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david lebovitz’s roasted figs

6 Nov

Somewhere between breakfast and dessert lies figs.

One of my favorite food memories is devouring a hot slice of baguette dripping with melted gorgonzola, topped with plump fresh figs and a liberal drizzle of honey. Only after the dinner guests had licked the cutting board clean did the cook inform us he had picked the figs from the sketchy tree in the backyard of his apartment in the Mission.

I f-ing hate “urban foraging.”

Now these beautiful figs, I picked right off the tree at my friend’s vineyard (thanks, Monsons!). As we squished through the muddy orchard rows, I greedily yanked at these black turgid teardrops.

Overwhelmed with my sack of 30 or so gorgeously ripe figs, I decided to snack on a few au naturale, but roast the rest using David Lebovitz’s recipe to savor over the week. He says you’re supposed to spoon these babies over yogurt or ice cream, but it’s really tough not to just pop them like candy.

roasted figs
it’s breakfast, lunch and dinner

1 pound fresh figs, sliced in half pole-to-pole
4-6 branches fresh thyme (I used a sprinkling of dried)
2 tablespoons red wine (I used left over pinot)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
three 1-inch strips of fresh lemon zest

Use a baking dish that will allow you to bake the figs in a single layer. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Toss the figs in a large baking dish with the thyme, red wine, brown sugar, honey, and lemon zest. Turn the figs so that they are all cut side down in the baking dish, in a single layer.

Cover the baking dish snugly with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the figs are softened and cooked through. When done, remove the baking dish from oven and let the figs cool completely. Roasted figs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. 6-8 servings.

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how not to make flan

1 Aug

I don’t know how to make flan.
I still don’t know how to make flan.

But, this recipe is super easy, and it came out pretty well—it’s worth a shot if you have a passion for custard.

Fail 1: I opted to stir the caramel as it was bubbling… I don’t know why I did it, I know how to make caramel! At any rate, it thickened out of control, and I poured it off into a hot baking pan. After a moment of indecision, I poured my custard into the hot baking pan on top of the custard—no curdles to be seen—and foiled tight.

Fail 2: I think I left my pan in the oven slightly longer than recommended (blame it on the wine), so the outer ring of my flan was a bit bubbly and scrambled egg-like. The center was creamy and the caramel was dark and delicious. The trickiest thing was deciding on the doneness of the caramel, and if it would be okay to pour the custard right over the hot caramel.

At unveil, the flan clung to the pan and a small section ripped out upon inversion. Luckily, the deluge of caramel sauce that followed handily masked the botch…flan-tastic!

really easy flan
don’t flan-it-up (like me)

* 1 cup white sugar
* 3 eggs
* 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
* 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt sugar until liquefied and golden in color. Carefully pour hot syrup into a 9 inch round glass baking dish, turning the dish to evenly coat the bottom and sides. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Beat in condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla until smooth. Pour egg mixture into baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake in preheated oven 60 minutes. Let cool completely. To serve, carefully invert on serving plate with edges when completely cool. Serves 8.

choco ‘stachio bark

3 May

I’m pretty much obsessed with my Canon S95 camera (thanks again, J!). It’s a slick black point-and-shoot with a ring around the lens that you move to control the manual settings. It’s super high tech AND retro cool…. dream!

The S95 also takes kick ass macro shots like this one of chocolate pistachio bark. Now I can cook food that looks like caca and it still looks stunning!

Speaking caca, this bark was not a sparkling culinary achievement. I used too much of a semi-sweet chocolate that tasted like Hershey’s, and birthed a tooth-disintegrating saccharine stump versus delicately shattering cocoa bark. Waaah!

Alas, I will share the recipe, but it will be up to you to buy the right kind of chocolate — I’d go bittersweet if in doubt!

layered pistachio bark
go green

* 17 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped and divided into two equal portions
* 7 ounces high quality white chocolate (Lindt or Perugina)
* 6 ounces roasted pistachio meat, coarsely chopped
* 6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
* fancy sea salt (fleur de sel, if you’ve got it)

Turn large baking sheet bottom up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Mark a 12″ x 9″ rectangle on foil.

Combine half of the bittersweet chocolate and 3 tablespoons of whipping cream in heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Remove from heat and pour onto foil. Using a spatula, spread chocolate to fill rectangle and sprinkle with half of the pistachios. Lightly press pistachios into chocolate and refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.

Melt white chocolate in double-boiler or medium metal bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water. When chocolate is melted and smooth or candy thermometer registers 110-degrees F, remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour white chocolate in long lines over the dark chocolate layer. Using a spatula, spread white chocolate into an even layer. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

For final layer, repeat dark chocolate process: Combine remaining half of bittersweet chocolate and 3 tablespoons of whipping cream in heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Remove from heat and quickly pour in long lines over the white chocolate layer. Immediately top with remaining pistachios, press into chocolate, and sprinkle with a generous amount of sea salt. Chill until just firm, about 20 minutes.

Lift foil with bark onto work surface; trim edges. Cut bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using a metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto the work surface. Cut each strip crosswise into three sections and diagonally into two triangles.

Serve immediately or store in a tupperware in the fridge for up to two weeks. Bring back to room temperature before serving. Yields 36 pieces. Adapted from Bon Appetit.

bon appétit’s browned butter brownies

28 Mar

I feel particularly devilish watching an entire stick of butter melt into a frothy pool. If you wait a little longer, foam gives way to reveal brown specks with a distinct toasty aroma. It brings me great joy to pour this liquid gold over pasta, especially homemade butternut squash ravioli.

On a recent cover, Bon Appétit featured a nefarious stack of Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts. Browned butter in a brownie? Yes, please!

I whipped up a batch for a trip to wine country knowing they’d pair nicely with my favorite late harvest zin at Bella. I love that these brownies achieve the chewy and fudgey texture of a store-bought mix with a unique dimension of nutty flavor from the browned butter. I used unsweetened cocoa power from Scharffen Berger and substituted semi-sweet chocolate chips for the walnuts. Perhaps the extra chocolate chips were a bit over-the-top, but I’m sure any stoner would whole-heartedly approve.

browned butter brownies
gnaw-ty chocolate treat

* 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 large eggs, chilled
* 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
* 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or walnuts)

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1⁄4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in chocolate chips (or nuts). Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 35 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. Makes 16 pieces.

meyer lemon curd bars cockaigne

9 Mar

Every spring, Christina takes a trip to California for a treacherous dose of karaoke, wine tasting, and girly shenanigans. Fortunately, “Girls Gone Wineland” has become an annual affair — three years and counting. Rosie invites us to stay in an adorable guest house, near the citrus groves of her family vineyard. After a night of hot tubbing and Kinect-enabled dance competitions, we begin the day picking perfectly yellow Meyer lemons. At home, I pile the fruit basket high with a bounty of at least 2 dozen!

What better way to celebrate these sweet citrus gems than a batch of luscious lemon bars? This recipe is a favorite of mine from Amanda Hesser’s charming biography (and cookbook), Cooking for Mr. Latte, a gift from my friend Bifen. I love the decadent shortbread crust, which brims with tangy and creamy golden goodness.

meyer lemon curd bars cockaigne
for when life gives you lemons

* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
* 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 6 large eggs
* 2 1/2 cups sugar (3 cups if using regular lemons)
* grated zest of 2 meyer lemons (1 lemon if using regular lemons)
* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)

Preheat oven to 325-degrees. Sift 1 1/2 cups of the flour with the confectioners sugar into large bowl. Cut in the cubes of butter (I used a food processor) until mixture is the size of small peas. Tip into a 13″x9″ pan, then use your fingers to pat and press into the base and 3/4″ up the sides to prevent leaking. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack, reduce oven temperature to 300-degrees.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a small bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Sift remaining flour into the mixture and fold together until smooth. Pour batter into baked crust and put in oven. Bake until top is set, about 35 minutes. Remove pan to rack to cool completely before cutting into 3″x2″ bars. Makes 18 bars.

dark chocolate bacon cupcakes

2 Feb

Oh no you didn’t! Oh yes, I did. Bacon in the batter. Bacon in the frosting. Bacon garnish… I’m such a pig.

I blame January’s issue of Food & Wine for my renewed obsession with bacon. According to their keenly calculated trend predictions, breakfast foods are set to make a huge comeback in 2011, especially my dear friend bacon.

Last month was J’s birthday. Like myself, J doesn’t care much for sweets, so I immediately began brainstorming savory desserts. Something nutty? Cheese-y? Meaty? Mmmmmyes.

Coffee, rich Scharffen Berger cocoa, buttermilk, and a whole pound of bacon… it’s the stuff birthday dreams are made of. Moist dark chocolate cake (healthily embedded with bacon bits) meets “baconcream” frosting and a crispy strip of the good stuff. Hello, bacon cupcakes!

dark chocolate bacon cupcakes
the whole hog

cupcakes:
* 1 lb. bacon
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2 cups sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup cold, strong, brewed coffee
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil

frosting:
* 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
* 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/3 cup butter
* 1/2 cup of reserved bacon fat
* 1/3 cup evaporated milk
* 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Reserve bacon fat for frosting, drain bacon on paper towels, crumble 3/4 of the bacon strips and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, coffee, buttermilk and oil. Stir just until blended. Mix in bacon bits, reserving the rest for garnish. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan set over a wire rack.

Prepare frosting: In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa, and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and bacon fat until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

Frost cupcakes generously and decorate with reserved bacon strips. Makes 24 cupcakes.

thanksgiving digest

1 Dec

Why does it take until December to finish digesting Thanksgiving? Not unlike past years, our cornucopia overfloweth with meat and starch treats in volumes and combinations that would horrify any pilgrim. Case and point, the Thanksgiving fat bastard himself: turkey cake. Two loaves of turkey meatloaf separated by a layer of cranberry sauce, frosted with mashed potatoes and topped with yams and marshmallows.

Yes, I ate it. Along with the deconstructed version the night before. My chef friend C made possibly the most gorgeous bird I have ever seen stuffed with a homemade cornbread and sausage stuffing.

Parsnip and potato puree, yams, cranberry sauce, creamed leeks, braised carrots, salad and amazing caramelized brussel sprouts rounded out our festive meal, which we nested among the gold leaf centerpieces I had crafted.

Post an Old Fashioned-induced dance party, I geared up for the night after Thanksgiving. Another evening of big eating. M’s turkey cake stole the spotlight, an impressive feat considering the presence of an Asian-themed banquet: two roasted ducks, scallop and sausage sticky rice, soy sauce ribs, homemade spring rolls, chinese chicken salad — plus candied yams and my favorite Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli.

Even sans cleaver, N made swift work of carving beautiful Golden Gate Meats ducks.

N’s sticky rice, a recipe of his mother’s, glistened with chewy goodness — studded with slivers of red lap cheong, dried scallop, mushrooms and water chestnuts.

K’s “old school Chinese” expertise showed through in a magnificent platter of golden spring rolls — each perfectly crunchy with an ideal portion of savory meat and vegetable filling. R’s soy sauce pork ribs melted off the bone in spectacular fashion, like a harlot proudly disrobing.

My contribution to the evening was a Chinese Chicken Salad minus the chicken because I have a weird chicken phobia. Really, it was just a butter lettuce and raddiccio salad adorned with crispy prosciutto, won ton chips and homemade garlic roasted peanuts. The secret is the dressing, which I’ll rudely refuse to share. I will, however, recommend you make these amazing garlic roasted peanuts to snack on by the handful or dress salads.

Garlic Roasted Peanuts
smelly and addictive… a treacherous combo

* 1 lb raw peanuts
* 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
* 2 tablespoon oil, peanut oil preferably
* 4 tablespoon soy sauce
* 1 tablespoon fish sauce
* 1/2 tablespoon sugar
* salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325° F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, then put peanuts on sheetpan. Dry roast for 15 minutes.

While the peanuts begin to roast, mix everything else except for the salt and pepper in a medium bowl. After first 15 minutes remove roasted peanuts from oven, mix the peanuts with the marinade, pour back onto sheet pan, then return to oven.

Continue to roast for 10-15 move minutes or until the peanuts are a light golden brown color. Take them out a little before you think they are perfect, because they will continue to cook on their own a little more after being removed from oven.

Allow to cool, then season with salt and pepper. Store airtight at room temperature for 1-2 weeks.

Don’t think I forgot about dessert! There were many notables including C’s fruit crostatas and P’s moist and tender rum cake. My T-day contribution: a silky dark chocolate tart with buttery cookie crust and the interior texture of a ganache. It’s ridiculously easy and impressive….excellent baking ROI.

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust
adapted from Bon Appétit

Crust:
* 12 ounces gingersnap cookies (Trader Joe’s Triple Gingersnaps are best)
* 3/4 stick salted butter, melted

Filling:
* 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
* 1 cup heavy whipping cream
* 2 large egg yolks
* 1 large egg
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
* Pinch of salt
* 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped crystallized ginger

For crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Finely grind gingersnap cookies in processor (yielding around 1 2/3 cups). Add melted butter; 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, and salt 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. Sprinkle chopped crystallized ginger over top. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart pan sides and cool tart completely. DO AHEAD: Chocolate tart can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tart and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Cut tart into thin wedges and serve.