Monday, August 30, 2010

Lemon Squares (Gluten- and Dairy-Free)

Can you believe it's been nearly a week since I posted a recipe laden with fat and sugar? Who's running this blog, anyway? To put the earth back on its axis, I'll share my recipe for the lemon squares I made yesterday for my mom, who generally avoids dairy and wheat.

Lemon Squares (Gluten- and Dairy-Free)
Yields one 9 x 13" pan of lemony goodness

For the walnut shortbread crust:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour or rice flour
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold 

For the lemon filling:
4 eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons rice flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon (tip: zest one of your lemons before juicing it)
Powdered sugar for decorating

Make the walnut shortbread crust:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly coat a 9 x 13" baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, walnuts and salt. Rub in the shortening with your fingers, working quickly. The mixture should resemble coarse cornmeal and just come together between your fingers. Press it evenly into the bottom of the prepared dish and about a half inch up the sides. Chill for 10 minutes in the freezer or 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

3. Bake on center oven rack for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Make lemon filling while crust bakes:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, rice flour and cornstarch. Add the lemon juice and zest and whisk to combine. Repeat with the eggs.

3. Pour the lemon filling into the prepared shortbread crust. (A handy tip is to pour the filling directly into the hot crust without removing the pan from the oven, but please be careful.) Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for about 20 minutes or until the filling is set.

Allow to cool completely before slicing. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Cupcake Kit Giveaway Take Two: They're So Cute, I Can't Give Them Away

I gave her a full 10 days, but Meredith never claimed her Cute Kittens Cupcake Kit so I selected a new winner.

Actually picked the new winner: commenter #20, Becki D.

Congratulations, Becki! Please send an email with your shipping information to foodiecomesclean [at] gmail [dot] com, and I'll send some cuteness your way.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Forbidden Rice Salad with Chickpeas and Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

Do you know what this is?

I looove forbidden rice. Its nutrition profile is virtually identical to brown rice, but its taste and texture are more mild and less nutty. Plus it's prettier thanks to the presence of anthocyanins, the water-soluble flavonoids responsible for its deep pigment as well as that of blueberries, black raspberries and acai.

I'm not going to ramble on about the benefits of consuming anthocyanins because it seems the jury's still out as to whether their antioxidant properties translate from the test tube to the human digestive tract. But you can't argue with something that tastes good, is good for you and turns a gorgeous purple hue when you cook it. Bonus: you sound fabulous and smart when you serve it. (What's this, you ask? Oh, just some forbidden rice. You know, the anthocyanin-rich ancient grain once reserved for Chinese royalty.)

Does YOUR rice turn purple when you cook it?

Now that you've bought yourself some pomegranate molasses, I recommend you use it to dress a salad of forbidden rice, chickpeas and hearts of palm. 

Forbidden Rice Salad with Chickpeas, Hearts of Palm and Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette
Makes about 6 cups

1 cup forbidden (black) rice
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup hearts of palm, drained and cut into chunks
2 medium shallots, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook rice: place 1 cup rice in medium pan with 1 3/4 cups cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

2. Transfer hot rice to a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or chilled.

Note: If you don't have pomegranate molasses, you can omit it -- the olive oil and lemon provide enough flavor -- or substitute balsamic vinegar and a bit of honey.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lamb Chops with Pomegranate Molasses

To further demonstrate that I don't only make and eat sweets, I hereby present my easy go-to dish for when we want comfort food, which is most of the time: lamb chops, roasted baby potatoes and broccolini.

Lamb is ubiquitous in South Africa -- the arid Karoo region produces arguably the most mild-flavored lamb in the world and you can buy it at gas stations (no joke) -- but I've never much cared for it and my husband isn't a fan of the pungent stuff here in the States. So I have a trick, if you will, for mellowing the flavor: pomegranate molasses. It's not easy to find, but is well worth a trip to a specialty market or the Internet. (I buy Sadaf brand from, which has but one ingredient: California pomegranates.)

Pomegranate molasses is brilliant because you can use it in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Much like balsamic reduction -- but better -- it's a great component in salad dressings and sauces and is equally delicious simply drizzled over ice cream or strawberries.

And drizzling is exactly how I use it to flavor lamb chops.  Season your chops with salt and pepper, grill for about 5 minutes on each side (for medium), remove to a platter, and generously drizzle with pomegranate molasses. Booyah. Delicious.

To make the potatoes, simply toss them with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, arrange them on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for about 35 minutes. After 20 minutes I move the potatoes around so they get brown and crispy on both sides.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rubber Belly Tomato Seed

Baby Maggie

I've thoroughly enjoyed Summer Fest 2010, particularly the inventive and entertaining recipes over at Simmer Till Done. Cherry Tomato and Maytag Blue Beignets? Yes, please.

I had every intention of contributing a post on Wednesday for Tomato Week -- perhaps cioppino or a tomato tart -- but every time I sat down to write about tomatoes, all I could think about was my most vivid childhood memory, of sneaking out of the house early one morning and eating cherry tomatoes from our garden.

It must have been the August a couple of months before my second birthday, because I was old enough to walk but my brother hadn't yet been born. (Meeting him the following April after his middle-of-the-night home birth is the second most vivid memory from my childhood.) Wearing only a cloth diaper, I climbed out of my crib, creeped out of the house and toddled down the flagstone path to our backyard garden.

I don't actually remember the climbing out of the crib part, but I vividly recall standing among the rows of beans and snap peas and tomato plants, plucking cherry tomatoes straight from the vine and smashing them into my mouth. And then I was back in the house, peering over the the edge of my parents' bed on my dad's side, asking with raised arms to be picked up.

I remember my dad taking in the sight of my rubber ball of a tummy streaked with the tomato seeds and juice that pooled in my belly button, and laughing and calling me Rubber Belly Tomato Seed. And my little toddler self squealing with delight at my silly new nickname.

That last month my dad was in the hospital, I would hold his hand during the increasingly frequent procedures to drain fluid from his abdomen. It was a lengthy and anxiety-producing process involving a resident with hopefully steady hands and a very long needle in close proximity to vital organs. And it required my dad to lay very, very still.

To lighten the mood and conjure happy thoughts, I'd playfully point to his swollen belly and whisper, "Who's the Rubber Belly Tomato Seed now?" And we'd talk about that morning so long ago when he picked me up from the side of the bed and held me up above him, tomato juice raining down as he lay there on his back. And he'd tell me that his favorite thing in his whole life was scooping up his children and holding us close.

So I suppose my recipe for Tomato Week goes something like this: get some cherry tomatoes (preferably homegrown and still warm from the morning sun), smash them in your face, let the juice and seeds run down your torso and into your belly button, and hug someone you love. Because tomatoes, like life, are messy and juicy and sometimes best savored in your underwear.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cherpumple Love

I love me some Charles Phoenix, Sandra Lee's much more clever (and satirical) soulmate. (I was reminded of this by my Twitter feed today. Thanks, Twitter!) I think my next baking project should be his masterpiece the Cherpumple. Or should I make his latest creation, the Inchezonya? I can't decide. Wait, yes I can. Reagan, please make the Inchezonya. I'll handle the Cherpumple.

Grilled Trout with Lemon and Rosemary

I knew I'd be housebound while The Headless Hound recovered from minor surgery on Tuesday evening, so I stopped by Whole Foods for some fresh trout on my way to pick her up from the vet. I've been wanting to make grilled trout with lemon and rosemary ever since some friends made it for us a few weeks ago. It's such a simple dish to prepare -- the key is to get your fishmonger to clean and debone the fish for you -- but because of my increasing focus on photographing everything I make, I'm not blogging much about weeknight meals due to time constraints and bad lighting. (You wouldn't know it from looking at this blog, but I do cook and eat things that aren't laden with butter and sugar.)

By the way, do you have a fishmonger? What qualifies someone as a fishmonger? Does one have to work at a fish market or does manning the seafood counter at Whole Foods count? These are the deep questions I ask myself on random Tuesday nights...

Grilled Trout with Lemon and Rosemary
Serves two hungry people and one sedated dog

4 whole trout (about 1/3 pound each), cleaned and deboned
Olive oil
Coarse sea salt and pepper
2 lemons, sliced
4 large sprigs fresh rosemary

1. Rinse fish and pat dry. Rub fish inside and out with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stuff with lemon slices and rosemary.

2. Grill over medium heat for about 5 minutes on the first side, then gently turn over and grill on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Remove the lemon slices and rosemary from the fish cavities and grill the lemon slices and fish for another 2 to 3 minutes. (Removing the lemon slices ensures the fish cooks through.) Serve with grilled lemon slices and fresh lemon wedges for squeezing.

I served the trout over herbed orzo. I won't write a recipe because I honestly just threw a bunch of remnants from the refrigerator into warm, cooked pasta -- the last bits of pesto, the last quarter jar of Kalamata olives, a few crumbles of feta cheese, and generous amounts of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.


1. I don't care much for rosemary in my food (too overpowering). Next time I'll probably stuff the trout with thyme or dill. Butter and capers would be a nice finishing touch. (There I go with the butter.)

2. I massacred the trout because we need a new grill grate and heating element. The fish stuck to the grate and went up in flames and fell to pieces when I moved it around. But the nice thing about trout -- and grilling whole fish -- is that it's very forgiving. The end result was still moist and flaky and delicious.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

National Peach Pie Day and Individual Peach Crumbles

According to my Twitter feed, today is National Peach Pie Day. What I'm about to tell you might lead you to believe I'm a hater who harbors a weird childhood-trauma-induced grudge against peaches, pies and food "holidays." Au contraire. I adore all of these things (er...the peaches, pies and food holidays, not hate, grudges and childhood trauma), and used to work the peach and apricot harvests at a family farm during summer breaks from high school and college. (I practically lived on still-warm-from-the-summer-sun-and-so-juicy-I-needed-to-change-my-shirt-after-eating-them peaches. Bliss.)

But you should know (and you probably already do -- I'm not reporting the news here) that National Peach Pie Day is the invention of an industry advocacy group, most likely the National Peach Council, and is intended to increase peach production. You see, I used to be a PR flack who worked on campaigns for food industry clients hawking everything from frozen vegetables to those disgusting who-do-they-think-they're-fooling powdered egg substitutes used in food service.

True story: I once accompanied an actor dressed up as a giant slice of pizza on a statewide media tour to promote "Real California Cheese on Pizza Month." The annual assignment was given to every rookie account coordinator during his or her first year on the job, and was part of an ongoing marketing campaign so successful it's become the subject of a case study at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business. We'd get the Governor of California to officially declare October "Real California Cheese on Pizza Month," hire said actor to don said pizza costume and become "Cheesy," the "official spokes slice" for Real California Cheese, and travel around the state delivering pizza and talking points to morning radio DJs in major media markets. Oh the glamour.

While I loved working with recipe developers, food stylists and photographers on news bureaus and such, I was conflicted about my work with commodity food associations funded mostly by factory farms (and their federally-subsidized surpluses). Not that trade advocacy groups are so wrong in theory, but in practice they're much more interested in winning ADDY Awards than, say, bettering the lives of farm workers and animals.

So I "celebrate" National Peach Pie Day with a hefty dose of skepticism. (Although according to my limited research, the National Peach Council is pretty grassroots and has a minuscule budget, which may explain why it's National Peach Pie Day and not Month.) But let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. Local farmers markets are teeming with late harvest varieties such as Sweet September and Autumn Flame, so pick up a dozen (preferably organic) peaches, make something simple like individual peach crumbles, and savor the last sweet bites of Summer.

Individual Peach Cobblers
Makes 4 to 8 servings depending on ramekin size

For the filling:
12 medium peaches, peeled* and cut into large chunks
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (or to taste)
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or to taste)
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (wheat or gluten-free) OR 1 tablespoon corn or tapioca starch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the crumble topping:
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (wheat or gluten-free)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter or vegetable substitute, very cold, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange oven-safe ramekins on baking sheet and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the peaches, sugars, flour or starch, cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla. (Depending on the sweetness of your fruit, you may need more or less sugar.)

3. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Rub the butter into the mixture with your fingers until it resembles a coarse meal.

4. Spoon peach mixture evenly among the ramekins, filling each about 2/3 full. Top with the oat mixture and bake on center oven rack for about 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool slightly and serve with ice cream, yogurt, whipped cream or creme fraiche.

*Most recipes will instruct you to dip peaches in boiling water to loosen the skins. I find this to be unnecessary (and messy) with ripe peaches, which I peel with a paring knife or vegetable peeler.

Note: Peach crumbles are my husband's favorite dessert and I always have some on hand in the freezer. They keep, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and/or aluminum foil, in the freezer for a month or two. Reheat in oven at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes (or until filling is bubbling) or in the microwave for 2 to 4 minutes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cutest-Ever Cupcakes

Remember those cutest-ever cupcake kits I gave away?  Yesterday I used them to make the cutest-ever cupcakes.

I adapted Candace Nelson's recipe for Sprinkles' Strawberry Cupcakes from because honestly, why reinvent the wheel. The recipe yields exactly 12 cupcakes, is easy and doesn't require ingredients you wouldn't ordinarily have on hand. Perfect.

Please note, there's nothing -- nothing -- healthy about these cupcakes, which is why they're a once-in-a-rare-while treat.

Sprinkles' Strawberry Cupcakes
Adapted from Candace Nelson via

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened strawberry puree, from about 2/3 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (thawed)
1/4 cup lowfat or whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 whole egg, room temperature
2 egg whites, room temperature

For the frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, firm and cool to the touch but not cold
Pinch salt
1/2 lb. (about 1 3/4 cups) confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened strawberry puree

Make the cupcakes:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with super-cute paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the strawberry puree, milk and vanilla. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat to combine.

5. Stop the mixer and add the flour mixture. With the mixer on low speed, drizzle in the liquid ingredients as the flour mixture incorporates. Beat until just combined.

6. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin and bake on the center oven rack for 22 to 26 minutes or until the cupcakes spring back when gently pressed with your fingertip. (My cupcakes baked for exactly 26 minutes and I rotated the tin front-to-back halfway through baking.) Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack.

Make frosting and assemble cupcakes:
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and salt until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add half the confectioner's sugar and beat until combined, then repeat with the remaining sugar. Add the strawberry puree and vanilla and beat until puree is evenly distributed, being careful not to incorporate too much air. The frosting should be thick like ice cream.

2. Frost, decorate, eat.

P.S. Meredith has yet to claim her cupcake kit. YO, MEREDITH! Send me an email with your mailing address so I don't have to raffle off your kit to someone else!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cupcake Kit Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered my first-ever drawing for one of two cutest-ever cupcake kits!'s drawing service selected these winners:

Nanny Shanny

Congratulations! It looks like we won't have to resort to a duel, as Nanny Shanny's preference is for the birds (ha ha) and Meredith is smitten with kittens (haaaha).

Nanny Shanny and Meredith: Please send an email to flourchildblog [at] gmail [dot] com with your mailing address.

My legal team (i.e., me) insists I post screen captures from the drawing. The list of entrants is a scroll box that I had to open in a second window, hence the multiple captures.

I had a lot of fun with this drawing and hope the winners send me photos of their new cupcake kits in action. Or blog about it. (Pretty please?)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fresh Fig Tart with Walnut Shortbread Crust and Mascarpone Cream

A couple of Fridays ago we did some entertaining at our house, and then the next day we were entertained at someone else's house. On both occasions cheese, walnuts and fig jam were served. I've been fixated on baking something with...wait for it...cheese, walnuts and figs ever since.

In my mind I've been setting up a photograph of a golden tart crust filled with quartered fresh figs, over which chunks of Roquefort cheese and walnuts are scattered and honey is being drizzled. (Okay. I'm obsessed.)

So this week I set about turning my fantasy into reality, albeit with some tweaks. I incorporated the walnuts into a shortbread crust, married the crust to the figs with a mascarpone cream, and ditched the Roquefort. Although it's pictured in the photos, the Roquefort overpowers the rest of the tart. You may as well gnaw on a hunk of blue cheese, which isn't such a bad idea, but then what's the point of the tart?

I pretty much designed the recipe for this tart in my head, but because I consulted some sources for validation along the way, I've credited them below.

To simplify the endeavor or adapt it to your dietary preferences, you could use a commercial pie crust mix, dough or shell (e.g., a gluten-free and/or vegan variety). You could even do away with the crust entirely -- the mascarpone cream is that good. But do give the walnut shortbread crust a try. It's easy and delicious.

As for the filling, vegan cream cheese is probably a good substitute for the dairy, but I haven't tried it. So if you do give it a whirl, let me know how it works out!

Fresh Fig Tart with Walnut Shortbread Crust and Mascarpone Cream
Makes 6 to 8 servings

For the walnut shortbread crust (adapted from Fine Cooking):
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup toasted, finely-chopped walnuts

For the filling (adapted from Epicurious):
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey, plus more for serving
4 tablespoons fig jam, divided
12 to 18 fresh figs, quartered (or halved, if small)

Make the crust:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, mascarpone cheese and vanilla. The mixture should be the consistency of maple syrup and not a paste, so thin it with a scant splash of milk if necessary. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a food processor pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Stop the processor and scatter the butter over the flour mixture. Process until the butter bits are the size of baby peas. Add the walnuts and process until the mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add the egg yolk mixture and pulse just until a dough begins to form.

3. Press dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a fluted tart pan (I used a long rectangular pan but a 9" round tart or pie pan will work nicely). Smooth and even out the dough with your hands, an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Run a rolling pin over the top of the pan to trim dough flush with rim, then prick the bottom and corner seams with a fork. Chill until firm (10 minutes in the freezer or 30 minutes in the refrigerator).

4. Bake on center oven rack until golden, about 25 to 30 minutes, then remove from oven to cool in the pan on a rack. (The crust will keep, tightly wrapped in the pan, at room temperature for up to two days while you fiddle with photography setups after work. It will also keep in the freezer for up to a month. Just be sure to thaw it at room temperature without removing the wrapping to prevent it from becoming soggy with condensation.)

Make filling and assemble tart:
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the mascarpone cheese, sour cream or yogurt, lemon zest, honey and 2 tablespoons fig jam. Remove the tart shell from the pan and evenly spread the mascarpone cream in the bottom of the shell.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons fig jam until syrupy. Arrange quartered figs over cream (perhaps in concentric circles if the tart shell is round) and brush with the warmed fig jam. Serve with a light drizzle of honey if desired.

Note: The crust absorbs quite a bit of moisture from the filling, so it's best to assemble the tart immediately before serving.

Cupcake Kits So Cute, I'm Giving Them Away!

I love all things Meri Meri, and because my brother and his family are visiting this weekend I had to buy these cutest-ever cupcake kits for a baking project with his kids.

[Update: I bought these kits at Urban Outfitters, and I've seen them at Sur La Table. Visit Meri Meri's online store for the complete collection of 32 themes including dogs, robots, pirates, cars, princesses and mermaids. Mermaids!]

And now for the giveaway. I went a little crazy and bought two of each kit. To win one of the extra kits, simply leave a comment on this post with the kit you want (either Tweet Tweet or Cute Kittens). Entries will be accepted until 12 noon Pacific Time Friday, August 20. Two winners will be selected using the random number generator. (Yes, I know my blog comments aren't numbered. I will assign numbers to comments based on the order in which they are posted.) In the event both winners want the same kit, we'll have a duel. (Kidding.) We'll figure it out.
Good luck!
P.S. This post and giveaway are not in any way sponsored by, or affiliated with, Meri Meri.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Orecchiette with Turkey Sausage and Pan-Roasted Corn

Heard in our kitchen last evening:

Husband: There's nothing to eat.
Me: There's tons of food in the house.
Husband: There's food, but nothing to eat.
Me: Challenge accepted.

I'd like to say I had to dig deep for this one, but it was a no-brainer.  Our refrigerator provided inspiration in the form of four ears of corn and a package of turkey sausages we didn't get around to grilling this weekend, and the rest of the ingredients were already on hand. (The bacon was a surprise, actually.  My brother recently gifted us some home-cured and -smoked bacon, and it totally makes this dish.)

Served with a green salad, this is the perfect meal for the cold, gloomy evenings we've been experiencing at the beach this season. The corn and red pepper are bright and sweet and summery, while the bacon, sausage and pasta are warming and comforting.  The husband loved it. (Overheard at the dinner table: "This is restaurant-quality." Booyah.)

A few notes about substitutions: if you're vegetarian, you could easily swap out the bacon for a vegetarian substitute, but I mean it when I say the bacon (or "bacon") makes the dish.  Its smoky flavor imparts the umami that takes it from "meh" to "aah!"  Baby tomatoes would be a delicious addition, and you could swap out the sausage for roasted baby potatoes or white beans. As for the pasta, I have yet to come across gluten-free or whole-grain orecchiette, so if you want to go that route, look for shells.  You want a pasta shape that cradles bits of corn and shallot in every bite.

The lone red pepper piece on the rim of the bowl kills me.

Orecchiette with Turkey Sausage and Pan-Roasted Corn
Serves six

1 lb. orecchiette
4 slices bacon
1 20-ounce package lean Italian-seasoned turkey sausage, removed from casings
2 large shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
Fresh kernels from 4 ears corn
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded, grated or shaved
4 cups baby arugula
Salt and pepper
Greek yogurt or sour cream (optional)
Chopped chives, for garnish (optional)

1. Fill a large pasta pot with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Add pasta and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. (About 10-12 minutes or according to package instructions.) Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Do not rinse the pasta. (Depending on your timing, you will either add the pasta to the pan as in Step 3, or return it to the pot. If returning pasta to the pot, toss with a teaspoon or two of olive oil to keep it from drying out.)

2. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Set aside to drain on paper towels. Crumble the bacon when it's cool enough to handle.

3. Pour bacon fat from the pan and return it to the flame. Crumble the sausage into the pan and saute until browned, breaking up any large chunks. (Try not to stir the sausage too much, otherwise it won't brown.) Add the shallots and corn and saute until they begin to caramelize. Add the red pepper and saute for about a minute. Add the cooked pasta and toss to combine, followed by the Parmesan, 1 cup reserved pasta water (from Step 1) and the arugula. (The starch in the pasta water, combined with the Parmesan, creates a sauce of sorts that brings everything together.)

4. Remove pan from heat. Crumble two-thirds of the bacon into the pasta mixture and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream and a sprinkling of bacon and chives.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Everyday Chocolate Cake

I approach this entry with the assumption that you follow Smitten Kitchen and want to make most of what Deb makes. Or if you don't want to make what Deb makes, you want to take photographs like she does. Or if you don't want to... Oh heck, I'm exhausted and my point is, I recently made Deb's Everyday Chocolate Cake. Twice, actually: once for dinner guests on Friday, and again to photograph on Sunday. (I'm stealing -- from where, I can't recall -- a phrase which explains this predicament perfectly: our mouths were quicker than my camera.)

I was keen to make this cake because I suspected it would be similar to the chocolate pound cake I've wanted to recreate from my days working at Cocolat. The recipe doesn't appear in any of Alice Medrich's cookbooks, but I somehow knew Deb's cake would be close.

Deb adapted her recipe from At Home With Magnolia and streamlined it into a one-bowl endeavor. I of course tweaked Deb's adaptation to be more in line with my baking methodology and because the addition of buttermilk to the butter-sugar-egg mixture causes it to curdle and separate. (This is not a fatal flaw, as the batter comes back together upon the addition of the dry ingredients, but wonky batter distresses me.) I also added one teaspoon dark rum and two teaspoons instant espresso powder to enhance and deepen the chocolate flavor.

I suspect my changes make my recipe more like the Magnolia original, which I've purposefully avoided looking up until after I post this. (I do what I can to keep myself entertained.) My recipe isn't exactly Deb's (it might be Magnolia's?) and my photos are a far cry from hers, but at the end of the day, this is a divine and easy cake that closely resembles my beloved Cocolat pound cake. But don't take my word for it. Go make your own.

And please don't hate on the bamboo backdrop in my unedited photos.

Everyday Chocolate Cake
Makes one loaf

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature*
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon dark rum (recommended: Myers's)
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
3/4 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder (recommended: Valrhona)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk,** at room temperature*

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and lightly coat a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugars and salt, scraping down the sides and bottom as needed. Stop the mixer and add the egg, vanilla, rum and espresso powder. Beat until thoroughly combined.

3. In a medium bowl, sift (yes, I usually whisk but you need to sift this mixture to remove any cocoa lumps) together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder.

4. With mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture followed by half the buttermilk, repeating with the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk.

5. Scrape into the prepared loaf pan (the batter will be thick) and bake on middle oven rack for 60 to 70 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out almost, but not bone, dry.

I should note that Deb reports testing and tweaking her recipe to combat the loaf rising and then sinking in the middle; mine sunk as well, even with my increased leavenings. No biggie. The cake was still delicious and pretty.

*If you want to make this cake at time when you haven't left a stick of butter, an egg and a cup of buttermilk on your counter for an hour or two, it's easy to get these ingredients to room temperature in a flash.
-- Butter: melt two scant tablespoons butter and add to the rest of the stick (sliced into tablespoon measurements) in the bowl of your electric mixer. Cream until uniformly softened and fluffy.
-- Egg: immerse in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes.
-- Buttermilk: microwave on high for 10 to 15 seconds. Stir before using.

**If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own by stirring 1 teaspoon white vinegar, lemon juice OR cream of tartar into 1 cup warmed lowfat or whole (not nonfat) milk. Let sit until curdled, about 10 minutes.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


You know how I go on about being such a bad photographer and subject you to my wretched iPhone photos and act like it's cute and funny? (It's not.) I'm happy to report this is about to change, thanks to the Phototasting workshop I attended yesterday at Cube Cafe and Marketplace.

Hosted by four lovely, knowledgeable and talented food bloggers -- Pam at Rants & Craves, Claire at The Kitchy Kitchen, Tony at SinoSoul and Jessica at Cube -- the workshop introduced me to nerdy essentials like white balance, ISO, aperture, shutter speed and exposure. Our hosts addressed composition, lighting, styling and post, and taught me how to use my cameras: a circa 2001 Nikon Coolpix 5700 and my newer but still outdated Canon PowerShot SD750. (My iPhone was banished to my handbag, where it will remain whenever food photography is in play. You're welcome.)

Along with approximately 20 other delightful participants -- many who are food bloggers -- I practiced my new found skills shooting and sharing a delicious four-course regional Italian meal focused on seasonal ingredients.

How did I do? You decide.

(The following images were shot with my Canon SD750 point and shoot and are straight from the camera. I haven't gotten around to downloading the images from my Nikon.)

First Course
Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach with Buffalo Mozzarella, Six-Year Balsamic and Olive Oil

Second Course
Black Truffle Pizza with Mozzarella and Fried Egg

Third Course
Pancetta-Wrapped Porchetta with Creamy Polenta and Roasted Broccoli

White Nectarine Shortcake with Lemon Verbena and Fresh Cream

I have a long way to go before I can brag about my food photography, but I think it's safe to say I've vastly improved. I'm chomping at the bit (or porchetta as it were) to learn and practice so much more. Now if only I could persuade my hosts to let me follow them around so their awesomeness could rub off on me. But I'll settle for stalking their blogs, and am definitely signing up for their next workshop.