Monthly Archives: August 2012

Blueberries and Battle Scars

Don’t bake before 7am, especially when you are ill-equipped with caffeine and rudimentary baking implements like oven mitts. I had to learn the hard way. This weekend I forged on a baking rampage for a friend’s event (6 desserts in one morning- oh my), starting my day off in a Saturday morning fog that resulted in quite the gnarly burn as a side salad to these BOMB white chocolate glazed blueberry lemon brownies. I’d like to think that they – and the hello kitty bandaids that are now a staple accessory – were completely worth it. Battle scar, right?

These are obviously not your average brownies. Unlike their chocolatey counterparts, not only are these dudes super moist and dense, but they also employ one of nature’s greatest accomplishments in flavor combinations: blueberry and lemon! Taste-wise, the lemon tartness melts perfectly with the sweet blueberries and rich white chocolate. Aesthetically, the swirls of deep berry indigo gorgeously complement a perfectly yellow lemon cake. Okay, so the yellow comes mostly from the yolks, but they nevertheless create a beautiful canvas for summer’s best berry.

Beware of rouge oven racks and take the proper precautions when baking ambitiously.

Lemon Blueberry Brownies with White Chocolate Glaze (adapted from here)

Ingredients:

Brownies:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, 2 large egg yolks (cage-free for a healthy conscious and a deeper yellow cake)
3/4 granulated sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
2 tsp lemon zest (1 lemon)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

White Chocolate glaze:
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 1/2 tbsp milk (I used almond)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter or line 8×8 dish with parchment paper. Mix together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a large mixing bowl (or standing mixer) beat egg and egg yolks on medium speed until pale and fluffy (3-4 mins). Add sugar, butter, sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to mixture until well incorporated. Fold in blueberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-34 mins.

While the brownies are cooling, prepare the glaze. Combine white chocolate and milk in a microwave-safe bowl and nuke in 20 second intervals (stirring between each interval) until smooth. Pour over cooled brownies and spread evenly. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins (or put in freezer for 10 mins) before cutting.

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Real Weeknight Dinners


If you’re not already utilizing eggs as your weeknight savior, I highly recommend it. Whether it’s something more elaborate or just a fried egg over toast or rice, it’s a quick cooking, nutritious, and cheap meal. And delicious. No virtuous weeknight meal is realistic if it’s not also delicious.

A true weeknight dinner recipe can be hard to come by. These recipes in magazines are usually, for starters, nowhere near 20 minutes to make once you factor in prep time. And when you’ve gone from work to yoga and come home already ravenous, but still need to do laundry, that’s the window we’re talking about. Weeknight recipes also usually involve things that, while easy to cook, have to be bought that day or the day before – aka, meat and/or fish. Not always doable. And they often involve things that I’m not sure how other people are getting fresh – like shrimp. If I see another weeknight pasta dish with shrimp, I might just give up altogether. That’s when you know to reach for an egg.

I call this a frittata but I’m sure there are other things you could call it – a spanish tortilla, maybe even an omelet. What’s great about this is how versatile it is (hence the kitchen sink). I started with a recipe I had seen for a frittata with caramelized onions, threw in some kale, and then decided to throw in the leftover cooked veggies from my summer veggie stir fry. What resulted was a beautiful meal in under 20 minutes. Really. I wouldn’t lie about a weeknight dinner recipe.

Here’s to Mondays!

Kitchen Sink Frittata
one yellow onion
a handful of kale, swiss chard, or spinach
any other veggies you might have – summer squash, cherry tomatoes
6 eggs

Throw a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a fry pan (a skillet with straight sides). Thinly slice onion and sautee over medium heat until onions start to caramelize and turn brown, about ten minutes. Add chopped kale and sautee for another 5 minutes.

Throw in any other cooked veggies you might have on hand (if raw, throw in with the kale). Add salt and pepper generously (you’ll be adding 6 eggs to this). While veggies cook, beat 6 eggs in a bowl. When veggies are almost cooked, pour egg mixture into the pan and turn heat to low. Fire up the broiler (yep, the broiler!).

Watch your frittata as it slowly cooks from the bottom up, taking care not to burn the bottom. Don’t touch or mix it. When the eggs seem cooked everywhere except for the top layer (you can get a sense of this by tilting the pan and seeing how runny it is on top), throw it in the broiler. Bake in the broiler for about 5 minutes until the top is cooked and getting golden brown. Keep an eye on it! Take out, let cool a little, then slice. Goes great with a no-fuss salad of arugula or spring mix.

What’s your type?

There are two types of dessert lovers in this world: Those that love fruity desserts (I feel guilty about eating this, but even covered in whipped cream, strawberries are good for you right??) and those that cannot fathom the existence of a dessert without chocolate (What?? Cake comes in other flavors??) If you’re ever having difficulty deciding what to bake for a crowd, be forewarned that the latter far outweighs the former. The people LOVE their chocolate and this recipe is definitely a crowd pleaser.

I’ll admit I belong in the first category (A baker wit sweet-induced guilt? Masochistic, I know…) but whenever baking for a crowd, you really can’t go wrong with a good brownie. Novice bakers and fourteen year old girls will go for the boxed stuff, but there really is something magical about brownies made from scratch. Yes, I said magical: chocolate so simple, so fudgy and so goddamn good. It really doesn’t take much longer to melt the chocolate and break the eggs – I think you still have to break eggs into a mix, right? Even Betty Crocker herself would approve of this recipe! While your guests are bowing at your feet your waistline may not be as ecstatic, but we’re trying to rid ourselves of the guilt here so bake on bakers, bake on.

Find the recipe here (via Brown Eyed Baker). Oh, and add an extra tablespoon of espresso powder. Just for kicks.

Every Color on the Plate

A recent Bon Appetit article I read referenced the simple theory I’ve heard many a time when it comes to nutrition: try to put every color on your plate. Testing out a new San Francisco farmers’ market in mid-summer, this was a pretty easy challenge to accept.

After grabbing first and asking questions later at the Civic Center farmers market, where I finally found great cheap local produce, I found this summer veggie stir fry recipe from the article to be pretty well aligned with what I had bought. The recipe is super flexible – you just need any veggies on hand, a good solid grain, and herbs to make a quick sauce. I had a wild rice medley from Trader Joe’s, a mix of zuchinni, squash, cherry tomatoes, and japanese eggplant, and a handful of parsley and basil. The sauce was great – a light, vinegary twist on pesto that was really nice drizzled over the final product.


For the veggies, I’d recommend doing the eggplant separately so you don’t end up overcooking everything else trying to get it soft – I always have too much optimism on eggplant’s cooking time. Deglazing the pan afterward with some extra vinegar (or white wine would be great) went a long way too. I’m sure the BA recommendation of using cooked then toasted farro would be great – this is a more realistic weeknight version.

With the leftovers I made a simple carrot ginger juice. My roommate heard that ingesting enough carrots gives your a skin a tan-like, if not slightly orange, glow – just the kind of urban legend us freckly folk will always try at least once. In a foggy San Francisco summer, you’ve got to drink your sunshine. We’ll see how both theories work out…

Summer Vegetable Stir-Fry
Adapted from Bon Appetit

3 cups mixed herbs (basil, mint, cilantro, tarragon, celery leaves)
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 half-inch piece of ginger, sliced
1 garlic clove
7 Tbsp veggie oil (I used olive)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
2 cups cooked & cooled brown or wild rice (like Trader Joe’s wild rice medley)
4 cups chopped mixed summer vegetables (bell peppers, zuchinni, chiles, eggplant, summer squash, carrots, celery, radishes, cherry tomatoes)

Combine 2 cups herbs, 1/4 cup scallions, ginger, and garlic in a food processor. Add 4 Tbsp oil, all the vinegar, and 1/4 cup water and process until saucey. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sesame seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made ahead)

Heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and stir-fry until brightly colored and crisp-tender. Add remaining herbs and toss to combine. Divide vegetables over rice and drizzle with herb sauce.

End of Summer Sweets

We have a plethora of first-world problems to complain about at this time of the year: the sun has begun to set at 7 instead of 8, our inbox is overflowing with advertisements for fall boot collections and our morning drives are now elongated with the return of school commuters. Life is so damn hard. Weighing most heavily on my little urbanite heart: the last crop of summer fruit at the farmers market! As I desperately cling to the last sweet tastes of summer, the white nectarines and juicy red plums from my last csa box are losing natures battle- their sun-kissed skins wrinkling in the back of the fridge. But fear not dear bakers- sweet, sweet salvation is near. Enter the stone fruit brown butter shortbread cookie.

The original recipe called for peaches (adapted from Smitten Kitchen), but I found that the tartness of the plums really complement the sweetness of the shortbread. That being said, I have also made these bars with peaches and it was still quite delicious- absolutely no complaints there. The plums just really take these to another level. Overripe is definitely key – you want your fruit to be ridiculously sweet. Perfect for the last batch of summer’s best crop!

Also key is the almond extract. I’m a sucker for almond based anything, and replacing the vanilla with the almond really amps up the flavor from delightfully sweet to orgasmically light and nutty. The fruit is just an added bonus. And because these are cookies with fruit, you’re convinced that it’s ok to eat for breakfast. Which it totally is.

Careful, though! It’s easy to overdose on these little bites of joy. (Yes, ahem- I am a survivor.)

Enjoy!

Plum and Nectarine Shortbread
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 cup white sugar
3 tbs brown sugar (for sprinkling on top)
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups minus 2 tbs flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 lemon
about 4-6 small nectarines and plums, cut into 1/4 inch slices

First brown your butter. I followed Smitten Kitchen’s regimen:

Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns and the very second that you turn around to do something else. Set it in the freezer until solid (about 30 minutes).

While your butter is in the freezer, preheat the oven to 375°F and butter a 9×13 inch pan. (I like to wrap the pan in tin foil before buttering for easier cleanup). In a medium bowl, stir together white sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and spices with a whisk. Zest 1/2 of the lemon and add to the mixture. Add the solidified brown butter, egg and almond extract into the flour mixture using a blender or fork. It will be crumbly. Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly. Squeeze the lemon juice over the plum and nectarine slices then tile the fruit over the crumb base in a single layer. (It doesn’t have to be pretty). Add brown sugar to remaining crumb mixture and scatter evenly over fruit. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until top is slightly brown. Cool completely in pan before cutting.

I cut these more into logs than squares since it makes for easier eating and enjoying- they’re pretty crumbly. No one likes to look like a fool when they’re eating dessert.