Saturday, March 27, 2010

Down With Sugar

I love sweet stuff, and you probably do, too. But, the fact of the matter is that as Americans, we consume way too much sugar. Recently, high fructose corn syrup (the sweetener found in sodas, cookies, candies, and savory items that you wouldn't expect) has become the scapegoat for nutritionists, food writers, and bloggers - myself included. A study done on rats "proves" that long term abuse of HFCS is bad for the body, causing increased abdominal weight and more triglycerides in the blood stream. This is all probably true. However, similar effects can be said to come from long term consumption of cane sugar and other natural sweeteners. As much as we all love to rail on HFCS, the truth is we just need to eat less sugar. Period.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fun With Food

A few shots from the last day of my birthday celebration...

*Waiting in line at Swan Oyster Depot*

*Some of the offerings on display in the window*

*Mikey showing off some west coast oysters*

*Combination Louie Salad*

*Sake tasting at Takara in Berkeley*

*One of my favorite reasons to live in CA - outside Takara*

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Barbecue Sauce

This one's been on the to-do list for far too long. A by product of Quigs' birthday party prep back in February, this recipe requires many hours on the stove but is well worth the effort!

1 large onion, chopped
2 large ancho chiles, stems removed
7 cloves garlic, crushed
3 whole cloves
9 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 cups vinegar(we used cider)
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup date sugar
Salt, to taste
10 medium tomatoes, chopped

1. In a large, flameproof casserole, combine everything except for tomatoes. Bring liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring often, until the liquid is a thick syrup with large bubbles.
2. Add tomatoes. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
3. Using a potato masher, crush tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring often, for 2 hours or until very thick and similar to the consistency of ketchup.
4. In a blender, puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if you like.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Marcia's Clam Pizza

On a recent visit, my mom and I worked on a recipe that she has perfected down to an art form -- clam pizza. This version is white, but you could add tomatoes if you were so inclined. Use a jar of clams or shuck your own. For the cheese topping, we used a blend of mozz, parm, reggiano, and provolone from Lucca Ravioli Co. St. Louisians have their own similar version called Provel. Any flavorful white blend will do. Make your own dough or use a supermarket version.

The key is in the heat of oven. Set the temperature as high as it will go. Don't be shy - trust me. It also helps if you have a pizza stone or cast iron pan. For her method, the pizza is assembled on a metal pizza screen. The stone or cast iron stays in the oven, getting good and raging hot. Once the pizza is fully assembled, slide the whole thing, screen and all onto the stone. After baking, remove the entire apparatus. The stone or cast iron will retain heat and keep your pie warm while you devour the first few slices.

Serves 2-4

9.5 ounces clams, drained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Flour, for rolling
1 pound pizza dough (we used this whole wheat recipe)
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces "pizza" cheese
Olive oil, for drizzling

1. In a small bowl, combine the clams, dried oregano, garlic, and olive oil. Marinate for 20 minutes. (You can do this while the pizza dough is rising if you make your own.)
2. Set the oven at 550 degrees (or as high as your oven will go). Place your stone or cast iron pan in the oven on the bottom shelf.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pizza dough to a circle that is 1/2 inch larger than the metal pizza screen.
4. Transfer the dough to the screen. Gently roll the edges, crimping and sealing as you go, forming the outer crust.
5. Sprinkle the clam mixture over the pizza. Season with salt and pepper. Top the pizza with cheese. Drizzle with olive oil for extra browning.
6. With the pizza on the metal screen, set the whole thing on top of the stone that has been pre-heated in the oven. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbling. Remove both pans from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Baking for Passover

No, I'm not Jewish - despite the fact that the Ben Goodnick who pops up in a Google search is a rabbi -- but I am intrigued by Kosher dietary laws, and I do enjoy a good flourless chocolate cake. What follows are two recipes from the March 24th edition of the Boston Globe. The first is dense and moist -- sinful and dark. The second is light and nutty -- perhaps fleeting and ethereal. Both are delicious, and both are suitable for either Passover or satisfying the sweet tooth of gluten-free friends!

For the Seder, it’s icing on the cake

Many Passover hosts have spent years searching for the perfect flourless chocolate cake. When the holiday begins next Monday night with the first Seder, some good bakers will have found their ultimate holiday confection. If not, keep reading.

Unlike traditional flourless chocolate cakes, which are souffle-like and delicate, this cake is dense and moist. It’s so rich that a sliver will suffice. Serve it at room temperature so the glaze and the interior meld into one. This is actually a classic French torte and it relies heavily on butter. If you cannot serve a cake made with dairy products for dietary reasons, substitute margarine for butter, tablespoon for tablespoon, and omit the salt.

The technique is similar to making a giant brownie. You need only a bowl and a large whisk, and a double boiler (or heatproof bowl set over a saucepan). Bake the cake in a water bath to slowly bring the eggs up to temperature. Rotating and removing the roasting pan from the oven can be tricky procedure. Take your time and make sure it’s secure in your hands. Once the cake has been cooled and inverted onto a wire rack, you can glaze it.

The temperature of the glaze should not be hot to the touch nor should it be stiff. Cool glaze will act more like an icing. Too warm and it will run quickly off the sides of the cake. But if this happens, don’t worry. Scrape the glaze back into a bowl, cool for a few minutes more, and pour again. Chill the finished cake in the refrigerator only until the glaze sets. Then, immediately remove it from the rack and transfer to a platter. Watch the crowd gather round.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake


Butter (for the pan)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up
3/4 cup brewed strong coffee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 eggs plus 2 extra yolks
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted onto waxed paper
Pinch of salt

1. Set the oven at 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch layer cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit in, and butter the paper. Have on hand a roasting pan.

2. In the top of a double boiler over hot but not boiling water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Stir in the coffee and vanilla. Remove the top of the double boiler and wipe the bottom.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, extra yolks, and sugar. Slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture. Whisk in cocoa powder and salt.

4. Transfer the batter to the cake pan. Set the cake pan in the roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven. Pour enough warm tap water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the outside of the cake pan.

5. Bake the cake for 45 minutes, rotating from front to back halfway through baking, or until the cake is set. Do not let it cook until the top is hard or the cake may dry out.

6. Remove the cake pan from the water bath and leave to cool; refrigerate overnight.


9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up

1. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Carefully place the pan in a shallow bowl of hot water (hold the pan so the cake doesn’t get wet). Warm the cake for 2 minutes. Wipe the bottom of the pan. Invert it onto a wire rack. Lift off and discard the parchment paper. If the cake does not release, place the pan in the water for another minute and repeat.

2. Set the cake and the wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate while you prepare the glaze.

3. In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler and wipe the bottom. Cool the glaze for 5 minutes.

4. Pour the glaze over the cake. With an offset or rubber spatula, smooth any excess glaze over the cake.

5. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until the glaze sets. Using a metal spatula, loosen the edges of the cake from the wire rack. Transfer to a serving platter. Use a knife dipped in hot water and dried to cut even slices.

Go to the Globe site to see the full recipe for the Italian Chocolate-Almond Torte. (Pictured below.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Really Good Day

First, I would like to extend my congratulations to my editor, Sheryl Julian, and the other contributors to the Boston Globe's Food Section. The section was selected as one of three nominees for the best food section in the country by the James Beard Foundation! Hip Hip Hooray! Sheryl is one of the hardest working editors in the business, and it has been an absolute thrill and a pleasure to have submitted so many pieces/photos to her for the past four years. This is quite the honor -- and one that she truly deserves!

Secondly, I will take a brief moment to toot my own goes...toot...toot...TOOT! TOOT! As you may have seen, I submitted three recipes to Foodista's recipe contest -- homemade ketchup, farro with asparagus and mushrooms, and vegan pumpkin bundt cake. The online forum is assembling a cookbook using selected recipes submitted by bloggers. All three of my recipes were chosen as finalists! The winners will be announced at the end of the summer, but until then, you can continue to visit the site and vote or leave positive comments on the recipe. (Click on the link on the right sidebar to go directly to the site.) A giant thank you to those of you who have already done so! Fingers crossed!