Primavera

Last Friday, as the snow pummeled Queens and I didn’t venture any further than my own block, Becca’s lovely husband, Giuseppe, whipped up a mushroom risotto that I want to eat every day for the rest of my life. Modeled on Giuseppe’s recipe, I created something similar tonight for dinner. And in light of the slightly warmer temperatures we’ve been having this week, I threw in a little green because I can not wait one more freaking day for spring to arrive.

P.S. Don’t let risotto scare you! It’s actually ridiculously easy.

On the menu: Giuseppe’s Mushroom Risotto with Asparagus
Serves 2 (I made this as a side dish with a lemon rosemary chicken that wasn’t super memorable, but risotto can totally take center stage in a meal if you so choose – just keep in mind, this might not be sufficient sustenance for 2 if it’s all you’re having)

1/2 cup arborio rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups chicken stock, simmering
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sized shallot, finely chopped
1 cup white mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup asparagus, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp butter*
3 Tbsp heavy cream*
3 Tbsp grated parmesan

Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat (keep in mind risotto triples in volume, so make sure your pan is big enough – I’ve made that unfortunate mistake before). Add mushrooms and let soften for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and shallots, constantly stirring for 3 minutes. Careful not to let the garlic burn. Add the rice, stirring so all the grains are coated in olive oil. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock at a time, adding more as the grains soak up the liquid, stirring occasionally. When adding the last half cup of chicken stock, also add asparagus. Once the risotto has soaked up all the stock, add the butter and cream and stir until blended. Plate, sprinkle with parmesan, and eat immediately (risotto turns into a gummy mess if you let it sit too long).

*Note that the butter and cream are optional. While this is not exactly a “healthy” dish (someday I’ll make something Dr. Oz would approve of…) it becomes infinitely more so without the addition of butter and cream, and you’re not really sacrificing that much. But I will tell you… everything is better with butter and cream. Everything.

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Holding Out for a Hero

I have a great aunt who lives in Arizona. And to put it nicely, she’s slowly losing it. Yesterday I received a “gift” from her.

My favorite is The Golden Boy: Serve him immediately or he’ll leave you flat.

And if you’re especially lost, read Dr. Friedman’s other book, Smart Cookies Never Crumble.

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Thick Chocolate Love

“She loves Nutella.” Google: Nutella cake. Nigella Lawson recipe. Done.

Nutella is like the magic spread. It’s good on Wonder bread. It’s better on a baguette. And it’s the best baked into a cake with chocolate and ground hazelnuts, topped with chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. I wanted to celebrate the engagement of my friend Nikki with a cake that celebrates all that is gooey and decadent and chocolate-hazelnut-spread.

I found this recipe on one of my absolute favorite kitchen blogs, TheKitchn. This is not your mom’s Betty Crocker box cake. It is flourless, it has six eggs, and it’s laden with melted chocolate and nuts. Melted chocolate + 6 eggs – flour = dense brownie like mass of deliciousness personified. I was never good at calculus, but that’s math I can do.

On the menu: Nutella Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache
Adapted from Nigella Lawson, very slightly adapted from The Painted Peach

Cake:
6 large eggs, separated
pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 13-ounce container Nutellla
1 tablespoon rum
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Ganache:
4 ounces whole hazelnuts
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup Nutella

Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl (preferably metal), whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. In another bowl, cream the butter and Nutella, then add the rum, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in melted chocolate.

Add a blob of beaten egg whites to the chocolate batter, and mix gently until well-combined. Fold in the remaining whites, one-third at a time, very gently but thoroughly. Pour into springform and bake for 40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting toothpick, which should come out mostly clean; lightly pressing finger into top to check for a slight bouncing-back; and observing edges beginning to separate from pan. Let cool completely, in pan, on a rack.

Ganache:
Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet shaking them around frequently. Do it for about 4 minutes, or until they are lightly browned, then let cool completely.

Chop chocolate and put in a heat-proof bowl. Heat cream over medium heat until bubbles appear around the edge. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for one minute. Add Nutella and stir until combined. Let cool. Remove the rim of the cake pan and pour the ganache over the cake. Spread for a glossy finish, letting the ganache drip over the edges of the cake. Sprinkle toasted hazelnuts over the top.

And then proceed to eat your face off.

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Just a taste

I have a post that I’m dying to share but seeing as the dish is a “gift” of sorts, I don’t want to ruin the surprise in case the giftee happens to read this blog. And so, friends, I give you a teaser. Check back tomorrow night for the big reveal…

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The Only Pancake Recipe You Will Ever Need

Pancakes are my favorite food. Ever. Potato pancakes, flapjacks, scallion pancakes, crepes, Dutch baby… you name it. I love it. But truth be told, I very rarely order plain old pancakes out at a restaurant because they’re usual chewy and giant and gross. They do not compare to The Adirondack Cookbook’s pancake recipe.

Trust me, kids. This is the only pancake recipe you will ever need.

On the menu: Adirondack banana pancakes with caramelized banana topping

Makes 5 skillet-sized pancakes
*Note: you don’t have to add banana to the pancake batter itself. This is my go-to recipe for pancakes with or without the fruit.

Pancakes
1 1/3 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp melted butter*
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 Tbsp butter

Mix dry ingredients. Blend together milk, butter, and egg. Add liquids to dry mixture. Add banana and mix well. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a non-stick skillet, coat the pan. Pour batter in skillet 1/2 cup at a time. When the pancake bubbles, flip and cook for approximately 2 minutes on the other side.
*Let the butter sit for a few minutes after you melt it, otherwise when you add it to the cold milk it will harden. When you do add the warm butter, temper it (i.e. add a tiny bit at a time to the cold milk, constantly stirring). Don’t worry if the butter hardens – it’ll melt inside the pancake anyway, forming delicious little butter pockets. Mmm butter pockets…

Caramelized Banana Topping
3 bananas, sliced
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Saute bananas with sugar over low heat and stir for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until a syrup has formed. Add cinnamon and saute for 2 minutes.

Note: the caramelized topping works with tons of different fruits. I’ve done this with pear, apple, banana. It would work with raspberries (just add a little orange juice to cut the sweetness a bit), blueberries, strawberries… bacon. You heard me. Caramelized bacon. Mmm bacon…

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What’s good, Cupcake?

A brilliant thing has been happening to me. I’ve been getting paid to bake. You heard me. PAID. To BAKE. It’s unheard of and I am loving it. This past weekend I baked a batch of cupcakes for the cast of the show that my good friend Becca is working on. She told me I could go nuts – so I thoughts nuts. Peanuts.

On the menu: Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate peanut butter ganache frosting
(this recipe is c/o Cupcakeblog.com – I just added the peanut butter)

Makes 24 cupcakes

5.4 ounces dark chocolate (I used 50% cocoa Lindt bars)
22 tablespoons butter
1 and 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
4 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350. Melt chocolate and butter over a water bath. Add sugar and stir, let mixture cool for 10 minutes. Beat in an electric mixer for 3 minutes. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into the mixture and mix until blended. Scoop into cupcake cups and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
5 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tbsp butter (room temperature)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter

Chop chocolates and transfer into a heat proof bowl. Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined. Add butter and vanilla and stir until combined. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixture and let cool for 10 minutes. Sift powdered sugar into the mixture and beat until combined. Continue to beat with an electric mixer until lighter in color and slightly stiffened. Beat in peanut butter until combined.

I can not say enough about how amazing Cupcakeblog.com is. I aspire to be this woman.

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John DeLucie is Hungry

Tuesday night I attended a roundtable discussion at NYU with John DeLucie, co-owner of The Waverly Inn. DeLucie graciously gave up over two hours of his time to sit with a room of about thirty NYU students and alums to talk about how he got into food, his path through the gauntlet of New York City restaurants, and finally what it’s like to own one of the most sought-after restaurants in the country. “Brangelina hasn’t showed up yet,” he quipped. While the DeLucie discussion definitely stirred the “I want to be in food” feelings in me, it also taught me a couple things.

  1. Restaurants are the only businesses in the world where your boss can spit on you and burn you. And you just have to take it.
  2. Graydon Carter is another co-owner of The Waverly Inn and because of this, if you’re on the cover of VF, you get a meal at the WI. Sometimes I think my chances are better at being on the cover than getting a rez…
  3. “Food can change the world.” Apparently this had to do with sustainability, global warming, etcetera, etcetera… I like to believe he meant that if we all ate cupcakes daily we’d be a much happier planet.
  4. Servers at The Waverly Inn sign confidentiality agreements. The way he described the business actually gave me a greater respect for a bourgie, exclusive, celebs-only kind of place.
  5. John DeLucie thinks food blogs are dumb and diminish the effect that real food critics actually have on the masses. I thought that was… well… lame.
  6. Will Smith once asked a server at The Waverly Inn to sit down and join him. While this was frowned upon, let’s recap: homeboy sat down with the Fresh Prince and that is awesome.
  7. They are accepting applications.

Also check out John DeLucie’s book, The Hunger.

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