Thursday, August 29, 2013

Martha's Molten Chocolate Cake & Julia's Favorite Chocolate

As most of us already know, Martha Stewart knows a few things about "good things." Also, insider trading and things that aren't nearly as pleasant as chocolate cake, so let's not talk about that. Let's talk about a some dark, deep, molten chocolate decadence that you can whip together in all of twenty minutes. And it's pretty.

via instagram, yes, because I'm still on the market for a gently used DSLR
Many of Martha's recipes, although big on wow-factor are also big time commitments. Shredded phyllo-dough birds' nests?!  Ain't nobody got time for that. (But if I ever do, you can bet I'm making this to welcome spring and become a truly epic baker/artiste.) Then there are the creations that it seems only Martha and my friend Allison, with her magical powers can make successfully, like this darkest chocolate hazelnut crepe cake. Some of those user reviews really rip your heart out. I hate to hear about chocolate hazelnut crepe dreams collapsing in a big heap on your kitchen counter. After eight and a half hours of work. Ouch.

Luckily, this recipe is nothing like that. It is dessert simplicity at its finest, with only seven ingredients, nine if you count the whipped cream and strawberries that you really should serve with it. But the true stroke of genius with this cake is the first step, in which you butter your cake pan liberally, then dust it with good-old granulated sugar, rolling the pan from side to side to spread sugar up the sides and around the bottom of the pan. During the short baking time, this butter and sugar combo crystalize to form a lovely, crisp outer crust that not only yields beautifully to reveal the molten interior but also slips surprisingly easily from the pan. 

Let's also talk about chocolate, another of my favorite topics for discussion. Ever since MJ spent a summer in San Francisco a few years ago and brought me some Scharffen Berger, I've been a huge proponent of what Julia Child reportedly dubbed the best American chocolate. Scharffen Berger extra rich milk chocolate is some of my favorite for nibbling on, with just enough sweetness and a slightly bitter bite. Their 70% cacao bar is my favorite for baking. Maybe someday I'll try making this cake with something else, just to see if it is as good. But... why risk it? However, should you decided not to wait to find some Scharffen Berger goodness before baking this cake, I would recommend using bittersweet baking chocolate rather than chocolate chips.
I also like Ovaltine, because there are some days when you just can't have
enough chocolate with your chocolate. 

If you don't live near stores that sell these beautiful bars (like Whole Foods nationwide or Fairway and Food Emporium in NYC), you can buy them directly from Scharffen Berger here. And, wouldn't you know it, they offer free shipping. 

Finally, let's talk about when you are going to bake this. The answer, if not tonight, should be as soon as you can possible get your hands on some good baking chocolate. Go to, dear ones. And don't say I didn't warn you if you find yourself making it multiple times in a week. I know I sure did.

I have a wonderful mini-bundt pan that may not technically be a bundt because there are only little belly-button-like divits in the center of each cake, not a deep hole. This is what makes that pan so idea for this recipe, as well as many other quick breads and cakes. You can purchase versions it here and here and here

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer Salad with Sunflower Sprouts, Stone Fruits, & Carmelized Pistachios

It is a truth universally acknowledged that New Yorkers love New York. Perhaps not always, perhaps not everything, and yes, you will hear plenty of griping about subways/heat/tourists/how expensive everything is, but generally speaking, I'm not sure if there's any city more enamored with itself. (Texas is still-winning in the narcissistic state category, of course.) But, fuhgeddaboutit. Markets not intended for tourists even sell bread like this, which I promptly purchased because I truly do {heart} NY.

One of the things I love very best about New York is the abundance of every type of food. People ask me why I like living here, and I launch into a diatribe about bagels and spices and farmers' markets and hummus and how thinner crusts really are better because of the superior topping-to-dough ratio. It's almost embarrassing, since this city also has, like, art and culture and fashion and all that stuff. But I am convinced that you could find just about any ingredient that has ever been cooked with somewhere in this metropolis if you just knew where to look, and that is just one reason why even my bread proclaims my love for this crazy city. One of my favorite places to find new foods is the Union Square Greenmarket. I never leave without some kind of produce or product that I'm ridiculously excited about.

This last weekend, it was honeycomb. Not the cereal, not that I have anything against that. But really, honest-to-goodness goodness, fresh from the hive honeycomb. I love it, but I wanted to figure out how to eat it without the wax getting distracting. While pondering this, I stumbled across stalls hawking peaches, plums, herbs, and—my new favorite green thing—sunflower sprouts.

While making this salad, I decided it needed a crunch factor, preferably one with some salty savor. I had some raw shelled pistachios on hand and decided to give them some extra punch by carmelizing them and adding a hefty pinch of salt. Turns out, salty carmelized pistachios taste a bit like bacon bits. I love happy accidents.

Sunflower sprouts have this wonderfully fresh, slightly sweet flavor that tastes like a blend of cucumbers, sunflower seeds, spinach, & the way sunflowers smell. They also have lots of protein and a wonderful, crisp texture. I realize sunflower sprouts might not be available everywhere; I think a nice mesclun lettuce blend would also be tasty. You can also grow your own.

I loved how many flavors, textures, and colors this salad brought together the salty crunch of the pistachios played with the lush bursts of honey from the comb and the creamy greek yogurt, sweetened with a bit of honey, balanced the acidity of the vinaigrette. With the nuts, yogurt, and awesome-for-your-bod sunflower sprouts, this salad packs quite a bit of protein, plus a healthy dose of vitamin c, iron, and essential amino acids. 

Which clearly means, if you have this for lunch, you can have a larger helping of molten chocolate cake after dinner. More on that later. 

If you hadn't noticed, this new recipe card thing is new! I made it myself. I feel like a new mother, except that I want to share this creation with you and let you share it as well. I am also much more well-rested than a new mother. But, the point is, you can drag it to your desktop and print it or pin it or whatever. Just please give credit where it is due if you do. Thanks!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Welcome to the Bright Lights, Baby

Because we live in New York City now. I don't think this big move really qualifies as "news" anymore, since we just renewed our lease after nearly a year of living in our little Manhattan studio. But it still feels somewhat unfamiliar, although I've embraced New-Yorker-hood with vehemence. I even have a real New York State ID. MJ may still technically be an Idahoan, but I am a certified New Yorker. And I completely adore this city.
From our 21st floor window.

It is the most beautiful, crazy, hectic, breath-taking, fascinating, varied, classy city I've ever known. I know hundreds of hit songs have said it before, but there really is no place like New York. I'm not sure if there is anything you couldn't find here, somewhere, if you just knew where to look. You can even find tiny hidden parks with roaring waterfalls.
Green Acre Park is a lovely oasis between 2nd & 3rd Ave. on 51st Street.

 I was worried that my nature-loving soul would shrivel up and retreat into hibernation once we moved to this concrete jungle, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I miss the wide open skies and towering mountains of Utah and Idaho, but New York City is delightfully lush. New Yorkers are extremely aware of the high value of real estate, and they definitely make the most of any open patch of dirt that can be found. The city is dotted with parks and green spaces, and Central Park is a wonderland of greenery in the heart of a city of steel, cement, stone, and glass.

A woodsy part of Central Park, very aptly named "The Ramble."

I could live in this city for the rest of my life and never really know it. MJ says I still look like a tourist, since I'm constantly craning my neck to look up at all of these incredible buildings. Michael and I live in the Financial District on the southern tip of the island of Manhattan. Dutch settlers first started building here in the early 1600s, so to say we live in an older neighborhood is far from an exaggeration. We also spend a lot of time in Battery Park City where Michael works, which is built on the landfill made with the dirt excavated during the construction of the Twin Towers, so our neighborhood is a blend of the oldest and newest buildings in Manhattan. I love the juxtaposition.
The Woolworth Building built in 1913, was the tallest building in the world at 792 ft. Soaring into the clouds behind the Woolworth is 1 World Trade, now topping out at 1,776 ft. tall.

 True, New York is dirty, gritty, and rough in spots. It doesn't always smell very pleasant, and the summer heat of the subways can be suffocating. But then there are times when you get smacked upside the head with so much beauty that you just can't believe one city could be such a feast for the eye.
Sunset over the Hudson River.

I know it was Paris that Hemingway deemed a "moveable feast," but this blur of a city is captivates your senses in so many ways, I can't help but feel like it's a place to be devoured rather than merely viewed. Perhaps this is because my life is now so focused on food—it's all I talk about all day long. But that's another post... Whatever the reason, I can't get enough of this place.
Stoop-id Love

So if you're ever walking down Wall Street and see a woman leaning precariously out of a window over 200 feet above the pavement, don't panic—I'm just drinking in my view.
Looking west along Wall St.