Monthly Archives: February 2011

Mocha Chocolate Chip Icebox Cake

This easy “cake” is more mousse-meets-tiramisu. Layering thin chocolate-chip cookies with a whipped mixture of cream, mascarpone cheese, vanilla, coffee, cocoa and Kahlua – the result is a semi-solid silky pillow wrapped around homemade cookies. Soaked in the cream mixture, the cookies become more like cookie dough in texture – lovely.

For last year’s Oscars, I made this icebox cake – layers of chocolate thin crisps with cream and strawberries. This time, I went a different and more decadent route with an adapted Ina Garten recipe.

Mocha Chocolate Chip Icebox Cake


  • 1 batch Nestle Tollhouse chocolate-chip cookies (make day ahead)
  • 2 c. cold heavy cream
  • 12 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 c. sugar (I used a little less)
  • 1/4 c. Kahlua
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee powder (I used Starbucks Via)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Shaved semisweet chocolate, for garnish

In electric mixer, whisk cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, coffee powder and vanilla. Combine on low speed then increase to high, until it forms stiff peaks.

To assemble, line the bottom of your 9-inch springform cake pan with cookies, breaking some to fill the spaces. Spread with 1/5 of the mocha cream. Place another layer of cookies on top, followed by more cream. Continue layering until you end with a layer of cream. Smooth top, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of the cake pan, then remove the sides. Sprinkle top with chocolate shavings and cut cake into wedges. Serve cold.

The cake is very rich, and deadly to those with a sweet tooth.

Hope everyone is enjoying a beautiful spring! xoxo


Classic Hummus

Early springs in the South make me dizzy with happiness. Trees are already budding, cherry blossoms are blooming and all the daffodils and tulips are getting ready to open. It is so much easier to get up on the right side of the bed when you hear birds chirping.

When I’m in a good mood, I cook healthier. Classic hummus is a great example of a nutritious snack to have with crisp veggies or pita chips. It’s simple and affordable, to boot.

Mine is adapted from Ina Garten.

Classic Hummus


  • 2 cans garbanzo beans, drained (2 cups)
  • 1/3 c. tahini
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 dashes hot sauce
  • 2 T water or liquid from garbanzo beans

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until coarsely pureed. Check for seasonings, then pour into serving bowl. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, cracked pepper and a dusting of smoked paprika (this is my touch, but any paprika would work).

I really liked the finish of olive oil and smoked paprika. The olive oil is so fruity and distinct over the hummus, and the smokiness from the paprika gives it an earthy flavor.

Serve with any veggies or pita bread (or chips).

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Tapas Night – Quail Eggs and Chorizo

I’m happy to report that I finally found a use for my quail eggs! Of course the Spanish would have a delicious way to prepare them – simply fried and served atop a piece of toast, along with chorizo. I served the little appetizers as part of a tapas party with some foodie friends of ours (whose dishes blew ours out of the water, p.s.).

But back to the quail eggs.

Small as your thumb, they are beautifully speckled, with a shell and membrane so thick, you might have to gently pierce it with your knife. It’s true – the little buggers were hard to get out. And then some of them wouldn’t come out at all (faulty eggs). I was stressing at that point because company would arrive at any moment and my chorizo was getting too browned. All that stress led me to feel bitter about the tiny eggs with their very large yolks, which tasted like a more-eggy chicken egg. Does that make sense? They taste stronger, but the same.

Anyhow, here’s what I did:

Toast sliced baguette with drizzle of olive oil, S&P. Rub still-hot bread slices with peeled garlic clove.

Heat a small drizzle of olive oil in a skillet. Brown 1 package of Spanish chorizo, removed from casings and sliced into half-moons. Drain on paper towels.

Crack quail eggs into little bowl, then pour one-by-one onto the still hot and oily chorizo pan. Fry until the edges begin to brown, then remove with spatula and place on top of toast. Top with chorizo and parsley to garnish.

To accompany our meal, we served Spanish Marcona almonds, which are so salty and oily that you may have trouble stopping.

My friend made these cheese-and-almond stuffed dates that are wrapped and fried with bacon. They were to-die-for.

She also made this decadent chocolate ganache and caramelized banana tart with fresh banana slices on top. It was just lovely.

And of course I had to make a quick sangria. One bottle of a fruity red wine plus some sugar, sliced oranges, blackberries, lemonade and good club soda. Let it chill for 1 hour. Done!

Enjoy your next fiesta, friends! xoxo

Momofuku-Inspired Chicken Wings

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that I’m obsessed with Momofuku, the too-cool-for-school noodle bar/Crack Pie maker in NYC. So when my favorite Jaden from Steamy Kitchen posted her take on one of the ridiculously difficult Momofuku recipes, I started to sweat a little.

And then I made them.

These are way healthier than the fried version of chicken wings, but they are still crispy and juicy and full of powerful flavors. We grilled the chicken wings instead of baking them, which added a lot of additional smokiness. We also served the sauce along the side, for extra dipping.

These Asian-inspired chicken wings are tossed in a simple ginger-chili-garlic-soy-sesame concoction. I believe that few things taste bad with that flavor combo.

I lost a piece of my finger for these Super Bowl snacks…

Momofuku-Inspired Chicken Wings (from Steamy Kitchen)


  • 3 pounds chicken wings, separated at the joints, tips removed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger (or grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chili pepper (I used chili flakes)
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil (I used toasted sesame oil)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Cilantro, for garnish

Get your grill hot, then place oiled chicken wings on it, turning as they brown, until cooked through (4-5 min. per side – depending on grill).

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl (large enough to fit all of the wings) and set aside.

When wings are done, toss them in the vinaigrette to coat.

To serve, sprinkle with cilantro (or parsley) and plate with a side dish of the sauce. Finger-licking good, friends! xoxo

Coeur a la Creme

I had a dream one night that I was flying through clouds made of whipped cream. It reminded me of those old commercials where the angels sat on clouds and ate cream cheese, flavoring some of it with strawberries or blueberries.

A coeur a la creme is a dreamy pillow of whipped cream cheese, heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla bean and lemon zest. The consistency is so airy that it feels like eating the top of an ice cream sundae, but it is dense enough to form the beautiful heart shape you see below.

I like mine framed by a moat of raspberry sauce spiked with Gran Marnier.

This recipe is a bit of a story. I have wanted to make it for years, after seeing it on Barefoot Contessa. I decided to make it this year for Valentine’s Day, which required I put the special dish on hold at Sur la Table. When I finally made it, I forgot to buy heavy cream and tried half/half, which didn’t have the milk fat needed to make it fluff together. So I threw that whole batch out (wah).

I got it right the second time – just watch your Gran Marnier, that stuff gets strong!

Coeur a la Creme with Raspberry Sauce


  • 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • Raspberry Sauce, recipe follows
  • 2 half-pints fresh raspberries

Place the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the beater and bowl with a rubber spatula and change the beater for the whisk attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the heavy cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and vanilla bean seeds and beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick, like whipped cream (about 5 min.).

Line a coeur a la creme dish (or 7-inch sieve) with cheesecloth (or paper towels) so the ends drape over the sides and place it on something to catch the liquid (if using a sieve, suspend it over a bowl, making sure that there is space between the bottom of the dish and the bottom of the bowl for the liquid to drain). Pour the cream mixture into the cheesecloth (I doubled my cheesecloth layer), fold the ends over the top, and refrigerate overnight. Mine drained just a few drops of liquid, so don’t expect a flood.

You’ll love the way the cheesecloth leaves an impression on the surface:

Now, make the raspberry sauce:

  • 1 half-pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (Grand Marnier)

Place raspberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and liqueur into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Chill.

To serve, unmold the coeur a la creme onto a plate and spoon sauce around the edges. Tumble raspberries all around and dig in!

I honestly can’t have more than one or two spoonfuls at a time – it is very rich. This would be PERFECT for a spring or summer dinner party because it makes so much and is so cool and soft to eat.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Baked Goat Cheese with Pink and Green Peppercorns

I am always looking for new ways to use goat cheese – dotted in quiche, rolled into a meat, fried and served on a fresh arugula salad … ah, the tangy purity of fresh cheese.

Goat cheese’s flavors range from grassy to lemony – I prefer the lemony kind, which connects perfectly with that lemon essence in fresh thyme. Inspired by something I saw on The Kitchn (my fave foodie website), I recently made a baked goat cheese appetizer to serve at a small-plates gathering with friends.

I had been looking for an excuse to buy pink peppercorns for some time – but alas, I couldn’t find them not included in a tri-colored mix. So I separated out the pink and green peppercorns and popped them between my fingers, sprinkling them over the goat-cheese filled ramekins. Delicate thyme leaves followed, along with a drizzle of clover honey.

Baked until warmed through and bubbling at the edges, it’s my new favorite way to serve goat cheese as an appetizer.

Baked Goat Cheese with Pink and Green Peppercorns

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tsp pink and green peppercorns, some lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 375. Fill one small ramekin with goat cheese, then top with honey, thyme and peppercorns (I obviously doubled the recipe). Bake until warmed through and bubbly at the edges, about 10-15 min. Serve with crackers or sliced baguette.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Jalapeno Beer-Braised Shrimp

Shrimp seared and then braised in a mixture of jalapeno, garlic and stout beer … yet another reason to drink while you’re cooking. I’d like to think that the first person to cook seafood with alcohol really just spilled some of her wine in the pan and went with it. There’s something about the complex flavors of good beer or wine that make certain seafood – notably shrimp – just bloom with flavor.

I’ve adapted this recipe from an old one of Rachael Ray’s – her magazine, not her show – and it’s a popular staple whenever I’m craving shrimp cooked with unique flavors.

This dish truly does taste different – the beer is strong and comes at you fast, along with the pepper, garlic and bay. Yet the shrimp still tastes nice and buttery, served over brown Basmati rice (or any rice).

Jalapeno Beer-Braised Shrimp


  • 2 pounds prawns or jumbo shrimp—peeled, deveined
  • Grill seasoning, such as McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning (or just salt and pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 bottle of dark stout beer, such as Guinness (we used a dark Indian beer) – about 1 1/2 c.
  • 1 bay leaf, dried or fresh
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, a palmful
  • Cooked brown rice, for serving

Coat the prawns with the grill seasoning. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the olive oil is very hot, place about half the prawns in the skillet in a single layer and quickly sear them, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate and reserve. Repeat with the remaining prawns.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, then add the chile pepper and the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beer and bay leaf. Boil over high heat to reduce the liquid by half.

Return the prawns to the skillet with the sauce and cook, turning once, until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and remove the bay leaf. Stir in the butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Garnish with cilantro (if you have it) and serve over rice!

Yum, I had my leftovers for a tasty, healthy lunch. Make sure you use a beer that you really love – that means if you don’t like Guinness, my goodness don’t use it! And if you don’t like any stout beer, I’m sure that an equally high-quality amber ale would work, too.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pork Loin Stuffed with Prosciutto and Lemon

I wish I could remember what made me think this recipe would be a good idea. Butterflying or filleting things is not my strong suit. But the beautiful Bon Appetit pictures of pork loin perfectly rolled around lemon, prosciutto and bread crumbs made me think I should try it. I mean, how hard could it be?

It’s not that it was hard so much as I just did a bad job. I sliced the meat open with a sharp knife, rolling and slicing, rolling and slicing, until I had not a loin but an uneven slab of meat. Then I placed the thin slices of prosciutto and lemon on and sprinkled the panko. We didn’t have fresh chives, but for some reason Grant had dried chives in his cupboard, so I used that instead.

I also forgot the kitchen twine, so the loin didn’t cook as beautifully as I would hope (I had to use the one piece of twine that came with the meat).

Note – I found that the recipe’s measurements for salt were way too much, so please use tender care if you dare to make…

Pork Loin Stuffed with Prosciutto and Lemon (from Bon Appetit)


  • 1 4-pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed (check the discount meat bin!)
  • 12 thin prosciutto slices (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 large lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh chives (or dried…)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 450.
Place pork, fat side down, on work surface with 1 short end facing you. Using long thin sharp knife and starting 1/2 inch above underside of roast, cut 1/2 inch in along right side. Continue cutting 1/2 inch above underside, unrolling roast like carpet. Arrange prosciutto evenly over pork, overlapping if necessary. Arrange lemon slices over prosciutto. Sprinkle with panko, then chives. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I would just use a pinch!) and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Turn pork so 1 short end faces you. Beginning at 1 short end, roll up pork; arrange seam side down on work surface (fat side will be facing up). Using kitchen string, tie at 1- to 1 1/2-inch intervals. Transfer pork, fat side up, to roasting pan. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt (yikes, again, just use pinches) and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Here is my mess:
Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven. Place pork on lower rack; roast 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F; roast pork until instant-read thermometer registers 145°F when inserted into center of pork, 45 to 60 minutes longer, depending on thickness of roast. Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil.
Place roasting pan over 2 burners on medium-high heat. Add broth and wine; bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 8 minutes. Stir in butter. Add cornstarch mixture and stir until sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Using kitchen scissors, cut string along top of roast; discard. Cut pork into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

To serve, spoon sauce over the pork. The sauce is WONDERFUL. Rich and dark, salty and smooth. The pork actually had an awesome flavor, although I pulled out the lemon bits, which flavored the entire loin. The prosciutto gave it that ham-on-ham goodness and the panko brought everything together.

I also made cheesy broccoli as a side, but any green would be a good accompaniment.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Rustic No-Knead Bread

Don’t let the name fool you – just because it’s no-knead doesn’t mean it’s no-muss and no-fuss. In fact, this bread was more difficult than kneaded breads, simply because kneaded breads don’t stick to your fingers like glue. BUT. Here’s why I love this bread more than kneaded breads – it cooks in a Dutch oven and turns out crunchy and crisped on the outside, with soft dough bubbles on the inside. Just like a nice bread you’d get at the bakery.

I covered mine in toasted wheat bran for extra flavor and nutrition, but the bran was kind of a mess in the kitchen and looks funny on the bread. However, it did offer a nice toasty taste on the crust.

I first had this bread at my friend Jennifer’s house, where she was cooking a gourmet meal for the ladies in her book club (they had just read “Heat” by Bill Buford, which I recommended to Jennifer). In addition to the homemade pumpkin pasta and lots of appetizers, she served this beautiful loaf of bread that I couldn’t believe didn’t come from an Italian bakery. Way to go, Jennifer!

She sent me the recipe the next day, from The Minimalist, of course:

No-Knead Bread


  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast (at my store, it’s called extra-active dry yeast)
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • Wheat brand, as needed (or flour)

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups (about 13 oz.) water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. (WriteGal note: this was a huge, sticky mess for me.) Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. (WriteGal note: make sure you don’t fold in any of the wheat bran because it will form a seam in the loaf that is unsightly – like an extra crust running through it). Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

As soon as mine came out of the oven, we cut it thick, then placed ripe tomato slices on top, seasoned with salt and pepper. It was a perfect snack to enjoy a warm afternoon, along with Manchego cheese and a cold Modelo beer.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Orange Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

Great cookware can inspire my culinary mind as much as reading a savory magazine or watching The Food Network. So it happened with my colorful new birthday presents.

The best way to celebrate them is with cakes inspired by their shape and color. So, for my 1970s orange Bundt pan…

I made an orange-poppy seed cake that would have been poplar in that decade. (Or any decade, really).

It’s a bit semi-homemade, but don’t let that stop you. It’s sweet and spongy, with a bite of orange zest and tiny pops from the seeds. My friend Nikki gave me the family recipe:

Orange Poppy Seed Cake


  • 6 0z frozen  OJ concentrate ( thawed ) – half a can
  • 1 pkg  yellow cake mix
  • 1  C sour cream
  • 4  large eggs
  • 1/3  C  canola oil
  • 1 1/2  Tbsp  poppy seeds
  • 2  Tbsp  sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350; butter and flour a Bundt pan.

In a bowl  combine the above, mixing well between ingredients, then mixing at medium speed for 2 min. Pour into greased/floured Bundt pan. Bake 40-50 min. or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 5 min. in pan, then finish on wire rack.

To serve, dust with powdered sugar, slice and serve!

It kind of tastes like orange ice cream. Sooo sweet, it will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo