I Figgin’ Love Chocolate

February 18th, 2008

You may have noticed, I LOVE CHOCOLATE. It is a small addiction and a very necessary part of my life. I used to give up chocolate for Lent every year. Although I would drop about five pounds, a small cloud would appear over my normal sunny demeanor, as I missed the taste and smell of chocolate. I just need a little bit everyday to satisfy my craving. Although sometimes, I stumble across a dessert that must be taken away from me before I eat it all, like these brownies.

This month, Foodie Pam sponsored Leftover Tuesdays #12: the Sweetheart Challenge. The theme of this challenge was to make a creation with the leftover chocolate that you have in your pantry from previous recipes. In my house, we have a ton of leftover chocolate. From both leftovers and the fact that my roommates and I often forget to check what we have before buying more. You know how it is…you are at the store, have a specific recipe in mind and are almost positive you have this one ingredient. So you hover over the ingredient, debating on whether to buy it because you don’t want to run back to the store once you get home. Maybe you call home to see if anyone is around but alas no one is there. So you buy it and come home to find out that you now have…two containers of cocoa.

This happens fairly often in my house, so when I looked at our chocolate selection I found out that we have a ton of chocolate…semi-sweet baking chocolate, milk chocolate chips, the cocoa, white chocolate chips, bars of milk chocolate…I could go on. I also have a bunch of dried figs that I have been trying to use with something. Then I remember this recipe, I saw on Pittsburg Needs Eated. for a Double Chocolate Fig Brownie. I changed it around a little bit to incorporate what I had on hand. The result was a delicious, scrumptious, rich, fudgey, and gooey brownie. It is best enjoyed with a huge glass of milk. The pictures are not my best because I was too impatient to let them cool before I took the photos and woofed them down.

Double Chocolate Fig Brownie
(adapted and converted from taste.com)

• 7 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
• 1 stick of butter, cubed
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 eggs, whisked
• 1 cup dried figs, finely chopped
• ½ cup brandy
• 3/4 cup flour
• 1/4 cup cocoa powder

1. Soak the chopped figs in the brandy for 30 minutes until softened.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8’ x 8’ pan.
3. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan on the stove at medium heat.
4. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool.
5. Stir egg and fig into chocolate mixture.
6. Mix in flour and cocoa until well combined.
7. Spread chocolate mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out slightly sticky. Brownies should be set and have a crust, but still be a little soft inside.

P.S. Do you like whip cream?

I actually do not, which is why I did not include it with this recipe but this is a quick and easy topping to accompany the brownies.

Brown sugar cream:
1 1/4 cup whip cream
2 tablespoon brown sugar

1. Important step: Place bowl and beaters into the freezer before making the whip cream. This makes it easier to whip.
2. Beat cream and brown sugar in bowl until thickened. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Flamingos? Cilantro? Dinner?

January 28th, 2008

Ever since I started this blog, I have been wondering how I would figure out what to post. Would I allow my ideas for my blog to determine what I cook? Would my cravings control what I post? Would I just have inspiration? Would I post only the meals that photograph well? Then I realized that I know what will heavily influence my posts…my budget. Like many others, I am very conscious about how much I can spend monthly on food. Although I am definitely more liberal in this area, I have been trying to cut back and be smarter with leftovers. While I can’t wait to share with you my chicken-thyme-pear-brie sandwich or my shrimp feta pasta sauce, I also must work within the confines, or put more optimistically, the possibilities of my fridge.

A few weeks ago, I made a mango-avocado salsa to go with some halibut for some friends. I had a large amount of cilantro left and no idea what to make so I came up with a cilantro pesto. When I saw the event, Leftover Tuesdays, hosted by Project Foodie, I decided to enter this recipe. The pesto will last for about two weeks if you keep it in the fridge and the lemon juice helps prevent discoloring. I have eaten about 4 dinners already from this one recipe. In keeping with the Leftover theme, I used some flamingo shaped pasta that I have had lying around.

Cilantro Pesto

1 ½ cups packed Cilantro leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
¼ cup walnuts
3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and blend until smooth. If it is not smooth, you may need to add more olive oil.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Toss with pasta and sprinkle with some extra grated Parmesan.

P.S. Do you need/have some meat? Poach a chicken breast in a deep frying pan or sauce pan. Place the chicken in the pan, cover with water so that the chicken breast is half-way submerged, bring to simmer, cook on one side for about 5 minutes and then flip over the chicken breast for another 5 minutes. Continue to do this until the chicken is completely cooked (the meat will be white with no pink visible). Cut it into small pieces and mix with your pesto and pasta.

When the moon hits your eye…

January 24th, 2008

So the other day, when two of my good vegetarian friends, Jennifer and Sarah, came over for dinner…I was puzzled by what to make. How do you have a dinner party without meat? Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the well loved pizza stone peeking out of the cabinet and it hit me…PIZZA!!!!!!

It is easy and yummy and fun to make with friends. So, I threw together a pizza dough recipe and left it to rise, as I ran to the store. Where I bought half the produce department thinking we would need plenty of options. When Jennifer and Sarah arrived, we blared some music to dance and sing to while we cooked. Before we knew it, we had created Pizza with Garlicky Eggplant and Balsamic Caramelized Onions. It was delicious!!! Not too overpowering with garlic and onion but just the right combination of flavors. I was very happy to have leftovers the next day.

(picture by Jennifer)

Pizza with Garlicky Eggplant and Balsamic Caramelized Onions

(recipe makes one 12 in pizza)

Pizza Dough

I use Tyler Florence’s recipe because the dough for a pizza is ready in about an hour. I only use ½ tablespoon of salt or I think it is sometimes way too salty. In addition, if you don’t have a mixer (I don’t), mix in the flour by hand and then knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elasticity.

If using yeast scares you or making bread is not quite at your skill level, Whole Foods, Trader Joes or other grocery stores make good ready made pizza dough.

Toppings

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 ½ cup Mozzarella

¼ cup Parmesan

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tomato sliced

Sautéed Garlicky Eggplant (see below)

Balsamic Caramelized Onions (see below)

  1. Preheat oven to 475º with the pizza stone in the oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Roll out the pizza dough on a flour surface so that it is about â…› inch thick and in your desired shape.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and using your clean hands or a spoon spread the olive oil around the dough.
  4. Once the pizza stone has been heated, open the oven and put the dough on the pizza stone (be careful not to burn yourself- I burnt one finger this time!).
  5. Very quickly without burning yourself or making a huge mess, spread the basil and ½ cup of mozzarella over the pizza (place the basil under the cheese or it will burn)
  6. Then put on the vegetables (depending on the size of your pizza and personal preference you may have too many toppings so put on as much as you desire).
  7. Top the vegetables with the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust browned.
  9. Take out and enjoy! Yummy!!!!

Sautéed Garlicky Eggplant

1 small eggplant

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Peel the eggplant and chop into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Place the eggplant pieces in a colander and sprinkle heavily with salt. Place a bowl or other heavier object on the eggplant to weigh it down.
  3. Let sit for 30 minutes and then rinse all the salt off the eggplant.
  4. Using your hands squeeze the excess water out of the eggplant.
  5. Peel the garlic clove. Either chop it into very small pieces or crush it with a garlic press.
  6. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic until browned.
  7. Add the chopped eggplant and continue to sauté moving around the eggplant with the spatula.
  8. Once the eggplant has softened and browned, remove it from the heat.

Why salt the eggplant?
My great-grandmother used to say that you have to “sweat the bitterness out.” According to the Joy of Cooking, one must salt the eggplant in order to prevent the highly absorbent vegetable from soaking up a large amount of oil as it cooks. It also gives it a creamier texture, which most people prefer. Jennifer, Sarah, and I were too hungry to salt the eggplant and our pizza was still yummy. However, in the future, I would salt it because it would improve the texture of the toppings.

Balsamic Caramelized Onions (Jennifer’s recipe)

1 Vidalia Onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Peel the Onion and cut in half. Slice the onions into strips.
  2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sautéed the onions moving the onions around with a spatula until they soften and brown.
  3. Drizzle the onions with the balsamic vinegar and mix with a spatula.
  4. Cover the pan and stir occasionally until the onions have caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.

P.S. Have some leftover garlicky eggplant and balsamic caramelized onions? Make some pasta, toss with the eggplant and onions, top with some Parmesan or goat cheese, serve as dinner the next night.