Saturday, August 24, 2013

Chocolate Pistachio, Almond, Cherry Bark

Chocolate Pistachio, Almond, Cherry Bark

The past couple of days, I have been craving baked goods.  I wanted to bake bread yesterday, but didn't have all the ingredients.  I wanted to bake cookies, but couldn't decide on which one and my butter was still in the freezer.

This is a simple recipe based on a recipe from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz.  You basically can make any type of bark that you desire.  I happen to love sour cherries and chocolate and have posted a granola recipe based on these two ingredients:  I also love the combination of apricots and chocolate, so will have to experiment with which nuts go well with those two.  To make it prettier and so people know what they are eating, I sprinkled some pistachios on top along with the sea salt.  The sea salt is not necessary if you are not a fan of chocolate and sea salt, but it brings the top alive and enhances the sweet and salty combination.

Chocolate Pistachio, Almond, Cherry Bark
Semisweet chocolate - about a pound
1/3 cup or more toasted whole almonds
1/4 cup toasted pistachios
1/3 dried sour cherries
Sea salt

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until just about melted.   Stir in the toasted nuts and cherries until everything is coated.  Pour onto a cookie sheet which has been lined with plastic wrap. Sprinkle sea salt and some of the nuts and cherries on top. Chill in refrigerator until cool.  Break and eat.

Summer Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Basil

Summer Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Basil

In the past year or so, I have come to love farro.  A few years back, I was visiting a friend of mine in Maryland.  We went out to breakfast and she ordered a porridge, but instead of the traditional oatmeal, it was made with farro.  I am not a fan of oatmeal as it seems like a bowl of mush without any flavor to it.  However, the farro was a different texture and held it's form, so therefore I was curious.

A few years later, I came across a simple bean stew which served the beans over cooked farro.  This was the first time I cooked it.  (That recipe is also on this  The white beans and farro complimented each other well.  The beans soft and the farro gave it some chew for better texture.  So recently when I came across farro as a cold salad, I thought I have got to try it.  This recipe is based off of one from The Kitchn's blog.

Summer Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Basil
1 medium vidalia onion, chopped
olive oil (I used a Greek extra-virgin from
1 cup farro
2 cups chicken stock
1/8 red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
 1/2 pint cherub cherry tomatoes (or other sweet cherry tomato), quartered
1/3 English hothouse cucumber, chopped into similar sized pieces to the cherry tomatoes
hand full of basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and add the chopped onion.  Cook for a couple of minutes.  Do not brown.  Add farro and cook for a minute; coat each grain.  Add chicken stock and stir.  Bring to a boil and cook until farro is chewy. (Mine took about 15 minutes.)  Let the farro cool.  Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Add the tomatoes, cucumber and basil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.  

Serves about 4

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tea Smoked Chicken

This is another recipe based on David Tanis' heart of the artichoke.  The smoking of the chicken was a rather unusual concept to me, but as I worked my way through this recipe, I kept coming back to smell the ingredients used to smoke the chicken.  Days later my garbage still smelled great....not that I would recommend smelling your garbage after using chicken, but I usually dispose of anything that will rot immediately.   I am working on making a compost which the ingredients to smoke the chicken would be a welcome addition.

I highly recommend this tea smoked chicken.  I am going to continue to experiment with this recipe and try other pieces other than bone-in chicken legs.  Though I think any part with skin would work well in this recipe.  You do need a close pan like a roaster with a lid to properly smoke the chicken else all the smoke will leave and not absorb into the chicken.

Tea Smoked Chicken Legs
1/2 cup tea leaves (I used a black tea blend)
1/2 cup rice (I used brown rice as that was what was in my cupboard)
 1/2 brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon star anise
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves, though I used some powdered as well
6 cooked chicken legs

Precook the chicken in broth with ginger, garlic and scallions.  This will take about an hour of simmering.  Line bottom of your container with aluminum foil.  Place all ingredients (minus the chicken legs on the aluminum foil.  Place a roasting rack over the spices and place chicken on the roasting rack.  Put the lid on.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Put the roasting pan on the stove over high heat.  At this point you cannot open the container or else you will loose your smoke.  Leave on high heat for about 2-3 minutes.  You should hear the spices (sugar) crackling and you should smell the spices begin to smoke.  Turn off heat and put in oven for 10-15 minutes.  It is suggested you open the pan outside to release smoke, or near an open window so as not to set off the smoke alarms.  These chicken legs are great cold as well.  Serve with a salad and additional veggies for a full meal.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Timballo Pasta with Fresh Ricotta

Timballo Pasta with fresh Ricotta

Like the chilaquiles, this recipe is based off of heart of the artichoke by David Tanis.  I was intrigued by the pasta bake and started to read about it.  Then I discovered even the tomato sauce was homemade for this recipe.  I took it one step further and made my own ricotta cheese as well as it is quick to make and tastes so good when made at home.  Plus, it is much cheaper than buying a pound of ricotta which has been in the store for who knows how long.  This dish also reheats very well, so leftovers are great for lunch the next day.  It does make a lot given that it is based on a pound of pasta.  I used elbows, but the original recipe states anelli which are rings, but I could not find them.  Once you have the sauce and the ricotta, this dish is quick to assemble and bake, so makes a good weeknight meal also.

Timballo Pasta with fresh Ricotta

1 pound pasta
olive oil
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
4 cups tomato sauce
1 pound fresh ricotta, room temperature
pecorino, grated
basil leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and boil your pasta for 12 minutes or as needed to reach al dente.  Drain and put in a large bowl.  Add some olive oil and season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Heat the tomato sauce.  In a large oven-proof cake pan, spoon half the tomato sauce and half the ricotta.  Pour in all the pasta.  Then pour the rest of the tomato sauce and ricotta on top of the pasta.  Sprinkle with the grated pecorino.  Heat in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until hot all the way through.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with more pecorino and fresh chopped basil.

Tomato Sauce
1/8 cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper
4 pounds ripe tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and chopped)
basil (a spring or small hand full of leaves)

Heat the oil in a heavy pot.  Saute the onion until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, salt, pepper and cook for about a minute.  Add the tomatoes and basil and let the sauce come to a boil for about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat and cook for 75 - 90 miuntes.  The sauce will be done when it is not too thin, nor too thick.  Remove from heat.  Puree with a hand blender until appropriate smoothness.  This sauce is able to be frozen for later use.  (Makes about 4 cups)

Friday, August 16, 2013



Six months ago if you had asked me what chilaquiles were, I would have given you a blank stare.  Sometime this spring I was talking to someone, they mentioned chilaquiles.  Since I love many different types of food, but Mexican food in particular, I was interested.  There are many different ways to make chilaquiles, so this will be just one version of what you could come up with depending on what you want to add to this breakfast dish.

This version is a twist from heart of the artichoke by David Tanis.  Ironically, I have owned this book for a little more than a year, but I don't recall reading about the chilaquiles.  At any rate when I unpacked some of my stored cookbooks, I was happy to come across this book for inspiration.  I find David Tanis' voice an interesting read.  Not only are the recipes well thought out, but they are more on the simplistic side of things.  This does not mean they are not time consuming, but taken in steps the dishes are easy to put together and have a wonderful cacophony of flavors.

This version of chilaquiles is quick to prepare, but remember to have your mise en place completed before starting or you will be scrambling since it cooks quickly.

Serves 1

Corn tortillas
olive oil
cilantro or parsley
1 egg beaten

Cut two tortillas into smaller pieces.  Heat a skillet with a little olive oil and fry the tortillas until crisp.  Add the chopped parsley or cilantro, scallions, chiles and salsa.  Add the beaten egg.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  You are ready to eat as soon as the egg is cooked to your liking.  This is very aromatic and will make you eager to dig in!  Note: if you double the recipe, be sure that your tortillas are crisp and the eggs don't make them soggy.

Celery Salad

This is another recipe I found when I was reading through Cook This Now by Melissa Clark.

I have always made a celery based stuffing for my turkeys.  I seems to use one or two stalks and then I have so much left over.  Fortunately, my grocery store frequently sells by the stalk, but I don't like to buy them often as they are frequently starting to wilt and I like to get the most fresh ingredients which means I can't buy just a stalk.  At the same time, I don't want to waste any food I buy and like to use as much of the item as I can.  If you have heard of the farm to table movement, they frequently use as much as possible of each item as well.  It is a good idea and if you are a more adventurous cook, you can make some really cool items from the leaf tops of beets or turnips or many vegetables.

At any rate this is a quick salad to put together.  Really the only two things that take time and relatively little of that are the roasting of the walnuts and the chopping of the celery.  This salad also convinced me to reintroduce walnuts into my cooking (though I am still not sold on them in baked goods).  You can also roast the walnuts on the stove top if you don't want to turn on the oven (though you might need more than one batch since you want the single layer).  You can also up the portions if you have more celery or more people.

Celery Salad

About 1.5 cups walnuts
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2- 3/4 teaspoon salt (try a flaky one for bigger chunks of flavor)
Black pepper to taste (I like a lot, but taste it and see how much you would like)
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
12 celery stalks, chopped finely (leaves and all)
Parmesan cheese to taste  (Good Quality - from a large round)

Toast the walnuts in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes, tossing in the middle.  Toast lightly until golden or aromatic.  Then chop into smaller pieces (or sometimes I break them into smaller pieces).  Whisk together the red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Combine the nuts, cheese and celery.  Toss with olive oil and red wine vinegar mixture.  Serves 6.