We're a ways from the Spring Equinox, and here in the bay area (California) it's getting all the way down into the 50s. [Ed. note: Can you smell the sarcasm?] Seriously, we know it's still extremely chilly in other areas of the country, and thought it might be nice to throw a sumptuous soup into the mix.
Rick Bayless says, "There are thick, pureed soups, soups that are like a winter blanket—you just want to wrap yourself in them when it starts snowing outside."
And then there is tortilla soup, sopa Azteca, if you want to be authentic about it. A beautiful broth enriched with chiles, poured over chicken, topped with crunchy tortilla strips and finished with crema. It's not a "winter blanket" soup, it’s more like a light jacket. Still, it'll warm you up.
Not only that, it's very versatile. You can add any combination of ingredients and toppings you prefer. I recently made this for a client's luncheon and prepared all the ingredients and toppings as a "soup bar."
NOTES: If you are unable to find dried pasilla ancho or negro chiles, you can use powdered pasilla or ancho chile, and add ½-1 tablespoon to the pan about halfway through the cooking of the onion. If you're serving vegetarians, have cooked chicken on the side that can be voluntarily added. Black beans and corn are a nice vegetarian substitution.
Adapted from: Laura Davidson, A Beautiful Plate and Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill/Topolobampo
Billie-First day at home.
Every night before I fall asleep, I mumble to the BF, "I can't wait until coffee tomorrow morning." [Ed. note: *insert snoring rumblings equivalent to a small earthquake*] That wasn't always the case. The BF and I didn't start regularly drinking coffee until we were in our 40s (that's right, four decades of coffee-free living). The main reason for me: I loved the smell, but hated the taste. Wasn't even a fan of anything mocha flavor.
How things have changed. Late bloomer that I am, I don't even need much creamer or milk. Will take it almost black.
Now our household has graduated to full-on coffee desserts like this delectable 4-ingredient café au lait pudding adapted from Ashley Rodriguez's Date Night In. It's perfect for the two of us because the recipe is for two individual servings, but you can easily double the quantities if you need to make four.
One of my followers commented that she doesn't eat dessert very often, but is regularly asked to bring dessert to various functions throughout the year. This works perfectly because not only is it easy and fast to make, it's super portable, with tightly closing lids for individual servings. You may have your own preferred vessel, but Weck Tulip Jelly Jars were used here. They aren't a sponsor in any way, I just love them to death and use them for everything. www.amazon.com/Weck-762-Tulip-Jelly-Jar/dp/B00F739OFC
The only thing better than coffee in the morning is this café au lait pudding for two after dinner. And if you're not already a coffee aficionado, this could very well be your gateway drug.
NOTES: Be sure to use strong coffee or espresso. It's optional, but I added an extra teaspoon of espresso to the pudding for extra zing.
Adapted from: Date Night In, Ashley Rodriguez
Since it's Chinese New Year this Friday, February 16th (Year of the Dog), here's a take on a popular Chinese recipe that can be made in your own kitchen in under 30 minutes.
The BF and I love take-out Chinese, but I don't like the abundance of added thickeners, i.e., flour, cornstarch, etc. So I frequently make our own Chinese food at home where quantites can be better controlled. (Side note: BF also loves sushi and poke bowls that you can easily make at home, and you can see a poke bowl option here www.moveablefeast.me/blog/ahi-poke-bowl-with-kohlrabi-rice.)
My parents instilled my love of Asian food at an early age, as my dad lived in Shanghai for 10 years, so mom lovingly and expertly prepared Japanese and Chinese food for the five of us (two brothers, two sisters) when she could.
Until I turned 10 years old, we went to one of our two favorite restaurants (Pagoda and Forbidden City) in Portland every Saturday night. The owners knew us by name and watched us grow up. They laughed as my mom dipped pacifers in sweet and sour sauce to quiet the infants.
Every Saturday morning, we shopped at the local Japanese Grocery store called Anzen (100 year old store, now closed). I remember the scent and otherwordly yellow glow of the pickled daikon radish, gallon jug of sweet soy sauce, burlap bag of rice. And I remember the rice-paper-wrapped candy that my dad would give us if we behaved while waiting for them in the car.
This terrific recipe was adapted from The Woks of Life. A word about king trumpet mushrooms (smokefree.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/07/14/king10001_2.jpg) from Judy Leung, "King mushrooms seem to be named as such because of their massive stems. These are substantial and very versatile mushrooms–you can pan-fry them, stir-fry them, braise them, steam them, or grill them...it's a great candidate to serve as a meat substitute."
Specifically, I added a few ingredients that I like in Kung Pao Chicken–water chestnuts, zucchini and shitakes. I also substituted cashews over peanuts as that's my personal preference, but feel free to use peanuts if you like.
NOTES: It's important to dice the vegetables according to the directions below. Everything will cook faster and evenly if you do. King trumpet mushrooms should be in the produce section of your local grocer (they're at my Safeway, Whole Foods, and Costco).
Adapted from: The Woks of Life
Number of servings: 4
On this Valentine's Day, are you aiming for someone's heart through their stomach? Don't let the ingredients and directions of this recipe scare you, this is actually way less daunting than it appears. [Ed. Note: But you don't have to disclose that information if you're truly looking to impress.]
The key to the torte's simplicity is that it's made from just three ingredients: chocolate, butter, and eggs—and it only bakes for 15 minutes. I made this for the BF, myself and a few friends in a 6-inch springform pan, but am giving the recipe as originally presented (in an 8-inch springform pan) from the brilliant Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. I happen to love flourless tortes and have made so many different kinds, and this is certainly one of my favorites. Not to mention gluten free!
Beranbaum says this is her favorite way to eat chocolate, "It's the purest form of chocolate—when you just have a chocolate bar, you can't taste the chocolate until it starts melting in your mouth. But this is just the right texture so that the minute you put it in your mouth, the flavors start exploding. It's like the creamiest truffle wedded to the purest chocolate mousse. It's the right consistency and there's nothing to interfere. There's no flour. Egg gives it texture, but it also enriches it further—it gives it a fuller flavor. And then of course butter doesn't do any harm either!"
It's creamy. moussey, and sinfully decadent. And seriously, who cares about clichés, nothing's beating chocolate on Valentine's Day.
NOTES: It's very important to have the eggs and butter at room temperature. Since there are only three ingredients, use the best chocolate and butter that you can (Scharffen Berger chocolate and Plugra European butter were used here). Finally, be sure to serve the torte at room temperature, not chilled. Read through the entire recipe before starting; while it is deceptively easy to make, there are lots of side notes that are important to its success.
Adapted from: Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible and Food 52
Number of servings: makes one 8-inch torte, serves approx 16 (depending on slice size)
I've mentioned before that I'm not great with gadgets. My BF can attest. Just last week I bought a new monthly vitamin/pill dispenser because I thought the top component of the old one was broken. It was not broken. BF fixed it in 30 seconds. [Ed. Note: *whistles innocently*]
For today's recipe we are going to break out the Paderno Brand 3-Blade Spiralizer www.williams-sonoma.com/products/paderno-sprializer/ (again, this is not a sponsored post, I just really love it), the same magically user-friendly contraption we used to whip up the Vegetable Noodle Nest with Soft Boiled Egg last September. www.moveablefeast.me/blog/vegetable-noodle-nest-with-soft-boiled-egg
If any of you want more Spiralized recipes, please let me know. I have oodles of zoodles, swoodles and faux noodles to share. Check out the photos below showing the Spiralizer in action; on the far right is a kohlrabi (if you've never seen one).
Low carb, healthy, gluten free, grain free, and ready in under 30 minutes. Perfect for a glorious weeknight meal. The recipe has been adapted from Inspiralized (changed some quantities and a bit of the process).
NOTES: If you can't find kohlrabi in your grocery store, I have successfully substituted celery root or parsnip. You can also use pancetta instead of bacon (or it's fine without any meat at all). Pecorino romano cheese can be subbed for parmesan as well.
Adapted from: Inspiralized
Number of servings: 4
I baked my own birthday cake.
What? You don't do that? It's not that my BF didn't offer to buy me the best dessert in town. [Ed. Note: Save your letters! Jeez.] It's just that I was feeling exceptionally specific, and wanted it to taste deep, dark, intensely chocolatey and extra-extra moist. We don't partake in rich desserts very often, so when we do, it needs to be amazing or it's not worth it. Many times we've found ourselves drooling over beautiful confections, only to be nonplussed by the taste. [Ed. Note: Breathtakingly meh™.]
The reason this cake is my go-to is that it has a creamy chocolate bite, and the sour cream frosting has an impressive tang that really sets it off. Also noteworthy, the frosting has neither butter nor whipped eggs (only a smidge of added sugar), making for easier preparation.
The cake itself is adapted from Ina Garten (the recipe is cut in half), the frosting from Smitten Kitchen.
Bit of a side note, but I had a perfect birthday yesterday. Our inital dinner plans in San Francisco were thwarted (there's a dog flu ripping through our area, so we couldn't find a proper sitter, and we don't take chances with our Marlowe), but we ended up having an even better day and evening sticking closer to home. The BF took me to the movies (Winchester, not our cup of tea) and then to a terrific local restaurant called Timber & Salt. The meal: an appetizer of crispy brussels sprouts with apple gastrique and whipped goat cheese, cheeseburger with horseradish mayo and bacon jam (oh yes), and a bavette steak over sauteed greens and maitake mushrooms in a red wine reduction sauce.
Once home we chilled to the far superior movie A Futile And Stupid Gesture (about Doug Kenney and the rise and fall of National Lampoon), cracked open a bottle of prosecco we'd been saving, made a cocktail with Aperol (my favorite), and tucked into this cake.
Folks, this is my absolute favorite cake. Excuse me while I have another slice.
Adapted from: Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen
Number of Servings: makes a one layer 8-inch cake (round or 8x8 square)
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
NOTE: Be sure that your sour cream is at room temperature before you make the frosting.
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.