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Monday, February 19, 2018

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Seasonal Recipe of the Week
Everyone should have at least one great cheesecake recipe in their repertoire. This is my new fave! I love the crust made from lady fingers (instead of the uninspired graham cracker crust) with the inclusion of espresso powder and chocolate chips. I love the addition of mascarpone instead of just cream cheese. And I love the chocolate chips in the cake which give your mouth something to do. Cheesecake is easy to prepare, but make sure you really whip the cream cheese because lumps are unacceptable! Making sure the ingredients are at room temperature helps them blend together more easily.



Ingredients
1 7-ounce packages crisp, Italian-style ladyfingers
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
boiling water

Procedure
Position a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with foil and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Using a food processor, grind ladyfingers into fine crumbs. Add melted butter, espresso powder, and 1/4 cup chocolate chips then pulse until incorporated. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press to form a crust halfway up the sides. Bake until set, 8 to 10 minutes, let cool. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

While the crust cools, beat the cream cheese using an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar at high speed until smooth. Beat in the mascarpone, vanilla and salt. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips.

Set the springform pan in a roasting pan. Pour the mascarpone-chocolate chip mixture into the baked crust, then place the roasting pan in the oven. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the top is golden and the center is set but still jiggly, about 1 hour.

Let cool in the water bath for 15 minutes, then transfer the springform pan to a rack to cool completely. Refrigerate the cheesecake (still in the pan) for 6 hours or up to 2 days. Remove cheesecake from the springform pan and put on flat platter. You can decorate with some whipped cream with a little coffee liquor in it. Or melt some chocolate and do a little Jackson Pollock drizzle thingy.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Paleo what? Vegetable wraps!

Seasonal Recipe of the Week
Recently I visited Santa Fe and had a great time because my friends are the best! One of my favorite meals was surprisingly at Sweetwater Cafe with the lovely and talented Helga Ancona of KSFR fame. She recommended I try the spinach paleo wrap with turkey, sweet potato and some other stuff — and it was amazing! So as soon as I got back to NY, with the info the owner of the cafe was kind enough to share with me, I set about to figure out how to make the wraps and it was soooo easy! Sweetwater does the spinach version so I started with that and then branched out to other veggies. I think with the basic formula the possibilities are endless. Remember, depending on the moisture content of the vegetables used you might have to play with it a little.

 

Assorted Vegetable Paleo Wraps

Ingredients for Green Spinach flavor
4 ounces spinach
3 eggs
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large basil leaves
1 sprig tarragon leaves
2 sprigs fresh dill

Ingredients for Curried Carrot flavor
4 ounces shredded carrot
3 eggs
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Ras al Hanouj
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Ingredients for Beet and Dill flavor
4 ounces cooked beets, cut into cubes
3 eggs
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dill
2 tablespoons chives (add to batter at the end, do not purée into mix)

Procedure (for all flavors)
Pick one of the flavors above, then purée all those ingredients in blender until mixture is very smooth.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat (low to medium for the beet version) and spray lightly with oil. Ladle some batter into the pan then quickly tip the pan in a circle so the batter coats the bottom in an thin, even layer. Let cook you until bubbles rise to the surface (like in the photo above) and the edges start to come away from the pan and brown a little. Then flip over and cook the other side for 15 seconds. Do your best not to brown the wrap too much, so the vegetable color stays bright. Repeat with the remaining batter. Don't worry, the first few are always borked, even for me!

Wraps hold well in fridge up to 4 days.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Classics We Enjoyed this Holiday Season

Seasonal Recipes of the Week
Yes, I still hate Christmas, Chanukah, New Year's Eve (because everyone always fails at having fun), and even Kwanzaa. What can I say? I'm an equal-opportunity Grinch. I hate the stressful over-shopping, the insanity in parking lots, the parents lamenting about their materialistic kids (“I learned it by watching you, Dad!”), and the required overindulgences. BUT! I do love the getting together with friends and sharing a meal or a cocktail. So here are three recipes I made this year to share with neighbors and friends. They are all classics and can be served anytime. So sit back, watch the yule log burn on TV, and relax. Don't worry, it's almost over.

Crème Brûlée

Ingredients
1 extra-large egg
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Procedure
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. In a bowl, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together until just combined. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it's very hot to the touch, but not boiled. Now slowly add the cream to the eggs. Add the vanilla and orange liqueur, mix to combine, then pour into 6 to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.

Place the ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm.

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch (or under the broiler — watch it!) until the sugar caramelizes evenly. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

Tiramisù

Ingredients
2 cups hot water
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
3 tablespoons rum
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup dry Madeira
1 pound mascarpone (2 1/2 cups)
1 cup chilled heavy cream
36 crisp Italian ladyfingers
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Procedure
Stir together water, espresso powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and rum in a shallow bowl until sugar has dissolved, then set aside to cool. Beat egg yolks, Madeira, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, using a whisk or handheld electric mixer until tripled in volume, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove bowl from heat. Beat in mascarpone until just combined. Beat cream in a large bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Fold mascarpone mixture into whipped cream gently but thoroughly.

Dipping both sides of each ladyfinger into coffee mixture, line bottom of a 13 × 9 × 3-inch baking pan with 18 ladyfingers in 3 rows, trimming edges to fit as necessary. Spread half of mascarpone filling on top. Dip remaining 18 ladyfingers in coffee and arrange over filling in pan. Spread remaining mascarpone filling on top and dust with cocoa. Chill, covered, at least 6 hours. Let tiramisu stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving, then dust with more cocoa.

Hazelnut Linzer Tart cookies

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for decorating
3 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
3 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups hazelnuts, finely ground in processor (about 1 1/2 cups ground)
jam filing of your choice (I like to mix raspberry and apricot)

Procedure
In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. In a large bowl, beat butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, and citrus zest until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks. Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions, then beat in nuts. Gather dough into ball, then flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out half of dough on lightly floured surface to a 1/8-inch thickness. Using 2-inch round cutter, cut out rounds. Using 3/4-inch round cutter (or a shape that's about the same size, like I did), cut out the centers of half of the rounds to make rings. Transfer rounds and rings to prepared sheets. Gather dough scraps, chill, and re-roll to make more cookies. Repeat until all dough is used.

Bake cookies until golden, reversing sheets after 10 minutes, about 22 minutes total. Cool completely on sheets.

Arrange cookie rings on work surface. Sift powdered sugar over. Spread 1 teaspoon jam on each cookie round. Press rings onto jam on rounds. Can be assembled 1 day ahead. Store between sheets of waxed paper in airtight container at room temperature.

Do ahead: Before filling, you can store baked cookies airtight at room temperature up to 2 days, or freeze up to 2 weeks.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Santa Fe round-up — some things never change

Some Recent Restaurant Experiences
Hello there, my people! Last week I had a great visit to my old stomping grounds — Santa Fe, New Mexico. With the help of a large calendar, a pencil, a good eraser, Monica's patience, and my GPS, I managed to see around 15 amazing friends and eat way too much food. Thanks to everyone who fit me in their schedule and treated me to meals all over town! I thought it would be nice to do some mini restaurant reviews of some old favorites, updates on some new hot spots, and some general comments about the Santa Fe food scene, because that's why you love me!

Breakfast at Clafoutis

I love the huge new location in the once-dismal space that housed Body, a restaurant that depressed me with their bland cuisine and anemic waitstaff. The cafe was buzzing with activity and French energy. Who doesn't love a melodic "bon jour!" when you enter the room? I had a perfectly cooked omelette with ham and Gruyere, served with a croissant which pulled apart in a spiral of buttery goodness, as it should. Yes, I forgot about the nothing-stays-hot-for-long-at-high-altitude thing, so my tea was lukewarm, but not their fault. My lovely companion DK also treated me to a bag full of excellent French pastries to take back home to my hosts.

Lunch at Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen

I had eaten at this super-healthy, well-designed cafe before and found it to be okay, not great. While we were there, a group of smiling monks, draped in orange robes, came in and everyone got super excited (so I crossed that classic Santa Fe experience off my list). I am really not a fan of their operating structure: stand in line to order; try to find a clean table; then wait for your food which is brought by a food runner. Why can't that same person take my order?

Anyway, my lovely friend suggested I try the Paleo wrap so I rolled my eyes, then ordered it. When it arrived it was a beautiful bright green wrap filled with turkey, sweet potato, some greens, and frankly it was just delicious. This dish is really all about the wrap which was moist, slightly spongy, and a bit elastic (so it rolled beautifully). I complemented the owner and asked her how they made the wrap and she said spinach, arrowroot, and egg. Amazing! This is my next challenge to figure out how to make these and then to experiment with using other vegetables.

Dinner at Elōisa

This was a new, high-end dining experience for me. I had heard so much great buzz about this place. A high-visibility makeover of an old hospital into a posh hotel with a name chef, how could this be bad? Well first of all, when I entered the mostly empty room (granted, it was a cold Tuesday night in December) the first thing I noticed was the cans of soda and pre-made sandwiches and salads in a grab-n-go case by the door. Yes, it is in a hotel and they need to service the guests, but there is certainly a nicer way to present these items. It looked like an upscale 7-Eleven.

The room was cold, not just in temperature but design. The fork was ridiculous. The artwork was weird. My dining companion was mesmerized — and not in a good way — by a video piece with a slithering snake moving around in the brush. They sat us right next to the open kitchen which gave me a view of the back of a Robot Coupe mixer, a KitchenAid mixer, and a bowl of flour. Not exactly fascinating! Frankly, it still felt like the laundry room it once was.

The menu is small with some interesting-sounding items such as the Tortillas Florales, house-made corn tortillas with flowers in them, served with avocado butter. Wondered how amazing this would be so we ordered them — they were tortillas with guacamole. That's all. We also ordered the Turkey Albondigas with Pipian Sauce. They were so overcooked, hard, and dry we could barely chew them. But by far the entrées were the worst. My partner ordered the blue corn-crusted Pecos River Trout, and when they brought it to the table we both laughed at the presentation, it was the opposite of appetizing. I ordered the Elōisa Burger — when you are trying to get a handle on the competency of the kitchen, go for basics (like testing ice cream by ordering vanilla). Ordered my meat medium-rare, came out medium-well. Bacon was hard, maybe old, not crisp. Cheese and chile were okay, but the bun was thoughtless, and I think the potato chips came out of a bag. Not the least bit impressive. We skipped dessert and went home. When I told my hosts about the less-than-wonderful food they were surprised — they'd had good experiences there, on weekends. They agreed that the head celebrity chef was probably not supervising the kitchen on a Tuesday night, this could explain it.

 

Lunch at Pyramid Cafe

When I lived in Santa Fe, this place was almost always empty. It's still mostly empty, but that made it a nice quiet place to meet a friend with hearing difficulties. Food was okay. My chicken lemon soup with rice was 75% rice and not hot but still tasty. My dining companions enjoyed their choices and I had a good greek salad — how can you go wrong? Baklava was the star of this meal, although I question the addition of chocolate sauce.

Lunch at Vinaigrette

This was always one of my favorite spots in town. I love a well-prepared salad. As usual, service was slow and inattentive. The menu seems to stay the same over time, but if it works go with it. I ordered a salad with arugula, roast beets, goat cheese, and pistachio. When it arrived it was overdressed, there were no nuts, hardly any goat cheese, and the beets were overcooked (they reminded me of the ones you buy at the grocery store) and sliced thin on top of the salad. My partner enjoyed her chopped salad. Just felt a little like tired kitchen food to me, which does happen.

Shake Foundation parking lot experience

As anyone who has tried to park at Vinaigrette knows, the lot is a nightmare, even with the addition of those extra spaces around Modern General. So I headed next door to the large, empty lot surrounding Shake Foundation — Brian Knox's Shake Shack rip off. My thinking was buy something from them and that would justify me parking there. Wrong again! I went up to their window and for $3.75 purchased a cup of salted-caramel ice cream which was so artificial-tasting and low-quality I took one bite and threw it away. I then headed towards Vinaigrette, at which point one of the workers came out and yelled to me "I will have your car towed away immediately if you leave it here!" I said I just made a purchase and your lot is empty, can I pay you to park here, and she said "no." As I pulled out of their empty lot I saw another car doing the same thing, we rolled down our windows and she said "They are so mean here, I will never patronize them again." I agree.

Lunch at Milad Persian Bistro

This is a new restaurant (they opened in November 2016) located next to El Farol on Canyon Road. My friend and I met there on a cold winter day and their wood-burning stove would not light so it was nippy inside. That being said, our adorable waiter was charming and we enjoyed a very interesting and tasty meal. I had spicy carrot falafel and beet falafel which were both really good. They make their own pita bread which is admirable, but was unfortunately a bit bland and undercooked. My companion had a rice and chicken dish which was delicious. I also enjoyed an eggplant stew with a perfectly poached egg on top. I liked that they had items on the menu I had never had before, and it was very reasonably priced.

coffee and tea at Counter culture cafe

A Santa Fe institution. Yes, my tea got lukewarm in seconds. Yes, it was packed with locals. Yes, the parking lot is a nightmare. But it was nice to see the old hippies still making it work.

The problem with restaurants in Santa Fe

I get it — I lived it for 12 years. It's impossible to keep up standards with the crew going AWOL every other day. The Monday/Tuesday crew is not as good as the Friday/Saturday crew. Good ingredients are consistently hard to get. Dishwashers get bumped up to cooks, then to head chefs, out of desperation because they are hard-working and show up. Primadonna chefs get tired, bored, and burnt-out on a regular basis. And finally you still can't get a decent bagel — some things never change.

Home-cooked meals

The best part, thanks to Jen, Mary, Gabriella, and Monica. Wow, can my friends cook! Thanks to everyone who cared for me, cooked for me, and made me special tea to help with my congestion. There is nothing more wonderful then sharing a meal with dear friends, and for this I am forever grateful.

Thanks Santa Fe, see you later!