Monday, February 25, 2013

in the direction of the setting sun

The air had cooled last Thursday just enough for me to open the kitchen door to the backyard and watch the little one play.  My husband, sitting at the small bistro table centered on the patio, was talking about his workday.  Listening, I looked up from my stewing chickpeas and noticed the rosy glow radiating from the outside.  The branches deepened against the sky's glow, thin silhouettes against a veil only Mother Earth & God could create.  The tiny snow white flowers on the pear tree had become a splendid mauve, blushing with delicate beauty.

I gasped and ran toward the door.  I looked to the west and saw a magnificent rose colored sky filled with lavender and orange.  I quickly grabbed my camera and watched the lavender and rose fade to a deep carrot orange.  My heart fluttered, my soul soothed.  Westward, I thought, westward-I craved.  And my heart wanted to follow the direction of the setting sun.  Westward.

Friday, February 22, 2013

a lenten meal: coriander scented alaskan cod with swiss chard

Despite my two previous posts I really have been eating well.  I try to incorporate fish into my diet once or twice a week.  I am a big Pacific salmon fan.  While living in Idaho, I became spoiled with fresh wild salmon (and it didn't hurt that my neighbor was a fisherman-it was his occupation not hobby).  Sometimes though, I like to enjoy a milder flavored fish and that is when I turn to cod (I prefer Alaskan Cod).

When I make cod, I serve it with greens on top.  Because of its mild flavor and seasonings, I find the two together quite complimentary.  The cod is gently seasoned with toasted coriander and cumin, salt and pepper.  The greens (usually Swiss chard) are sauteed, brightened with lemon and have an added kick from crushed red pepper. Served with a wild rice or quinoa, this dish would be a very lovely Lenten meal.

Coriander Scented Cod with Swiss Chard
 serves four

for the fish
4-4 ounce Alaskan Cod fillets, with skin on
1/4 teaspoon whole coriander
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin
Salt & Pepper
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  1. Place coriander and cumin into a dry pan over medium heat.  Toast spices until they are fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and place into a spice grinder.  Grind spices until coarsely ground.
  2. Season fish with the spice mixture, salt and pepper.
  3. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Place fish, skin side down onto skillet and cook for 5-6 minutes.  Turn fish over and cook for 2-4 minutes more, until just opaque in the center.
for the greens
1 bunch Swiss chard, remove the ribs and stems and tear leaves into pieces
1 clove of garlic
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 lemon, zested
2 tablespoon Calamata olives
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper
  1. Wash and dry your greens thoroughly.  Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 20 seconds.
  2. Add chard by the handful, letting it wilt between each addition.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Chop olives and mix with lemon zest.  Add to the chard.
Assembling the plate:
  1.  Place a fillet onto a plate.  Spoon chard over the fish.  Top with more olives or squeeze lemon over the fish.  Serve with quinoa or wild rice.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fastest Fudge Cake

Fastest Fudge Cake Instagram Shot
As if you hadn't had enough chocolate indulgence this past week.  Believe it or not, I did not succumb to my dark master (the cocoa bean) this Valentines.  I did make this cake for a little wedding shower though.  My BIL loves ganache, so I made this cake for him.  It seemed to be a hit. 

It is really simple to make (though my instructions below seem extensive).  There is no need to break out the KitchenAide, it is a simple bowl & stir recipe.  Ganache is always simple to make.  Simply bring heavy cream to a boil, pour over chocolate and stir.  This recipe really is representative of simple elegance.

Fastest Fudge Cake
serves 8-10

1 cup flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1//4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted butter, warm
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (extract may be substituted for paste)
1/2 cup hot tap water
 Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)
  1. Lightly butter the bottom of  an 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan and line it with parchment.  Lightly butter the parchment.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Sifting only if the cocoa powder remains lumpy.  Set aside
  3. In a large bowl, combine the warm melted butter and brown sugar.  Add the eggs and vanilla and stir until well blended.  Add the flour mixture all at once.  Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir only until all the flour is moistened.  Pour the hot water over the batter all at once.  Stir only until the water is incorporated and the batter is smooth.  Scrape batter into the pan.
  4. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.
  5. To unmold, slide a paring knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan.  Invert the cake and peel off the paper liner  Turn the cake right side up and cool it completely on a rack before glazing it with ganache.
Chocolate Ganache

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (I use Guittard)
  1. Place chocolate into a mixing bowl.  Pour heavy cream into a small saucepan over medium heat.  Once heavy cream begins to boil pour it over the chocolate.  Stir the mixture until it is all incorporated and smooth.
  2. Let ganache sit out at room temperature until it has cooled and thickened slightly but is still pourable.
Cake Assembly
  1. Spoon a dollop of corn syrup or honey onto a cake board to assure your cake does not slip off of the board.  Place cake on a cake board (my local bakery sells them for $1).  Take a serrated knife and trim the cake board so it will be the exact same size as the cake.
  2. Place a small bowl upside down onto a rimmed cookie sheet or large platter (making sure it is larger than your cake).  Place your cake on top of the bowl (you've just made a homemade Lazy Susan).
  3. Pour ganache over the cake, starting from the center of the cake and working your way outward in concentric circles.  Glaze will run off onto the cookie sheet and can be used for another use.
  4. Place glazed cake onto a cake platter and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until ganache has set.  Decorate with berries.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

devilishly delicious (recipe: meyer lemon bars)

Wholesome Update:  I've been doing really well, eating well and enjoying my food.  Savoring flavors and experiencing textures, discovering my likes and dislikes.  For the most part I've been good, though I regularly sport a little devil on my shoulder that prompts me to eat a bite of candybar or sneak a lemon square, but honestly I have made a drastic improvement on what I choose to nourish my body.

For years I've wanted to share my lemon bar recipe with you and today is the day I finally do it.  I have to admit, it is probably my favorite treat made from my kitchen.  Bright and bold, tart and tangy-it really is hard to turn away from these bites of sunshine.  I use Meyer lemons, a hybrid between a lemon and a mandarin or common orange.  It has a wonderful balance of tart and sweet and is a great ingredient to use in desserts.  If they are not readily available to you, use a common lemon and add another 1/2 cup sugar to the filling.  So now you know what my big cheat has been this week.

Meyer Lemon Bars
source:  Barefoot Contessa Parties, Ina Garten

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
pinch of kosher salt

6 extra-large eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 cup flour

Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. For the crust, mix all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on low, until a dough forms.  Dump the dough into a a 9x13 inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2 inch on all sides.  Chill until firm.
  3. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Leave oven on.
  4. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.  Pour over the crust and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the filling is set.  Let cool to room temperature.
  5. Cut into squares or triangles and dust with confectioner's sugar.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

nature walk: texture

Just a few shots to share tonight.  Hoping they will remind you to look at the ordinary scenery you encounter daily and stop for a moment to really discover that it just might be extraordinary & beautiful afterall.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

an outing

This is the look he gets when we say the word "hamburger" 
Once a superhero, always a superhero (no matter where we are)
Relaxing by the river
Deep in thought

Friday, February 1, 2013

Field Trip: Gristmill River Restaurant

Texas Tough
Ribs with Jack Daniels Sauce
 Nestled under the old water tower, peering amongst the oak trees, high upon a bluff over looking the Guadalupe River sits the Gristmill River Restaurant in the Gruene (pronounced "green") Historic District.  The New Braunfels, Texas restaurant is located in an old two-and-a-half story brick boiler room, a surviving portion of a 19th century cotton gin that was destroyed by fire in a 1922. The Gristmill also is listed on The National Register of Historic Places.  It is a very popular get-away for Texans and offers a laid back casual dining experience.

This happened to be where my husband wanted to dine for his birthday last weekend.  I believe he dreams about the half rack of Jack Daniel's Ribs and of course that is exactly what he got.  They were quite delicious, I'll admit I snuck two pieces off his plate.