The “Little Black Dress” Chocolate Cake

Now that I can’t eaten gluten (it messes up my digestive systems), I force other people to eat gluten free things with me.  Which is why I made a gluten free chocolate cake for a birthday celebration.  It was DELICIOUS!!

I got the recipe from my new cookbook, Rozanne Gold’s Radically Simple (Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease).  This cake was so easy to make, and so delicious, it’s going to be in my repertoire forever!  Kind of like the Little Black Dress, I guess.

The “Little Black Dress” Chocolate Cake

10 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter
5 extra-large eggs
16 oz top-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 TSP vanilla extract, espresso powder, or orange vest

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment.  Butter the sides of the pan with 1/2 TBSP of the butter.  Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt until tripled in volume, about 8 minutes.  Melt the chocolate and the remaining 10 TBSP of butter slowly over low heat in a heavy medium saucepan; stir until smooth.  Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture with a flexible rubber spatula until completely incorporated.  Add the vanilla.  Pour into the pan.  Bake 18 minutes:  The center will be quite soft.  Cool 30 minutes.

Serves 8

Momofuku Chap Chae Recipe

All my friends who have ever dined at Momofuku have told me that I need to go there because (1) my name and (2) the food is fantastic.  Well, if I can’t eat at Momofuku, I might as well try their recipes.  So for Super Bowl Sunday, I made Daniel Chang’s Chap Chae recipe from his Momofuku cookbook.

I LOVE chap chae.  My mom makes the best chap chae.  So I guess it was kind of like Dan Chang versus my mom, chap chae challenge.  I think my mom was the iron chef.

Here is the recipe I used from Momofuku for 2.

This was a GREAT recipe!  But I definitely recommend a few tweaks I picked up from my mom to really brighten the flavors:

1) Add a tablespoon of sugar to the dressing.  The sweetness of the sugar, the acidity of the vinegar, and the savoriness of the soy sauce are perfect together.

2) Add the liquids to the sauteed vegetables BEFORE tossing the vegetables with the glass noodles.  The glass noodles don’t need that much flavor, but the vegetables really benefit from this step.

3) Salt the vegetables very well – don’t be shy about making the dish too salty because the noodles don’t have any flavor.

4) Be sure not to overcook the glass noodles.  You know they’re done when they lose their gumminess and opaqueness.  If they’re overdone, the noodles start to disintegrate and you lose the fun textural aspect of the dish.

5) Be sure not to overcook the vegetables.  You want to retain a bit of the crunchiness of the red bell pepper and carrots so you get the crunch with the slurp of the noodles.  And anyway, both the vegetables can be eaten raw so you can’t really under cook them. YUM!

That’s it!  Daniel Chang and my mom come together to make a fantastic chap chae.  I will definitely make this again.

P.S. This recipe is vegan and gluten-free if you use gluten-free soy sauce.  Healthy and very flavorful!

Christmas Morning Breakfast

It turns out Wes took pictures of the Christmas brunch.  While I was cooking, he was busy snapping pictures.  We began the morning by opening presents for about two hours, then we started cooking the brunch.  Here is what we had:

Glazed Cinnamon Pecan Rolls.  They were the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had.  And I’ve never cooked anything previously where I could say that without blinking an eye.  I wish I had taken close-up pictures of this, but the dough (which was an over-night process and laced with layers of cream cheese) was super moist, stretchy, glutinous, gooey and everything a cinnamon roll should be.  Very messy to make, but so worth it!

Egg Strata with Jimmy Dean Sausage:

Lotsa bacon!

I served this with orange juice, sliced oranges and grapefruits.

Christmas Dinner!

After weeks of testing recipes and gaining 10 pounds between me and Wes, we finally ended up serving the following for Christmas dinner.  Next time, I think I will do a beef dish instead of lamb since not everyone enjoys lamb’s gaminess.  I might also add a salad for something fresh.  Christmas morning, I prepared cinnamon rolls and egg strata with sausage.  They were also delicious!!  Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to taking pictures of those…  It’s hard to cook, eat and take pictures.

Bruschetta with slow-roasted tomatoes

Bruschetta with slow roasted tomatos

Roasted side of salmon with rosemary, lemon and onions

Chinois grilled lamp chops with mint sauce

Braised leeks and carrots (carrots not pictured)

Apple tart with vanilla ice cream

Salmon Fillets in Red Wine

I’m trying to venture into cooking fish and so far, it’s been hard to create flavorful dishes.   I think I need to learn more about seasoning the fish well before cooking and how to use heat properly to cook it just right.

I tried Mark Bittman’s Salmon Fillets in Red Wine, which turned out pretty well though slightly underseasoned.  The fillets were very moist and the accompanying vegetables braised in red wine was quite rich, perhaps a little too rich for a fatty salmon fillet from the belly of the fish.  Since the vegetables are quite strong in character, maybe salmon that’s not so fatty – like the lean chinook and sockeye – would work well for this dish.

Mark Bittman recommends using salmon fillets with the skins removed, but personally I love the texture and flavor of crisp salmon skin and I think the skin helps to retain the moisture in the fillet while cooking.  You can always remove the skin while eating anyway.

I recommend prepping all the vegetables before cooking the fish because the fillet will continue to cook while the vegetables are braising.  Plus, the fillet will only take a few minutes to cook so the advanced prep will actually help efficient/smooth cooking.

Salmon Fillets in Red Wine
Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each
flour for dredging
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1/2 minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup stock or water (I used the braising liquid from the leeks)
1 cup dry, full-bodied red wine

1. Heat a large skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes.  Ad the butter and oil, turn the heat to high, and wait for the butter foam to subside.  Meanwhile, salt and pepper the fillets then dredge each of the fillets in the flour and shake off the excess.  Please them, flesh side down (if the skin is still on) in the skillet.  Brown them quickly, on one side only.  Remove them (browned side up to maintain its crispness) from the pan to a plate, and keep warm.

2. With the heat on medium, add the onion, garlic, and carrot to the pan and cook, stirring, until the onion softens slightly, about 5 minutes.  Add half the parsley and some salt and pepper and stir.  Add the broth, raise the heat to high, and reduce until it is almost evaporated.

3.   Add the wine and reduce by about half.  Return the fillets to the pan, skin side down, and cook over medium heat until the fillets reach the desired degree of doneness (peek inside with a thin-bladed knife), about 3 to 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve immediately.

Wolfgang Puck’s Pecan Pie

A wonderful friend gave me a very thoughtful gift this week – a copy of the Wolfgang Puck Cookbook, Recipes from Spago, Chinois, and Points East and West!

I had just been day dreaming about reading a cookbook with restaurant recipes.  I wanted to cook something fancy, inspired and artistic.  Then, suddenly, poof!  My friend had spontaneously purchased this book for me.  Did I mention that Chinois is probably my favorite restaurant?

My friend loves pecan pies.  As thanks, I decided to make the pecan pie in the book.  It looked beautiful and the best part of the pie was the sugar dough crust.  It had a crumbly, buttery, cookie-like texture and wasn’t too sweet.

The filling was custardy with a single layer of pecans on top.  Here’s a picture of the filling.

I think I have to take a break from making pastries.  My boyfriend and I realized that we inevitably will end up eating whatever we make.  Unfortunately, as I grow older, I’m starting to find that I feel slightly disoriented if I eat too many sweets – my body seems to reject large amounts of sugar.  Tonight, I finished off the last of the chocolate mousse, had a bite of pecan bars I made a while back, and a slice of the pecan tart.  I didn’t feel so good afterward, but a brisk walk in the evening with my boyfriend seemed to ease the discomfort.  So I think I’m going to hold off on making sweets for now.  Back to entrees and vegetable dishes!

Wolfgang Puck’s Pecan Tart
Based on Wolfgang Puck Cookbook, Recipes from Spago, Chinois, and Points East and West

Makes one 10-inch tart, to serve 6-8

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 recipe Sugar Dough (recipe below)
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Spread the pecan halves on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes in the oven, or until you can smell the pecans.
3. Place the corn syrup, sugars, eggs, and egg yolks in a mixing bowl.  Beat well.
4. Heat the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat until it turns brown and has a nutty aroma.  Mix it into the corn syrup mixture.
5. On a floured surface, roll the sugar dough 3/8 inch thick or until it’s about 2 inches larger than tart pan.  Place the dough into the tart pan and press the dough into the tart pan.
6. Arrange the pecan halves in the bottom of the shell.  (The finished tart will look nicer if you arrange the pecans so that the rounded top of the pecans face up.)  Ladle the filling over the pecans.
7. Bake the tart for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean.  Remove and let cool at room temperature.

Taste: ♥♥♥
Ease: ♥♥♥
Cost: ♥♥♥ (FYI, a bag of pecans can run around $10.  I used about 1/4 of the bag for this recipe.)

Sugar Dough
Based on Wolfgang Puck Cookbook, Recipes from Spago, Chinois, and Points East and West

You can substitute all-purpose flour for the pastry/cake flour.

Makes 2 1/2 pounds

Ingredients
1 pound unsalted butter, slightly softened
3 1/3 cups (12 ounces) pastry flour or cake flour
3 1/3 cups (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
pinch salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces) sugar
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream
ice cold water (only if necessary)

Directions
To prepare the dough by hand, place the flours, sugar and salt in a large bowl or on a work surface.  Mix together.  Cut in the butter with your fingertips.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.  Pour in the egg yolks and cream.  Using your fingertips, quickly work in the flour until the dough holds together.  If the dough isn’t coming together, add the water a little at a time, but only until the dough forms a ball.  Divide the dough into thirds and form the dough into rounds.  Flatten each piece.  Wrap them in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours or overnight.   Use as needed.

The dough will remain fresh for two or three days in the refrigerator; or wrap securely in plastic, then foil, and it will keep frozen for two or three months.

Leeks Braised in Oil and Butter

Growing up, my mom would sometimes braise leeks, very simply in a bit of oil and butter, and seasoned with nothing but salt so that the mild, silky flavor of the leeks showed through. She’d then serve it with a light vinaigrette of white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and tarragon. She’d serve it room temperature and store it with the vinaigrette for extended refrigerator life.

I loved these braised leeks as a child. They were wonderful like chicken soup is wonderful when the body’s been chilled to the bone, or like great risotto because its comfort seems to permeate through the mouth, to the throat and into the heart. Now, as an adult, I appreciate these leeks because they’re simple to prepare on a weeknight, sweet and savory liked caramelized onions, and they just seem to say, “Hey! I’m humble, I’m just from the onion family.” But, boy, are they delicious!

Leeks Braised in Oil or Butter

From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

I love this recipe! Thank you Mark Bittman for this fantastic recipe that’s as easy as recipes come and absolutely, swooningly, delicious. I’m adding this to my go-to recipes when I need to impress or am in the mood for something guaranteed to be delicious.

The leftovers last a few days and I turn them into a soup by placing some of the leeks in a bowl, adding some more salt and pepper, and pouring boiling water over it to warm everything up. A bit of acid, like lemon or vinegar, seems to balance the flavors nicely. It’s soup, instantly!

My boyfriend thinks this would be good to serve on Christmas. I’ll do so if leeks are available there. The magic of this recipe depends on 1/4 cup of butter or olive oil (I use half butter, half olive oil – half trying to be healthy!).

After I made these braised leeks, I went to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market on Saturday and bought seven more giant leeks. I could eat this all weekend!

Makes: 4 Servings
Time: 30 minutes
Ingredients

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or butter
3 or 4 leeks, about 1 1/2 pounds, trimmed and cleaned
Sale and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup vegetable stock or water (I used chicken stock)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste (I love lemon, but I didn’t think the dish needed any)
Chopped parsley leaves for garnish
Directions

Put the oil or butter in a skillet or saucepan large enough to fit the leeks in one layer over medium heat. (Note: You can also cook the leeks in batches, which is what I do, since I like to double the recipe and I don’t have a pan large enough to fit all the leeks.) When the oil is hot or the butter is melted, add the leeks, sprinkle them with salt and pper and cook, turning once or twice, until they’re just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook until the leeks are tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover, if the leeks are swimming in liquid, raise the heat a bit and boil some of it away, but allow the dish to remain moist.

Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice over the leeks, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold, sprinkled with a little more lemon juice and garnished with parsley.

Taste: ♥♥♥♥
Ease: ♥♥♥♥
Cost: ♥♥♥♥
(Leeks are on the expensive side with 1 large leek costing around $2 each, but that means it’s about $1 per serving. Not bad.)