26 February 2010

Ridiculous Double Chocolate Tart

Given the choice between sweet and savory, I prefer not to choose. But, if I absolutely must, I suppose I've always been a savory girl at heart. The chocolate tart I made this week, though, might just have forced me over to the dark side.

A month or so ago a measuring mishap (usually what results when I attempt to bake) saddled me with a few dozen too-buttery-to-eat chocolate cookies. Not one to waste any food that might even be passably edible, I decided to freeze them, thinking I'd eventually use them to make a cookie crumb crust or something. Let's just say that frugality has its rewards. Ground up in the food processor and then pressed into a tart pan with a removable bottom, these cookies made just the right foundation for a deep, dark, ridiculously rich chocolate tart.

I copied the filling from a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, one of my fave food blogs. Check it out here: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/11/dark-chocolate-tart-with-gingersnap-crust/. I promise you will not be disappointed with any of Deb's recipes! I usually like my chocolate unadulterated, particularly when it comes to additions like cinnamon but here it works. If you make this, and I highly suggest you do, don't forget the dollop of softly whipped cream to, you know, cut the richness of the chocolate.

Ridiculous Double Chocolate Tart

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 10 servings


about 1 1/2 cups of chocolate cookie crumbs (maybe those nabisco wafers you make icebox cake out of?) plus 1/2 stick salted butter melted

8 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 32 cookies), coarsely broken
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, melted

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used a bag of chocolate chips, no chopping)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Softly whipped cream, for serving

For crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Finely grind gingersnap cookies in processor (yielding 1 1/2 to 1 2/3 cups). Add melted butter and process until moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.

For filling:
Combine finely chopped bittersweet chocolate and heavy whipping cream in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove saucepan from heat. Whisk egg yolks, egg, sugar, flour, ground black pepper, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Very gradually whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until smooth and blended. Pour chocolate filling into crust.

Bake chocolate tart until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 30 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart pan sides and cool tart completely.

Cut tart into thin wedges and serve with softly whipped cream.

21 February 2010

Lentil Minestrone Soup

It's a delightfully sunny day here in Austin (I'm writing this outside, barefoot, and in a t-shirt) but it's been cloudy and cold for days now. Perfect soup weather. Which is why I whipped up this lentil soup on Friday and have been enjoying it ever since.

Although they tend to wreak havoc on my digestive system (sorry, TMI, I know), I really love lentils and I eat them anyway. As beany things go, they take such little effort--no soaking required--and they cook up in no time which is a major plus in my book. I learned not too long ago that there are several different varieties of lentils available. The common brown lentils that you can get in a bag at the grocery store are the ones I'm most familiar with. They tend to soften a lot and break apart as they cook making them great for thick lentil soup. French green lentils are smaller and stay more intact when cooked--I like using them for salads and I chose them for this soup because I wanted it to be more minestrone-like and brothy. But really, any lentil will do.

This recipe comes from Deborah Madison's
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, a great inspiration source for vegetable recipes for both veggies and meat-eaters alike. Although I pretty much followed the recipe to a T (!! perhaps a first!!!), it's ripe for improvisation. Toss in a few more veggies if you have some hanging around (I added mushrooms). Meat eaters might want to saute some chopped pancetta in with the veggies or some fresh sausage. Spice variations would be just fine too--I'd definitely recommend the addition of some crushed red pepper or fresh peppers for some spice. Like most any soup, this one gets better with age so enjoy it the day after you cook it, and the next day, and the next...

(4-6 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra to finish
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 cup diced celery
salt and pepper
1 cup French green lentils, sorted through for rocks and rinsed
Aromatics: 2 bay leaves, 8 parsley branches, 6 thyme sprigs
9 cups water or veggie stock (I used water)
Mushroom soy sauce to taste (didn't use)
1 bunch greens (I used chard but could use mustard, broccoli rabe, spinach, kale)
2 cups cooked small pasta (shells, orecchiette, etc.)
shaved or grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in soup pot with the onion. Saute over high heat, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 10 mins. Add tomato paste, parsely, garlic, vegetables, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook 3 minutes. Add lentils, aromatics, and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer partially covered for 30 mins. Taste for salt and add pepper. Add soy sauce to taste. (soup may taste a little bland at this point but it gets more flavorful w/time). Remove from heat and remove aromatics.

Boil the greens in salted water until they're tender and bright green. Remove, drain, and chop coarsely. Just before serving add the cooked pasta and greens to the soup and heat through. Serve w/cheese and olive oil drizzle, fresh herbs to taste.

15 February 2010

Slammin' Salmon

I know it's practically sacrilege to admit this but I'm not a huge fan of the salmon. It's just usually too, well, salmony. I've been known to make exceptions for the fresh caught wild Pacific salmon in the Bay Area and I've recently, finally, developed a taste for lox. But salmon in a can is still a really hard sell. I want to like it. I try, I really do--it's just so darned economical and good for you! Over a year ago now I split a six pack (Costco!) of canned, wild Alaskan salmon--the really good boneless, skinless kind--with my sister, thinking they'd be a handy protein source to have on hand in the pantry. And until today that's where they have been, silently mocking me and my over-eager "you gotta spend to save" Costco ways. Well, I'm glad to report that I have won the battle of the salmon yet again folks, all thanks to an Eating Well recipe (they've had a slew of real winners lately, you should check it http://www.eatingwell.com/).

It's a salad, hardly what you might call a real recipe, but it's a bit out of my normal salad pattern and possibly yours too so I'll go ahead and post the full write-up. The combo of root veggies and salmon make it hearty enough for my winter dinner needs but it would also perfectly round out a fancier meal with a bowl of soup and some hearty bread. So don't be afraid, dig out that dusty can of salmon--I promise, this is good!

Salmon & Roasted Vegetable Salad
(4 servings)


  • 6 cups cubed (1/2-inch) peeled root vegetables, such as potatoes, turnips, carrots and beets
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard (used Dijon but I think the whole grain is a better choice)
  • 1 teaspoon minced anchovy fillet or paste
  • 8 cups mixed salad greens ( I used Romaine 'cause I like my salads crunchy)
  • 2 6- to 7-ounce cans boneless, skinless wild Alaskan salmon, drained and flaked
  • 2 scallions, sliced (I omit)
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Toss root vegetables in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir and continue roasting until soft and golden brown in spots, 13 to 15 minutes more.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, anchovy and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each pepper and salt in a large bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the dressing in small bowl. Add the salad greens to the large bowl and toss to combine; divide among 4 dinner plates.
  4. When the vegetables are done, transfer them to the large bowl and gently combine with the reserved dressing, salmon and scallions. Top the greens with the salmon and vegetables.