pasta for six and I was throwing a potluck dinner party. Remember that rule about not trying new recipes out on guests? Right. There's a reason. A messy reason.

The process seems simple: 5 eggs and 3 cups of flour. Mix. Knead. Add more flour if it's a bit sticky. Let it rest for 30 minutes all wrapped in plastic and then roll it out and put it through the machine several times until it's thin and then again to cut it into fettuccine. Simple!

When the first guests arrived, including two people I hadn't met before, I was stirring the first bit of eggy floury dough. That shit was WET. Not just sticky, but cling-to-everything miserable. I added a handful more flour. It worked itself in, seemed okay, and then the mass got sticky again. Repeat. Repeat with what seemed like HALF A BAG OF FLOUR. Eventually, i gave up. My kitchen looked like a Columbian love-fest, since I had trailed flour everywhere I went. EVERYWHERE.

I had told my first guests that if the pasta experiment failed (as now seemed certain) then I would order pizza. At this point, my second guests arrived, bearing wine AND a homemade spicy chicken pizza. With cheese in the crust. Sometimes, god loves me. Only sometimes.

josh and allie's pizza

One of my guests, Josh, got really excited about the pasta machine and proceeded to attempt to screw it to every surface in the kitchen. This is when I realized that it's a very good thing that I didn't sell my dining table, since that's the only table that works for the pasta machine. I put the dough through a couple of times, but it was still too sticky and unworkable. I proclaimed defeat. Josh would not capitulate (makes sense, as he's not the one who spent an hour flouring the same mound of sticky hell). He put it through the machine, floured it, put it through again, floured it again, roll, flour, repeat. Fifteen minutes later THERE WAS PASTA DOUGH. We put it through the noodle-cutting bit, separated the strands, and boiled that shit until al dente.

In the end, it was a bit thick I think (we rolled until setting 4 or so, not a 9 like you're supposed to) and we didn't let it "rest" all sealed up like one should, and god knows how much flour was in there at the end... but what all this goes to say is that pasta is a lot harder to ruin than you might think. Everyone liked it! There was hardly any left over.

There was a pesto as well: after reading one of the comments to an earlier pesto pasta, I decided to make parsley-walnut pesto. At this point, I'd had a lot of wine, so measuring ingredients really wasn't going to happen. I threw some italian flat-leaf parsley, walnuts (toasted), olive oil, grated parmesean cheese, and pepper into the food processor until it tasted good, adjusting various quantities as needed. We also sauteed some crimini mushrooms to put over the top along with some shredded parmesean. The pesto was delicious and also tasted good days later on a baguette.

Sticky Buns in the morning.

This recipe is most fun when made as a pre-work baking date with a friend. In my case, I chose Greg. We only decided about half way through to include this on the blog, so some of the initial directions are a bit fuzzy. I recommend only making this if you already have a pretty good idea about bread dough.

First steps (optional):
Make some coffee.
Take some cold medicine.
make sure to brush your teeth


Pasta for breakfast
a lot brown sugar
a lot flour
a lot of butter/ earth balance
5 over-ripe bananas
2ish cups of walnuts
white sugar

To begin, make your dough.

Go to grocery to store to buy white flour after you realize you have rye flour, soy flour, whole wheat flour, corn meal and pancake mix where you thought the white flour would be.

Before you leave be sure to add four cups of 100 degree water to a 12 qt bowl with .5 cup of white sugar and 2 TBSP of yeast.

While you're at the store. The yeast will reconstruct their civilization from their cryogenically freeze dried remnants. This process is exothermic, which you would be able to feel if you weren't at the store.

By the time you return, the yeast will have evolved into an industrious society that produces gluten by-products through the respiration of sucrolose, (CITE THIS) and will be ready.

Add some heaping handfuls (I started with 4) of your recently acquired white flour to the yeast civilization. Stir the flour in with a spoon and keep thickening gradually. When you reach the point when you can no longer mix with a spoon, use your hands! The flour will be sticky, so be sure to "clean" your hands with more flour while you mix and eventually begin to form a ball. Transfer the dough to your countertop But FIRST STOP

Thoroughly cover the countertop with many handfuls of flour before setting your dough on it.

Kneed the dough like you're giving CPR until you press your finger into the dough and it does not press back (the finger indentation stays). Or you can also just kneed the dough until its almost not sticky anymore.

Coat a large bowl with canola oil

Make the dough into a ball that somewhat resembles a brain by pulling the top dough down and under and then forming a funnel "V" shape with the palms of your hands and rubbing them back and forth with the V shaped dough wedge in between them. Brain wrinkles are a sign of superior intelligence, but research has definitively demonstrated that there is an inverse correlation between intelligence and tastiness, at least in terms of sticky bun dough, so keep the top smooth. (See illustration on the pizza dough post, forthcoming)

Put your dough brain into the large oil coated bowl and leave it in a warm place.

Let the dough rise for a duration equivalent to the time it takes to look for clip art, give up and draw a Macintosh 128 K with a heart diskette using Adobe Illustrator.

Punch down the dough (be nice)

Let the dough rise again while you read about the assassination attempt against Hitler by Georg Elser as written by Derek Jensen (about 4 pages, with time allowed for a verbal summary of the book so far)

Break the nuts gently by hand and coat them with brown sugar and put them in a hot place (like the oven) for 20 minutes at 350. You may use pecans or walnuts or hazelnuts or testicles.

Take your over-ripe bananas and whip them together with a handful of dark brown sugar. We added a cap-ful of Hazelnut liqueur.

Melt a half stick of butter in a pan on the stove over low-med heat. Add the whipped brown sugar and banana mix, and beat it constantly until its creamy and bubbly.


When the nuts are done, chop them into spreadable pieces. Place them in a bowl and set aside. Mix cinnamon and sugar together, about 1:3, and also set it aside.

Re-flour your countertop surface and roll the dough into a sheet just slightly thinner than corrugated cardboard. Cover the dough thinly with banana. Then semi-thickly sugar. Then sparsely with nuts.

Roll the sheet up. Some of the dough will stick to the counter while you are rolling. It is useful to have your friend scrape that up as you go and keep it with the dough. We used a meat cleaver, but a metal spatula would be fine, I'm sure. When it's all done, squish in the sides of the cylinder so they are about flat.

Cut the dough log into 2-3 inch sections, and place on a buttered baking sheet, flat side down. They need about 17 minutes to cook, but check on them at 10-12 to make sure this seems right.

While the fetus buns are in the oven, mix a lot of brown sugar with a lot of butter. Like a cup of sugar, and third of a tub of earth balance. Over medium heat, bring this to a boil, stirring constantly. Then add some more butter if it's getting too thick. More sugar if it's too thin. If you need more, it's easy to make, and if there's too much, you will have extra-sticky sticky buns.

Play midwife/obstetrician to the buns, cover them with syrup and nuts.

Finally, bask in the deliciousness you have created.(Or in my case, rush off to work where they fire you. Fuckers.)


dutch baby

I am not much of a breakfast person. I don't generally like eggs. I'm not a huge fan of sugar (despite my dessert-intensive blog, you may have noticed that the stuff I make is not that sweet, and I frequently cut the amount of sugar called for).

Yet this particular breakfast item is the reason I bought cast-iron pans. I have a cast-iron cookbook, and this is the only thing I make from that book.

dutch baby

It's called a "dutch baby," and it's eggs, flour, and milk, blended together and then baked in butter until it puffs like a sombrero. As it cools, it collapses, and then you slather it in more butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar. I tend to go easy on the sugar and heavy on the butter. You must know by now: I <3 butter.

So, this isn't a pretty item (to say the least), but it is amazingly delicious, easy and cheap to make (if you don't have a cast-iron, get one), and each one feeds two people. It's rich and full of flavor, but the lemon keeps it from feeling overly heavy. It is the best breakfast food ever.

dutch baby

Dutch Baby
from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook
Feeds 2

2 TB butter
4 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk

melted butter to pour over the top
lemon for juice (1 lemon per baby)
powdered sugar (1/2 cup recommended, just powder to taste)

Make it:
Preheat the oven to 425. Melt the butter in a 10" cast iron skillet over low heat. Mix the eggs, flour and milk in a blender until just blended. (Yes, you do need a blender for this--anything else leaves the flour chunky.) Pour the batter into the skillet with the melted butter.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the top puffs up and is LIGHTLY golden. Don't overbake it or you will be scraping it off the bottom of the pan. Check it at 15 minutes and 20 minutes, but it may take up to 25. Ovens vary.

Melt the butter for topping. The recipe says "clarify the butter" but I'm far too lazy for this early in the morning. People are lucky i'm in the kitchen messing with the oven at all.

Drizzle the butter over the top, squeeze a lemon (watch for seeds) over it, and sprinkle that powdered sugar. Eat.

spinach and orzo salad

I chose to make this salad because I had everything on hand except the spinach and feta, and also because I'm on a green-foods kick. I think that after spending a week living on sausages while moving into the new apartment, I really needed the vitamins that my last few days of meals have provided. Hooray for craving the things you need! This salad gets better the longer it sits, as the flavors continue to meld. This makes it perfect for leftovers, or for a potluck or dinner party as you can make it the day before.

spinach and orzo pasta salad

Picking a recipe, going to the store, cooking, taking pictures, doing the dishes, editing the photos, and writing the process up is actually a lot more work than one might think it is. So, I forgot to take pictures while cooking. In fact, I forgot about the photos until after I'd put the leftovers into tupperware and got it out again for lunch today. Forgive me.

spinach and orzo pasta salad

Spinach and Orzo Salad
from Simply Recipes


* 8 ounces orzo pasta
* Salt
* 1/4 cup pine nuts
* 6 ounces feta cheese, roughly crumbled
* 2 ounces Kalamata Greek olives pitted, roughly chopped, about 1/2 cup (about 20 olives)
* 4 ounces baby spinach
* 1/2 cup chopped red onion (about half a red onion)
* 3 Tbsp olive oil
* 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
* 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (can substitute white vinegar or lemon juice)
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* Pinch dried basil
* Pinch dried tarragon
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1 Cook the orzo pasta. Bring to a boil a pot with 2 quarts of water in it. Once the water is boiling, salt it with a couple teaspoons of salt. Once the water returns to a boil add the orzo to the pot. Leave uncovered, cook on high heat with a vigorous boil. Put the timer on for 8-10 minutes, or whatever your pasta package says is appropriate for al dente (cooked but still a little firm). Drain. Rinse with cold water to cool quickly.

2 Toast the pine nuts by heating a small skillet on medium heat. Add the pine nuts and stir occasionally until the pine nuts are lightly browned. Pay attention or you'll burn the pine nuts.

3 Take half of the spinach and purée it in a food processor or blender, adding one tablespoon of the olive oil. Roughly chop the other half of the spinach. In a large serving bowl mix the spinach purée olive oil mixture in with cooked orzo until the pasta is well coated with the purée. Then gently mix in the remaining spinach, the red onion, feta cheese, pine nuts, and the Kalamata olives.

3 In a small jar, combine the remaining olive oil (2 Tbsp), balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, mustard, dried basil, and dried tarragon. Put a lid on the jar and shake to combine. (You can also just whisk together these ingredients in a small bowl, but the jar method works great to get a good emulsion.) Pour over orzo spinach mixture and gently mix in until well incorporated.

4 Chill for at least an hour before serving (the longer the better).

Serves 4.

rigatoni with five lilies and ricotta salata

Now that spring (summer?) is really here, I've been wanting more fresh things to eat. I also just moved and wanted to break in the new kitchen. And a friend from out of town visited and gave me a perfect excuse to make dinner. SO: I opened up the bookmarks and poked around.

rigatoni with five lilies and goat cheese

Everything for this recipe is easy to find, minus the Ricotta Salata. I substituted goat cheese (crumbled) and it worked well, so do not despair if you can't find the right cheese. As a bonus, everything except the cheese is also cheap.

the five lilies

This recipe also tastes even better the next day, and it tastes good cold, which is bonus-good because a pound of pasta is enough for lots of leftovers. And it's easy to make. Do you need more reasons to try it? Fine: caramelized onions. LEEKS. Now go!


Rigatoni with Five Lilies and Ricotta Salata
Adapted from The Babbo Cookbook and the San Francisco Chronicle
Stolen from Orangette

3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. sweet onions, such as Walla Walla or Vidalia, cut in half from stem to root and then into ¼-inch slices
2 Tbs unsalted butter
5 medium garlic cloves, minced
½ lb. leeks, cut into 1/8-inch rings and washed
½ lb. red onions, quartered and sliced
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
½ cup water
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 lb. rigatoni

To serve:
4 oz. ricotta salata, coarsely grated (or whatever cheese you can find)
¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 small handful chives, finely chopped
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Lemon wedges, optional

In a large (12- to 14-inch) skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the sweet onions, and reduce the heat. Cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent; then raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until deeply golden and caramelized. Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer the onions to a bowl. Set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. When it has stopped foaming and is thoroughly melted, add the garlic, leeks, red onion, and scallions, and cook, stirring regularly, until very soft and golden. Add the water, and cook until the liquid evaporates. Season lightly with salt. Remove from the heat, and stir in the sweet onions.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the rigatoni until tender but al dente. In the last minute of cooking, return the onion mixture to medium-high heat. Drain the pasta, add it to the onion mixture, and toss over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and toss more, if necessary, to thoroughly disperse the onions amidst the pasta. Serve immediately, topped with plenty of ricotta salata and sprinklings of parsley and chives. Salt as needed, and finish with a quick squeeze of lemon, if you like.

Yield: 4 servings

tempeh mushroom fricassee with 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC OMG

I have a reputation for being a garlic fiend, constantly tripling recipe quantities and interpreting "clove" in the most liberal possible way (obviously the smaller cloves only count as half, right?) So, when I excitedly sat down with my new cookbook and opened to a random page only to see the phrase "with 40 cloves of garlic," I knew what needed to happen, and I knew it needed to happen right away.

I made 1.5x this recipe and it was a lot of food, most of which was promptly devoured. If I made it again, I think I'd consider adding a green (kale? chard?) and/or some other fresh herbs to fill out the flavor a little more, although the rich nuttiness of the tempeh mixed with the smoky mushroom flavor and the SWEET SWEET GARLIC is pretty full already. All the bite cooks out of the garlic -- it tastes similar to roasted garlic, flavorful but not harsh.


  • 40 cloves of mutherfuckin' garlic, bitches!
  • 1lb heap 'o mixed mushrooms (I used shiitake and portobello, would've loved to try others)
  • 2 leeks (the white parts)
  • 1 12oz package of tempeh
  • 1.5 cups veggie broth/stock
  • a few springs of thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used a cheap chardonnay)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish


  1. Chop the tempeh into bite-size pieces and sautée in olive oil over medium heat until it's golden brown on all sides (8-10min). Set it aside when done.
  2. While the tempeh's cooking, chop the leeks and mushrooms. (There are a lot of mushrooms in here -- they make a really awesome and imposing pile!) In a different (semi-deep) pan start them sautéeing in olive oil on medium heat until they're cooked down and lightly caramelized. Then add the white wine and soy sauce, raise the heat a tad, and cook a bit longer until the liquid is pretty reduced/soaked up.
  3. Add the veggie broth, garlic and tempeh to the mushrooms/leeks, along with the thyme, cover it, and let it simmer on low heat for like 20-30min. Uncover and raise the heat for a few minutes afterwards so the liquid thickens some more.
  4. Fish out the thyme pieces. Gorge.


pizza bianca

You might complain that this is called a pizza and yet there are no toppings. No cheese, no sauce, no cured meats or roasted vegetables. All I can say in my defense that I didn't name the thing, I just made and devoured it. And really, I don't care what you call it as long as you make it right away. Pizza or not, it's simply wonderful.

pizza bianca, finished

This recipe requires instant yeast and I thought that meant it would be a faster process, but it still rises twice. The flavor is strong and complex on account of this and it's well worth the time. Breads seem tricky but I'm realizing that they take time and patience (things I tend to lack) but they're not actually that difficult, and they are so rewarding-- it's amazing to take a handful of simple ingredients and magically transform them into something with so much flavor.

pizza bianca, dough prepped for the oven

I will note that this bread (like most homemade breads) doesn't keep well, and the recipe makes far too much for one person, so I would recommend that you halve the recipe or share. It's so good that you may think you will eat the whole batch yourself, but I tried valiantly and failed. I wonder if it would make good breadcrumbs for another project?

pizza bianca, sliced

Jim Lahey’s Pizza Bianca
From Smitten Kitchen

Makes two long pizzas

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary

1. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, and slowly add 1 cup cold water. Mix on low speed until ingredients begin to combine, increase speed to medium-high, and continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and cleanly pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. I used the paddle attachment on a kitchenaid until the dough came together and then I switched to the dough hook.

2. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and allow to rest for 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in size. Split the dough into halves, and form each into a log [or in my case, realize that I forgot to do this, and roll it out instead!]. Place each log on a generously floured surface, and allow it to rest until the formed dough doubles in size again, at least 1 hour.

3. Put dough on a lightly floured baker’s peel, or something flat covered in cormeal. You'll have to slide the dough off, so don't use anything with a lip or raised edge. Dimple dough by pressing it down with your fingertips. Work the dough outward toward the edges of the peel until you reach your desired size and thickness, about 1/4 inch. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, rosemary and sprinkle with remaining salt.

4. Place a baking stone, sometimes known as a pizza stone, in the oven. Set oven to broil, about 520 degrees. Slide pizza onto baking stone. Bake until the bubbles range from golden to deep brown in color, 10 to 12 minutes. If you don't have a stone baking it on a baking sheet is fine.

mexican chocolate cake

I've had two recipes done and photographed and I haven't yet had time to actually write them up and post them. I'm moving into a new apartment on Thursday, and next week is the last week of classes, which means that this is crunch time at school as well. While that doesn't quite explain why I haven't yet written up recipes that I made two weeks ago... it's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So, belatedly, I offer you chocolate AND cake. Hopefully this will make up for the delay.

mexican chocolate cake
The cake is crosshatched because I let it cool upside down. Oops.

This isn't the cake I wanted to make. I went to the Pike's Place market one weekend and ate a piece of mexican chocolate cheesecake and knew immediately that I must make one. After an hour on the internet, however, I still lacked an appropriate recipe. I didn't want to improvise or experiment with expensive cheesecake ingredients, so I figured I would start smaller. (I may, in the end, go back to the cheesecake place and ask them how it's done.) I could have waited until finding an appropriate recipe but by this point I had a serious hankering for chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne cake in whatever form I could concoct.

I found several mexican chocolate cake recipes, and I chose this one because it also had a mexican chocolate sauce. I sure do like chocolate sauce. Additionally, I worried (rightly so, as it turned out) about the level of spice flavor in the cake, and I knew this could be compensated for by adjusting flavors in the sauce. As it turns out, the cinnamon and cayenne pepper flavors in the cake were much weaker than I would have liked (although other people claimed they were well pronounced- I should point out that I like spicy things and tend to spice high). I made the sauce much more spicy and the cake and sauce complemented each other very well in the end, and provided options for people with varying spice tolerances. Another great benefit of this recipe is that it's easily made with things I have on hand-- a recipe that doesn't require a trip to the store is truly a wonderful thing (especially considering that I tend to make things with expensive ingredients and ultimately, I am a pauper. I need more recipes like this.)

As a note, the cake is vegan, but the way I made the sauce is not.

I would like to make this again in cupcake form and turn the sauce into a frosting.

Mexican Chocolate Cake
Slightly adapted from Dozen Flours

1 1/2 cups flour, sifted (I used cake flour instead of all purpose. If you decide to use cake flour, add an additional 4 tablespoons of flour to the recipe.)
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (1/2 will be very spicy!)
1 teaspoon. vanilla extract
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 8 to 9-inch cake pan or spring form pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Stir in the cinnamon, cayenne, vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water. Mix until just combined.

Pour into the prepared cake pan and cook for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.

Chocolate Sauce

2 ounces dark chocolate
1/4 cup water or soy milk (I used whole milk)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons vegan margarine (I used butter)
1/2 tespoons vanilla
1 to 2 pinches cayenne pepper

Melt dark chocolate with water or milk in a saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted. Stir in sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in margarine, vanilla, and cayenne pepper, to taste. The sauce is drippy rather than thick and should be poured over individual slices.


pasta with walnut pesto and arugula

After leaving you with such sad photos for the last two recipes, I resolved to make up for it with this one.

Basil is finally reappearing in the stores, and what better way to make use of it than pesto? This pesto is delicious, and I'd make it again on its own to eat with bread. The bright green color of the arugula and pesto in the pasta makes me feel like spring is really almost here.

pasta with walnut pesto and arugula

I thought making pesto would be hard, but really all you do is put a bunch of things into a blender and press a button. It's impossible to over-blend, so you can mix and taste and add and mix and taste.

walnut pesto

Once you've got the pesto finished, you cook some mushrooms (I used crimini, but any will do) in butter (I couldn't resist, but olive oil is fine too). The recipe says to use as garnish, but I really liked the earthiness the mushrooms added to the overall flavor, so I made a bunch so that they were a more substantial part of the dish. The mushrooms may take a while to cook, so start them at the same time you set the water on the stove to boil.


Make sure to get the walnuts nice and toasted, or they'll taste a little bitter.


The only bitterness you want is from the arugula (or whatever bitter green you chose); the bite of the arugula is a nice contrast to the mushrooms and pesto and it keeps the pasta from feeling or tasting heavy. Trader Joe's has arugula for a really reasonable price.


Sometimes, I make important notes on my recipes:


Pasta with Walnut Pesto and Arugula
From Food and Wine


1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound pasta-- something in small pieces, not long noodles
6 ounces watercress, arugula or other bitter greens, thick stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
Sautéed mushrooms, for serving


1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Let cool completely. Coarsely chop half of the walnuts and set the remaining toasted walnuts aside.
2. In a food processor, pulse the remaining walnuts with the basil and garlic until the walnuts are finely chopped. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin stream and process until the pesto is almost smooth. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and pulse until just incorporated. Transfer the walnut pesto to a bowl and season it with salt and pepper.
3. Add the broken lasagna noodles to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the drained pasta to the pot. Add the watercress and walnut pesto and toss well. Add the reserved pasta water and toss again until well coated. Transfer the pasta to bowls, garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese, the chopped walnuts and sautéed mushrooms and serve.


pumpkin bread pudding

I know this is the wrong season: technically it's spring, not fall. But in Seattle, it rains from November through May, so I figure my eating doesn't have to follow seasonal variation I don't actually get to experience.

I know, this dish isn't pretty either. Bread pudding is rarely, if ever, pretty. It doesn't even sound good, and for years the name itself put me off: what kind of sicko puts bread in pudding? Since my discovery of the tastiness that is bread pudding, I've seen recipes for bread soup. Bread salads, I actually kind of understand (I was always a lover of croutons), but soup? Really? Really.

pumpkin bread pudding

This bread pudding is like pumpkin pie meets bread pudding, basically, with a healthy gut-warming splash of bourbon. If that's not enough to make you try it, I don't know what is. Oh, well, it's really easy, too-- one bowl, one baking dish, one spoon. I prefer it to pumpkin pie now because there's no crust to mess with and I still get all my favorite flavors without the fear of failure that crust-making always inspires. Feel free to up the spices if you like; I usually double them.

pumpkin bread pudding

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, October 2007
Adapted again by Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2+ tablespoons bourbon (optional)
5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

While preheating oven to 350°F with rack in middle, melt butter in bottom of a 8-inch square baking dish. Once it is melted, take it out of the oven and toss bread cubes with butter, coating thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients. Pour them over buttered bread cubes in baking dish, stirring to make sure all pieces are evenly coated. Bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Eat warm.


flourless chocolate cupcakes

Okay, I admit it: I've been delinquent here. I haven't posted in ages, and now I'm going to give you a picture of some very sad-looking cupcakes. But they taught me a lesson, I promise.

flourless chocolate cupcakes, overbaked

I've been learning, over the course of baking with my oven, that I need to shave a couple of minutes off whatever the suggested cooking time for something is-- despite the fact that my oven thermometer tells me that my oven is at the correct temperature. Clearly the thermometer and the oven are in cahoots and they've decided that I simply do not need any more chocolate.

My new favorite adjective in baking is "flourless," despite the trouble with the last cake and these cupcakes too. The reason is that when you get these things right, they're phenomenal. I made these cupcakes again, three times. You know, to make sure I had the cooking time right. And because I'd eat them so fast it felt there surely couldn't have been a dozen on the tray five minutes ago. My evidence that they're so good? Even though I made them three times beyond that pathetic photo above, I never had the presence of mind to take another picture.

Here's the trick: Check them at six minutes. If you want a molten center, pull them out while the middles are still very shiny and carefully ease them out of the pan after they've cooled for about ten minutes and eat them right then. They will ooze deliciousness all over you. Once the six-minute cupcakes have cooled entirely, the middles will solidify into a slightly fudgy deliciously moist mass.
At seven minutes, the centers of the warm cupcakes will be solid. At eight minutes, they're overdone, but still entirely edible.

Use good chocolate if you have it. It's not entirely necessary, but it's worth it.

You can also make a salted toffee sauce for these, with or without hazelnuts. I made it without hazelnuts and the first time it was too salty, and the second time, i lessened the salt and it was too sweet. I guess I just don't like this toffee. I thought the cupcakes were perfect on their own, but feel free to adorn them if you feel compelled to gild the lily.

Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes
from The Bizarre Kitchen Incident. She got them from, surprisingly, Nestle.
makes 12 cupcakes

3/4 cup unsalted butter
8oz Nestle Chocolatier bittersweet chocolate (either morsels, or chopped bar form)
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 1 T sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 T AP flour

Preheat oven to 425*. Grease a muffin tin liberally with Crisco.

Place eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium-high speed with the whisk attachment until fluffy and light yellow, about 8 minutes. The mixture will drizzle into the bowl in a slowly-dissolving ribbon when it's been mixed enough.

While the eggs are being mixed: In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the chocolate and stir constantly, until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

Switch to the paddle attachment (or, if not using a stand mixer, a sturdy spatula).
Slowly add 1/3 of the chocolate to the egg mixture, stirring slowly. Once the chocolate is incorporated, add the rest of the chocolate and the flour. Mix on low speed until a somewhat thin batter is formed.

Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until set around the edges and slightly jiggly in the center. Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
Gently run a knife around the edge of each muffin and turn out onto a rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

Salted Toffee Hazelnut Sauce

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
1 t vanilla
1 t kosher salt

Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat, stir until the butter and sugar melt.

Continue stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a full boil - 5-7 minutes. Once it reaches a boil, let it boil without stirring for 1 minute.

Remove sauce from the heat and let cool about 10 minutes.

Spoon over cupcakes.