Saturday, December 27, 2014

Yuletide Roundup - Christmas 2014

Baccala Salad with Sweet & Hot Cherry Peppers, Photo:NK
Buon Natale! Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all! It's time for our yuletide wrap up - just a quick recap of some of the dishes we enjoyed this season.  

For Christmas Eve we went with the traditional Feast of The Seven Fishes. My mom hosted and she did a great job. To check our Italian Christmas Eve Menus for the past three years, click HERE, HERE and HERE

This year, we were treated to smashing seafood salads to kick off the multi-course dinner. I contributed the Baccala Salad pictured to the right. You can find the recipe by clicking HERE

Next came a fantastic Calamari Salad

Calamari Salad, Photo: NK

Looks good, right?

But no seafood dinner would be complete in our family without Linguine with Clam Sauce, easily my favorite dish of all time (recipe HERE), which we often like to follow with a main course of Rao's Lemon Sole, just as in previous years

Classic Linguine with Clam Sauce, Photo: NK

This is his put down your camera face

My mom made super adorably presented goody boxes filled with Christmas Cookies. 

For dessert, we kept it simple with delicious Italian Pastries from an excellent bakery called Natale's

We need to leave space for Christmas Dinner, you know?  

Sfogliatelle, Cannoli, and Napoleon, Photo: NK 

Speaking of Christmas, my mom in law made it tasty as ever. We were treated to, among other things, a lovely Filet of Beef and a really great Salad with Red Pears and Pumpkin Seeds - I am surely going to try and recreate it some day. 

Filet of Beef & a Pear & Pumpkinseed Salad, Photo: NK 
And there you have it, as fast as it came to us, Christmas was complete. I hope you too enjoyed a holiday season filled with only good things and good food. Here's to lots more cooking in the new year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Wonder - Salad With Smoked Gouda, Pecans & Cranberries

Winter Greens With Smoked Gouda, Pecans & Cranberries, Photo: NK
Today we are sharing our new favorite cold-weather salad (some others we've enjoyed are here, here, and here), because sometimes, you just don't want your salad taking a back seat. 

An exciting salad is the perfect foil for a simple main, in our case, this juicy pork chop pan fried in our amazing Lodge skillet and seasoned with Salt, Pepper, and Paprika. If you don't already own a cast iron skillet, I highly recommend you treat yourself to one. 

In general, whenever you're looking to take your salads from boring to fab, just use this simple formula:

Seasonal Greens

Seasonal Fruit (dried or fresh)
Cheese (favorites like Grated Pecorino, Blue Cheese, Goat, Feta, or Gouda)

Today's winter salad uses sturdy greens (baby Kale and Hearts of Romaine), chunks of creamy Smoked Gouda, and tart, vibrant Dried Cranberries to lend a little holiday  chutzpah. A simple Buttermilk Dressing mellows all those big flavors (and we made this deliciousness with the leftover Buttermilk). We pops of red and green, it's also visually appealing enough for company.We hope you'll add it to your seasonal rotation! 

Ready to enjoy. Photo: NK
Winter Greens With Smoked Gouda, Pecans & Cranberries 
Serves 4

For the Salad:
3 ounces of Baby Kale
1 Heart of Romaine, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2-3 Ounces Smoked Gouda, cut to a bite-sized dice
3 Tablespoons Dried Cranberries
1/2 Cup Pecan Halves, Toasted

For The Dressing:
1/4 Cup Buttermilk
1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon White or Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1. In a bowl, Toss Kale, Romaine, Gouda,  and Cranberries. 

2. In a separate small bowl, whisk Buttermilk, Mayonnaise, and Vinegar. Slowly whisk in oil while stirring vigorously until emulsified. Add a little Salt and Pepper to taste.

Dress and toss Salad a Tablespoon at a time. Do not over dress. Toss in Pecans, stir and enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday Homemade - Dark Chocolate Stout Mini Bundt Cakes

Dark Chocolate Stout Mini Bundt Cakes, Photo: NK
My name is Samantha, and I am addicted to Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa.

It's true. I never considered how sinfully good this Cocoa could be, until I got this idea to make Dark Chocolate Brownies. They were such a success (and so simple that I've easily made them 5 more times since I first created the recipe), I thought I might apply the same logic to a majorly alluring dessert I'd come across. 

You see, my thoughts of late have been consumed by cake, Chocolate Stout Cake, to be exact, from a bakery called Ovenly in my hometown of Brooklyn. It's called Brooklyn Blackout and it's made with Brooklyn Brewery's Chocolate Stout. Wanna see it? Hold onto your seat and click HERE. I mean, you could probably just die happy now, am I right? Chocolate Stout is the secret sauce. Alongside rich Dark Chocolate Cocoa and a dollop of molasses, it's what makes this amazing cake so deeply chocolatey.  

Boxing up my homemade holiday treats, Photo: NK

Because it is the season for holiday gifts of food (check out last year's homemade sweet), I decided to create a mini, giftable version of Ovenly's insanely good confection. These Dark Chocolate Stout Mini Bundt Cakes would be the perfect treat for the special people in my life. 

Good thing several of those special people were all in one room just yesterday for our annual holiday potluck brunch. 

The event would be the perfect chance for me to lightly adapted Fine Cooking's recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake. I put my own stamp on it by adding Dark Cocoa and chunks of good quality Bittersweet Chocolate. I also amped up the Chocolate factor by using Chocolate, rather than regular, Stout. In a pinch, Guinness or something similar would work just fine in this but why not go for double the Chocolate beer-y goodness?? I opted not to glaze these already rich minis with ganache, although I am sure that would be heavenly. A simple dusting of Confectioner's Sugar would be a nice touch too. Whatever you decide, you won't be disappointed by the deeply decadent flavor of these cute little cakelets. 

Important Note: our mini bundts were made in an extra small individual "bite sized" Bundt Pan. Cook times will vary a bit depending on the size of mini bundt pan you use. Of course, the original recipe is for one large Bundt, so that's always an option if you are making it for a single recipient (or better yet, you!).You can even line cupcake pans with paper liners and bake this batter cupcake style. If you do so, I world recommend glazing or icing them. Cream Cheese Icing feels like the right move.

Annual Holiday Brunch, Photo: NK

The only thing nicer than a table full of good food and desserts...

Clockwise from top left: Peppermint Oreo Truffles, Dark Chocolate Stout Mini Bundt Cakes, and Chocolate and Brown Butter Salted Rice Krispie Treats, Photo: NK 

is being able to share it all with your best friends. 

Dark Chocolate Stout Mini Bundt Cakes
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Makes approximately 18 bite sized mini bundts or 1 large cake

1 1/4 Cups Chocolate Stout (like Brooklyn Brewery or Samuel Smith's) don't count foam
1/3 Molasses (not blackstrap)
1 2/3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
1.5 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda 
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/4 Cups Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
1.5 Cups Packed Light Brown Sugar
3 large Eggs at room temperature
4 Ounces fine quality Bittersweet Chocolate very finely chopped (at least 70% cocoa)

Optional Glaze: 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream & 6 Ounces Semisweet Chocolate. Click HERE for the how-to. 

1.Remove Eggs from the fridge and allow Butter to soften to room temp. 
2. Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. 
3. Butter your mini or large Bundt Pan and lightly dust with Cocoa. 
4. In a small pan over high heat, bring Stout and Molasses to a simmer. Turn off heat and let stand. 
5. Into a large bowl, sift Flour, Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and Salt. 
6. Using a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer, cream the Butter until very smooth, approximately one minute. With the mixer on medium, beat in in Brown Sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes (scrape down the bowl once or twice during). 
7. Now beat the Eggs into the Butter mixture, one at a time, stopping to scrape down the bowl after each addition. 
8. Turn the mixer to low speed and alternate adding the Flour mixture and Beer Mixture to the bowl, beginning and ending with Flour. Scrape down the bowl periodically, and put the mixer on medium for thirty seconds at the end to ensure the batter smooth. Stir in the chopped Chocolate. 
9. Pour into pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. If using Mini Bundt Pans fill only 3/4 of the way at most. The batter will rise as it bakes. If there is any overflow, the bottoms of the cakes can be easily trimmed off after cooling. 
Cook Times:
For a Mini Bundt Pan, bake 25 minutes or more,
For a Cupcake Pan, use liners and bake about 23 minutes,
or for a large Bundt, cook time will be more along the lines of 40 minutes but check it at 35 minutes. 
~You will know it is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean except for a few moist crumbs.
10. When cake is finished, invert onto rack and transfer to a platter. Best served slightly warm.