Category Archives: Cooking

The Sweetest Thing

I’ve heard a lot of diet tricks. Drinking a cup of tea staves off hunger. Chewing a piece of gum can satisfy a post-meal sweets craving (seriously, Biggest Loser?? Gum?). An apple, full of fiber, makes you feel fuller.

I think these tricks are crap. When I want a piece of coconut cake, no stick of gum is going to make me think, “Man, now THAT was a meal-capper!” And when I think these tricks will work and I don’t bring a little sweet treat with me to work for after lunch, I end up at the vending machine gorging on Twix and getting evil glares from my boss, who undoubtedly thinks I am some kind of sugar addict. So I thought, there must be some sort of less-sweet dessert recipe out there that will satisfy my sweets craving and also not have 1,000 calories per bite.

On the menu:
Dark chocolate brownies (Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Dark Chocolate Brownies)
Disclaimer: these are not your typical Duncan Hines fudgy, oily brownies. If you’re looking for a square of decadence, this is not it. But these are chocolatey, they are cakey, and one little square is enough to make me feel contented and sufficiently sleepy at 3PM. And that’s all I’m asking for.

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp canola oil
6 oz. plain yogurt (one small container)
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler, or in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. In another separate bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Add yogurt, applesauce, vanilla, and oil to eggs and sugar. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the other liquid mix. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until the batter is completely moistened.

Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour batter into baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
*I had to use a slightly smaller baking dish, and ended up baking these for 45 minutes, so do keep an eye on them. If you bake them for too long they will be dry and inedible. Gross.

As I said, these are not your Betty Crocker standbys; but they are sweet and cakey and only my thunder thighs will know the difference.

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I Love ’em All

Pancakes, that is. I. Love. Pancakes. Is it a simple batter? Can it be flipped using a spatula and a griddle? Is it flat and round? I will eat it, sir.

To celebrate the early acquisition of a highly coveted new cookbook, I picked a pancake recipe and hopped to. Amanda Hesser’s upcoming The Essential New York Times Cookbook is everything you could ever want from food in the New York Times. She has pulled recipes from literally every decade of the Times’ recipe section’s existence, tried the recipes out, and offered up her suggestions for making them delicious in the present day. I freaking love this cookbook. And I ESPECIALLY love the hilarious but still tempting recipes from the 1970s and 80s, most of which involve pickling and weird methods of serving eggs. This is the stuff, people. This. Is. The. Stuff.

On the menu:
Fresh corn griddle cakes with parmesan and chives
Serves 4-6
Adapted from Amanda Hesser’s version of Jack Bishop’s “If Corn’s Off the Cob, Use Your Imagination” from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, published by W. W. Norton, available in October 2010

4 medium ears corn, shucked
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbsp chives, snipped
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Working over a large bowl, grate the corn on the large holes of a box grater until the cobs are clean; discard the cobs. Add the egg, flour, cheese, chives, salt, and pepper to the corn. Stir until the batter is smooth. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper as needed.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Scoop up 1/4 cup of the thick batter and scrape it into the skillet, smoothing the mound to a flat pancake for cooking. Cook each pancake for 6 minutes on each side for best results (you want each cake crispy on the outside and cooked all the way through, unlike a traditional pancake that is more delicate).

Et voila! Crispy corn cakes that you can serve with virtually any meal. They would be lovely in a bread basket on the table at dinner with roast chicken and mashed potatoes, or warmed in the toaster with a pat of butter and maybe a little mango salsa over top. I was also thinking these would be phenomenal in place of an English muffin in Eggs Benedict. But then again… I am literally always thinking of Eggs Benedict.

Please don’t judge me.

Bon weekend!

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Peachy Keen

As I mentioned, I’m trying not to chunk-ify in the month of June, so here is a quick and simple and DELICIOUS dessert idea that my lovely friend Becca came up with to satisfy my crazy sweet tooth without killing my new health plan.

On the menu:
Grilled Virginia peaches with cinnamon and sugar
Serves 2

2 ripe peaches
1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Slice peaches in half and remove the pit. Heat up grill, or grill pan to medium/high heat. Spread butter on face of peaches and place face-side-down on the hot grill. Let grill for around 2 minutes. Remove from grill and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon while still hot.

Easy as pie, right? And honestly… it IS a pie! A peach pie. Without the buttery crust and 8 pounds of sugar. You could also make this even healthier by spraying the grill with cooking spray and leaving out the butter, or by using just cinnamon instead of the brown sugar and cinnamon. Peaches have so much natural sugar that comes out even more when you heat them, that you barely even need the extra sweetness. As a man in a coffee shop once told me, “You don’t need all that sugar! You’re sweet enough already!” And so are you, dear readers. So are you.

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I’ll meet you anytime you want, in our Italian restaurant

I’m just going to come right out and say it: if you don’t have a great sense of smell, then I feel really sorry for you. Your life is like a bowl of rice krispies that’s got the snap crackle but is missing the pop. Because when a batch of garlicky, pancetta-laden scallops are bubbling away in a hot oven and that glorious, buttery smell is wafting through the air… there is literally nothing else like it. Nothing.

On the menu:
Scallop Gratin (adapted from Ina Garten’s bay scallop gratin)
Serves 2

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
2 oz thinly sliced Pancetta, minced
3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley, plus 2 extra sprigs for garnish
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 Tbsp dry white wine, separated into 1 Tbsp (for topping) and 3 Tbsp (for the bottom of the baking dish)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 lb fresh sea scallops

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To make the topping, place the butter in a bowl. With an electric mixer on the lowest speed, add the garlic, shallot, pancetta, chopped parsley, lemon juice, 1 Tbsp of white wine, salt, and pepper and mix until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the 3 Tbsp of olive oil slowly, until combined. Fold in the panko with a rubber spatula and set aside.

Rinse scallops and pat dry with paper towels. In a non-stick skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium/high heat. Place scallops in skillet, with 1 inch between each. Sear on one side for 2 minutes, flip over and sear on the other side for 2 minutes.

Place 3 Tbsp of the wine in the bottom of a small baking dish and place seared scallops in the dish [NOTE: for best results, your scallops should be touching in the dish with little to no room between them].  Spoon the garlic butter evenly over the top of the scallops. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes, until the topping is golden and sizzling. Turn on your broiler and let the dish broil for 2 minutes, until browned. Garnish with parsley. Serve with crusty slices of French baguette.

*note: these photos were taken with Becca's incredible new camera with a food setting... apologies for the crap pictures from my own camera that will follow this post

Also note that this dish yields AMAZING dipping sauce so you’ll need plenty of bread to sop up all that goodness.

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A Fish of a Different Color

Lately I’ve been feeling a little… chunky. Not like sophomore year of college where I literally had to buy a new pair of pants whilst working at the mall because the pair I was wearing was cutting off my circulation, but… chunky. It’s bathing suit season, you know? Time to lay off the extra mayo and pancake appetizers at brunch. Forget I just indulged in all-you-can-eat gnocchi. It never happened.

It is in the spirit of lighter options that I experimented with tuna and planned a weekday lunch for myself that won’t lead to high cholesterol at the young age of twenty-COUGH.

On the menu:
Mediterranean tuna salad
Serves 2

1 can of albacore tuna in water (or 1/2 cup tuna steak, roughly chopped)
2 cups whole wheat pasta, cooked according to directions on box (I used elbow macaroni, but you can use any little chunky pasta)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mozzarella, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THESE DIRECTIONS THEY ARE VERY VERY COMPLICATED: Toss pasta with olive oil. Add tuna. Add fruit. Add cheese. Add zest. Add salt and pepper. Toss. Eat. Feel healthy. Be happy.

I like this in a bowl with a fork, but you could easily put this on some toasted Italian bread, or melted between two pieces of flat bread with the chunks of mozzarella binding it together. But, as I mentioned, I’m trying to fit into last year’s summer wardrobe and extraneous bread ain’t gonna help me there.

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Book It

I was fortunate enough to attend a panel discussion with some very influential people in the food writing world, including writers from The Kitchn, Tasting Table, and the New York Times. During the course of the discussion, there was much debate about the future of food writing and cookbooks. In ten years will printed books be obsolete? I am a total paper nerd and have to admit that I love the smell of an old library book, the weight of the Sunday New York Times under my arm, and the food-splattered pages of my oldest cookbooks. If you’re a traditionalist like me, you’ll wholeheartedly agree. Maybe you just let out a resounding “HEAR HEAR!” at your desk.

Maybe not.

In any case, below are my recommendations for cookbooks that you should not be without. You can Google “souffle recipes” but it just ain’t the same.

Applehood and Motherpie by Junior League of Rochester; an upstate staple, and an endless resource for amazing homemade dishes from appetizers and soups to entrees and desserts.

The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser; includes 1,000 plus recipes from the lauded newspaper's unrivaled history of culinary journalism. Available October 2010

Martha Stewart's Cookies by Martha Stewart Living Magazine; every cookie I have ever tried from this book has been incredible. So reliable.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child; because well... duh.

Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer; this is a kitchen standard and has a recipe for everything you have ever wondered how to make.

Someday I’ll add to this list “Food E. says EAT IT by Lauren E.” but for now… well… there you go.

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Meat and Potatoes: 2.0

Some things are better with mustard: ham and swiss, a ballpark hot dog, your sworn enemy’s favorite white silk blouse… Kidding. Promise.

When I stumbled across this recipe, I was smitten. As I mentioned, I’m a texture girl myself and this recipe is FULL of amazing textures. I complemented the steak with a simple warm potato salad, and there were clean plates all around. Warmed my little Food E. heart.

On the menu:
Mustard Crusted Beef Shoulder over arugula, green bean, red onion salad (Adapted from Epicurious.com)
Warm potato salad
Serves 4

Mustard Crusted Beef:

Beef:

1 1/2 lb beef shoulder
1 Tbsp salt
1/3 cup coarse-grain mustard
1 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salad:

4 cups roughly chopped arugula
1 small red onion, sliced very thinly
3/4 lb green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces

Dressing:

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Stir together mustards, brown sugar, pepper, and lemon zest.

Pat beef dry and season generously on both sides with salt. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown beef for around 2 minutes on each side.

Transfer to a shallow baking pan that has been coated in oil. Pour mustard mixture over the top of the meat so it is completely covered.

Roast beef in the oven for 30-35 minutes for medium-rare (NOTE: my cut of beef was about 1 1/2 inches thick; if yours is any thicker or thinner add or subtract a few minutes accordingly). Remove from oven and let sit for 45 minutes. (Why, you ask? See here).

Prepare salad while beef is roasting:

Place onion slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak for 30 minutes. Cook beans in boiling salted water until bright green and slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain beans in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking, then transfer to a large bowl. Add arugula to beans. Drain onion slices and pat dry.

Make dressing and toss salad:

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until completely incorporated, about 3 minutes.

Cut beef into thin slices, cutting against the grain of the meat at a 45 degree angle. Plate salad in layers: arugula, green beans, red onion slices, a Tbsp or so of dressing, and then beef slices.

Warm potato salad:

16-20 small red potatoes
1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Boil potatoes for around 20 minutes, until you can stick a fork in and it pulls out easily. Drain water from potatoes and let cool for 10 minutes. Cut potatoes in half and toss with mayo, dill, and salt and pepper. Serve warm alongside steak.

The brilliance of this meal is in the leftovers. You can slice up whatever beef is leftover, wrap it in foil, and stick it in the fridge. Separately wrap up the salad remainders, the potato salad, and the dressing and serve it all cold the following day. The flavor of the mustard will only marinate in the beef even more and that, my friends, is a good thing.

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