Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Leftovers : No Knead Bread & Molten Chocolate Cakes

Tonight we ate leftovers from the holidays. A couple of notable items were the No Knead Bread:

This bread turned out really nice - my only complaint was that the inside was a little doughy - I could have let it bake for another 5 or 10 minutes. But it was really easy and didn't require the attention that my normal bread demands. Definitely nice for a change.

And the Molten Chocolate Cakes - we made six of these but only ate four over the holidays so had the last two tonight. Behold:

So good. That's a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream on the top. The ramekins we used were a little too big so it was a challenge to finish one but I did it!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rutabaga & Leek Chowder

Tonight we made another soup from the cookbook that Chelsea recently sent us. This one was a rutabaga and leek chowder with crisp, smoky croutons. I had almost forgotten about rutabagas until we had them at my dad's over Thanksgiving, and then I remembered how great they are. The soup recipe was pretty simple - just leeks, rutabagas, thyme, a small potato, stock, salt, pepper, a bay leaf and a bit of butter. The ingredients simmered for about 25 minutes until tender, then we pureed them using our immersion blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools). Earlier in the day we had picked up a loaf of Italian bread from Girard St. Gourmet, so we used that to make the croutons in a skillet with Spanish smoked paprika and garlic. The crunchy/spicy croutons were perfect with the smooth creaminess of the soup. Another winner from this awesome cookbook!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tomato Quinoa Soup

Recently Chelsea sent us a great cookbook, Vegetable Soups by Deborah Madison. We made our first recipe last night - Roasted Fall Tomato Soup with Saffron Quinoa. Luckily here in San Diego there are still tons of tomatoes at the farmer's market each week, so we were able to get our 3 lbs of ripe late-summer tomatoes without an issue. We used Romas, although I think any variety would work. The recipe called for roasting the tomatoes with onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of brown sugar for an hour. Meanwhile we cooked quinoa over the stove with a pinch of saffron - a new and delicious way to do quinoa that I had never tried before. We used chicken broth instead of water. Once the tomatoes were done, we pureed them, skipping the step of passing them through a sieve because neither of us is bothered by the seeds. We almost always skip that step! Then we added a bit of curry powder, ladled the tomato mixture into bowls, and spooned some quinoa on top. We topped the soup with a swirl of Greek yogurt. This was an awesome recipe! We took the leftovers for lunch today. Thanks Chelsea!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Making Toffee : A step-by-step photo guide

Last year around the holidays Dana and I made a couple batches of chocolate and pecan covered toffee to give to people as little events came up. It was such a fun process that we decided to do it again last night! We went a little crazy with the pictures so bear with me.

The prep - after toasting two cups of pecans (for about 8 minutes at 350 degrees) you chop them up roughly and then chop up half of them fine.

In a pot goes 3 1/2 cups butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, a teaspoon salt and 3/4 cups water. Heat and stir until reaches 310 degrees on a candy thermometer (I can't believe we own a candy thermometer!). This takes about 20 minutes - the toffee will darken as it cooks.

Getting closer...

Almost there!
After you hit 310, turn off the heat and add a tablespoon of vanilla extract - the toffee may bubble up at this point so be careful! We haven't had any toffee accidents yet but I think it would be very painful.

Mix in the finely chopped nuts as well and pour the toffee into a 10 x 15 baking sheet to cool for 30 minutes:

After a few minutes of cooling you can try to 'score' the toffee so that is easier to break up later. We've found that while this works a little, you have to be ready for it to just break however it wants.

Cut up and melt 12 oz of bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler and pour over the toffee - spread evenly:

Put the last half of the pecans on top...

Wait for a few minutes and then sprinkle on coarse sea salt to taste...and you're done! Put in the fridge for at least an hour to set.


Dinner : Homemade Pizza

For a while now we have been buying pizza dough and sauce from Trader Joe's and making pizzas at home. They always come out OK, but not great. The crust doesn't get really crispy and is a little mushy in the middle. A couple of weekends ago I made some pizza dough from scratch, in hopes that it would produce a better pie. The recipe made four chunks of pizza dough, which we put in plastic bags and tossed in the freezer. The first two attempts with the new dough was better than the store-bought dough, but not by that much. The issue was really how to get the shaped and topped pizza from the counter to the hot pizza stone that was in the oven. We tried making the pizza on the back of a jelly roll with lots of cornmeal to let it slide around, but once the toppings went on it didn't want to slide around anymore and was very hard to move. Once we did move it the crust didn't get crispy.

For this time, we shaped the pizza dough while the stone was heating in the oven. Then when the oven was preheated (to 550), we took the stone out and put the shaped dough on it. Dana then quickly put on the sauce and the toppings and we put the stone back into the oven. We could tell that even before going into the oven the dough was starting to cook on the stone. The result was a nice crispy crust - a killer pizza! This particular one is topped with homemade pesto from Dana's aunt Elaine (Thanks Elaine!), tomato sauce, onions, bacon and fresh mozzarella.

We also had a salad:

Dinner : Burgers

Quick post - here is a recent dinner - burgers. We have been out of propane for the grill outside for a few months now (we lugged the tank to the gas station last week only to find out they had just run out of propane - not meant to be!), so have been broiling all our meats. These burgers went under the broiler for 10 minutes. So easy! Also served was bok choy and a mango and raspberry side.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The first fire

A few days ago we built the first fire in our new place. The main feature of the living room is a large brick fireplace, but it hadn't gotten cold enough to use it until recently. Well, it's still not really cold enough, but we went ahead anyway:

with flash:

no flash:
I had a little bit of trouble getting it to light but some crumpled up newspaper did the trick. It was really enjoyable, although it would probably be best on a weekend night when we don't have to be rushing around too much.