Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 10 Desserts of 2010

Once again, a list in chronological order. Missing from both these lists are some rather fantastic muffins over the course of the year, but I wasn't sure where to put them!

Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint Cream - I conquered my fear of souffles this year. These are souffles that are supposed to fall ... making them even easier! The first time I made these, I overbeat the whipped cream, but I never made that mistake again. These cupcakes were so good and simple that they became a regular part of our work birthday celebrations thanks to one of my amazing co-workers.
Grapefruit Yogurt Cake - I've lost count of how many times I've made this dessert (both on request and as a pick me up surprise for people). It's easy to put together, even if some people claim the recipe is cursed (with luck your oil won't be rancid and your oven will cooperate!). My secret to making it extra rich is to use Liberte Mediterranean yogurt.
Chocolate Orbit Cake with Blackberry Cassis Sauce - This is rich, decadent chocolate at its finest. Some recipes I share so I only end up with a bite, other recipes I horde and keep mostly to myself. This one definitely fell into the latter category.
Blackberry Lemon Meringue Pie - Two types of curd topped off with a meringue? Yes please! It's the perfect summer dessert, except for that whole pesky needing to turn on the oven bit. Last night, a friend identified a source for meyer lemons for me, so I'm foreseeing making this again next year when the berries are in season. Maybe as a strawberry and meyer lemon meringue pie ... or what about a raspberry lime meringue pie? So many possibilities.
Cheesecake Marbled Brownies - After a summer-long brownie moratorium, I tried this recipe. It unseated my classic raspberry cheesecake brownie recipe (the same one that's somewhat responsible for this blog starting). The original calls for chocolate chips, but this recipe is divine with raspberries as well. I'll have a hard time trying another cheesecake brownie recipe.
Lemon and Cranberry Scones - The fact that I'm even considering remaking this scone recipe means it did something very, very right. If you're a fan of scones, you shouldn't miss these.
Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake - Rich, dense, insanely good, but a ridiculous amount of work. I love this cheesecake, but I'm not sure I'll ever make it again ... maybe for a VERY special occasion.
Spiced Pearsauce Cake - Moist and flavourful. This cake may have a special place in my heart solely because it saved several breakfasts for me while I was in Alabama for Thanksgiving.
Peppermint Meringues - A simple, cheap holiday dessert that tastes amazing. If you want to make it extra special, drizzle or dip in melted chocolate.
French Lemon Cream Pie - A last minute addition to Christmas dinner ... and I'm so glad I added it. This pie is ridiculously creamy. I've made a lot of lemon curd and cream variations over the past year and this one topped them all.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Top 10 Savoury Dishes of 2010

I suppose the top 10 of 2010 is a little cliche, but it's been a good year for cooking and after posting more than 150 recipes for the year, perhaps it's time to narrow the field to the recipes that were the most memorable. I had thought about picking the best recipe for each month, but that's a little unfair to the truly delicious months. I also realized that I have entirely too many desserts to do one list of favourite recipes, so here is the first installment ... the top 10 savoury dishes of 2010 (in chronological order). This list doesn't seem to capture a lot of my cooking for the year. Notably lacking are vegetarian dishes, such as couscous, lentil, pesto, and tomato/olive pasta dishes. I think it's because I see most of those recipes as things that I regularly adapt and throw together without closely following a recipe. The recipes below are things I would make again without changing things or recipes that were unique enough that I clearly remember them.

Spinach and Cheese Strata - The new year started off well with this delicious breakfast dish. Cheese and bread make me happy.
Peanut Curry Noodles with Seared Shrimp and Scallops - I am in love with the sauce in this dish. Over the course of the year, I think I've made this at least 3 times, sometimes with the seafood and sometimes without. It also seems to be fairly popular with the people in my office and the smell of it at lunch definitely makes me want to cook it again.
Shaved Asparagus Pizza - I had fun making a variety of unique pizzas over the course of the year, but I think this one was my favourite. Local asparagus makes me happy ... and of course goat cheese, tomatoes, and mozzarella can only make asparagus better. I look forward to making this pizza again when asparagus is back in season.
Spaghetti Carbonara - I made this before the whole egg salmonella scare and I'm glad I did, because otherwise I would've been hesitant to try this recipe. My only complaint with this recipe is that I can't have it for leftovers at work.
Chicken Tikka Masala - Don't let the ingredient list scare you away from trying this recipe. This recipe alone made me feel like 660 Curries was a good investment.
Bolognese Meat Sauce - There's a good reason Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is my favourite cookbook of the year. The recipes are generally simple, relying on quality ingredients. This sauce requires some patience (particularly if you up the quantity while cooking), but it's worth it.
Kung Pao Chicken - Be careful not to overdo it on the dried chiles! I may have been accused of trying to kill people from the fumes while this cooks, but I think the recipe is worth it. I have a huge soft spot for Asian flavours though.
Curried Peanut and Tomato Soup - This soup made me so happy, a last minute delicious dish before I went to Alabama for Thanksgiving and a nice welcome home meal after I returned. The best part of all is it can be made using ingredients that you generally have on hand.
Sweet and Sour Pork - I have some pork sitting in the freezer right now waiting to be used for this recipe. The sauce is simple and smells and tastes amazing. The next time I make this I'll probably skip the deep frying and make it an even quicker dish.
Black Bean Pumpkin Soup - I made this soup because I was trying to use up some excess pumpkin puree. I wasn't too sure about it at first, but I love beans (my top three are black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas). After some mistakes and substitutions along the way, the end result for me could only be described as comfort food in a bowl.

Agree/disagree? Did I miss one of your favourites?

Baked Green Lasagne with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style

This recipe is a bit intense to say the least, so what better time to make it than a lazy Christmas weekend when I have all the time in the world to cook exactly what I want to eat? This lasagna recipe also isn't what I traditionally think of. There's no ricotta, no overabundance of mozzarella, and it's more pasta intense. I took a huge short cut by not making my own lasagna noodles and I'm sorry to say the dish definitely suffered for it. I should've at least gone to Milano's to pick up some homemade noodles, but schedules being what they are, I didn't find the time and used boxed noodles. If I ever make this again with boxed noodles, I'd definitely make the bolognese layers thicker. They were too thin for pasta that was less than exceptional. My only other major complaint with this dish is I didn't check the seasoning after I added the bolognese to the bechamel and ended up with a dish that was severely underseasoned (1/4 tsp salt for the bechamel is not enough!). Despite the flaws, this is a great change of pace from my usual lasagna.

Baked Green Lasagne with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

2 1/2 cups bolognese sauce (this time I made it with equal amounts of ground beef, veal, and pork)
homemade spinach lasagna noodles (see head notes)
2 tbsp butter
2/3 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
For the bechamel
3 cups milk
6 tbsp butter
4 1/2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt

1. Prepare the meat sauce and set aside. Note: If you've decided to increase the amount of bolognese you're making from the original recipe so you'll have some leftovers, be sure to allow for extra time in the simmering process.
2. Prepare the bechamel:
a. Put the milk in a saucepan, turn the heat to medium low, and bring the milk just to the verge of boiling.
b. Meanwhile, put the butter in a saucepan and turn heat to low. When the butter has melted, add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
c. Add hot milk to the flour and butter mixture, no more than 2 tbsp at a time. Stirring until it is incorporate, then add more. Repeat. When you get to 1/2 cup mixture, you can start adding more at one time.
d. Place the pan over low heat, add salt, and cook, stirring until the sauce is as dense as a thick cream. Keep warm.
3. [I'm omitting a very long discussion of how to handle your homemade noodles. Noodles are cooking, washed, wringed, and dried.] Preheat the oven to 400F.
4. Thickly smear the bottom of a lasagna pan with butter and 1 tbsp bechamel.
5. Line the bottom of the pan with a single layer of pasta strips.
6. Combine the meat sauce and bechamel [BE SURE TO CHECK THE SEASONING!].
7. Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the pasta [if you're using boxed noodles, you might want to make this a thick layer].
8. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese.
9. Top with pasta and repeat your layering. If you're using homemade noodles, you should have at least 6 layers of pasta. You'll probably want fewer layers if you're using boxed. On the very top, dot the Parmesan with butter.
10. Bake until a light, golden crust forms on top, 10 - 15 minutes.
11. Remove from oven and allow to settle for 10 minutes.

Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Scones

As Christmas Eve wore on, my thoughts turned to what I'd be eating for breakfast on Christmas morning. Somehow the bagels and cream cheese I'd planned on eating had mysteriously disappeared! The only major hurdle for my breakfast conundrum was a lack of ingredients ... the butter and eggs I had left were spoken for in tomorrow's dishes. How to make a breakfast without butter and eggs? Cinnamon rolls were out. Biscuits were out. Pancakes were out. Finally, I found a cream scone recipe. The original calls for lemon and dried apricot, but I was in more of a cinnamon roll mood. The final product was a little dry (it could be improved with an icing of some form), but it's a good recipe for when you're in a pinch.

Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Scones (adapted from epicurious.com)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon in large bowl.
2. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Add whipping cream and stir just until dough forms.
4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently just until dough holds together. Form dough into 10-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-thick round. Cut into 12 wedges.
5. Transfer wedges to large baking sheet, spacing evenly.
6. Bake scones until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly. Serve scones warm or at room temperature.

Maple Pecan Pie

How can you make a classic pecan pie better? Add maple syrup of course! For me, this recipe feels like the South meets my new home. Best of all, this recipe is ridiculously easy.

Maple Pecan Pie (from epicurious.com)

1 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 9-inch frozen deep-dish pie crust
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk first 7 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.
2. Place unbaked crust on baking sheet. Spread nuts over crust. Pour filling over.
3. Bake until filling is set and slightly puffed, about 1 hour. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

French Lemon Cream Tart

I found this recipe on chowhound and decided on a last minute change to Christmas dinner plans. I'm certainly glad I did as this cream tart is nothing short of delicious (granted I have a thing for lemon dishes). I didn't make the tart shell, because as usual that would've been just a step too far (and I didn't want to run to the grocery store on Christmas Eve to buy more butter!). You'll need to plan ahead for this dish as the cream should rest overnight.

French Lemon Cream Tart (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours)

1 9" tart shell, baked and cooled
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons (10-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature

1. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
2. Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water.
3. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic.
4. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
5. Set the bowl over the pan, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk—you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. It takes a long time and your arm my feel like it's going to fall off, but don't stop whisking.
6. As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender; discard the zest.
7. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.
8. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes.
9. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
10. When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Veal Scaloppine with Marsala and Cream

This is fancy enough for a special holiday meal, but quick and easy enough for a weeknight dinner. My only regret was not serving it with some pasta to soak up the sauce.

Veal Scaloppine with Marsala and Cream (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
450g veal scaloppine (veal cuts pounded flat if your grocery store doesn't sell them pre-pounded)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Put oil and butter in a skillet, turn up heat to medium high.
2. When butter begins to foam and subside, dredge the veal in flour. Brown quickly on both sides (about 30 seconds) and transfer to a warm plate. If the veal doesn't all fit at once, do this in batches, flouring as you go.
3. Turn the heat to high and add the Marsala. Scrape any residue loose with a wooden spoon.
4. Add the cream and stir until the cream is reduced and forms a dense sauce.
5. Reduce heat to medium, return the veal to the pan, and turn them to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Cream Cheese

After a long quest for perfect fluffy scrambled eggs, I think I'm shifting directions in favour of rich, creamy eggs. These are the perfect breakfast for those lazy mornings when you only want to check on the stove occasionally. They're delicious with only butter, but even better when you use the last of that Liberte cream cheese you have sitting in the fridge. If you search online, you can probably find better recipes and a video of Gordon Ramsey explaining the method, but here is my interpretation.

Slow Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Cream Cheese

2 eggs
1 tbsp butter
1 - 2 tbsp cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small skillet, crack eggs and add cubes of butter and cream cheese. Use a whisk or even a spatula to break the yolks and mix the eggs together.
2. Heat skillet over low heat (I keep use 2 or 3 out of ten on the markers).
3. Walk away, occasionally check on it. When the egg starts to set on the bottom, stir with the spatula to mix it up.
4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until you have a creamy mixture perfect for spreading on bread (not that I ever have any bread handy). Be patient and keep the temperature low. Be careful not to overcook! Season with salt and pepper to taste when you serve.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup

I debated posting this recipe because I thought it was too similar to this recipe, but this soup made me happy this week, so why not share? I may have made it a tad on the spicy side because I've been sick and can't taste much, so spice at your own risk.

Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup (liberally adapted from Running with Tweezers)

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp pinch chilli flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup red split lentils
3 1/2 vegetable stock or water
1 can whole tomatoes
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked

1. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil and spices and fry until fragrant.
2. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils have softened.
3. Add cooked chickpeas. Puree the soup with an immersion blender.

Pita Bread

Winter does strange things to you. There's a point where just below freezing starts to seem "warm." For me, it makes me incredibly reluctant to go on a quick grocery store run, which means I spend more time improvising. I wanted some bread to go with my soup, but was too lazy to go out to the store (not to mention grocery store pita bread usually isn't that good) and of course had no bread products in the apartment. I'm not sure how authentic this is, but it's good ... as long as you have patience. And for all of you who are afraid of yeast, it's time to get over it. Yeast isn't scary at all. :)

Pita Bread (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp sugar

1. Combine flour, olive oil, yeast, salt, and sugar in a food processor.
2. Turn the machine on and 1 cup water.
3. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky.
4. Put the dought ball in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until dough doubles, 1 to 2 hours.
5. When dough is ready, form into a ball and divide into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest until they puff, about 20 minutes.
6. Roll each ball to 1/4" thick. Let rest 20 minutes.
7. Choose your cooking method: preheat oven to 350F and bake on a pizza stone or baking dish or use a heavy skillet and fry. You'll probably need 5 - 6 minutes per side.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

A quick post before I run out the door, because I've been horribly behind on posting lately. I'm not completely happy with the cupcake portion of this (although it is good, I'm just a perfectionist), but the frosting is spot-on. I scaled the recipe in half, otherwise the one below makes 2 dozen.

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes (from Tracey's Culinary Adventures, originally Annie's Eats)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Combine the milk, coffee and peppermint extract in a small bowl.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5. Add the eggs to the bowl, one at a time, letting the first incorporate fully before adding the second.
6. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only until everything is incorporated.
7. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

6 large egg whites
1 3/4 plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
food colouring (if desired)

1. In a heatproof bowl (ideally your stand mixer bowl), stir the egg whites and sugar together.
2. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160 F and the sugar has dissolved.
3. Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites and sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8-10 minutes.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more.
5. Stir in the peppermint and vanilla extracts (and food colouring if desired) and mix just until incorporated.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting

Gingerbread cookies are fine, but I think cupcakes are an improvement. I realized while making batch one of these that I need to learn to trust my instincts and not go with cupcake recipes that seem like they're missing key ingredients. Luckily, epicurious provided an excellent batch two. I also think I've figured out my lifelong dislike for cream cheese ... I don't like Philadelphia cream cheese, but Liberté is delicious. Unfortunately for me, the frosting on these is made with Philadelphia because the Metro was out of Liberté (also unfortunately for me, I'll lose my favourite cream cheese if/when I leave Quebec).

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting (cupcakes adapted from epicurious.com, frosting from The Culinary Chronicles)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Into a bowl sift together the flour, the ground ginger, the cinnamon, the cloves, and the salt.
2. In another bowl cream 1/2 stick of the butter, add the granulated sugar, and beat the mixture until it is fluffy.
3. Beat in the molasses and the egg, beating until the mixture is smooth.
4. In a measuring cup combine the baking soda with 1/2 cup boiling water and stir the mixture to dissolve the baking soda.
5. Stir the mixture into the molasses mixture (the mixture will appear curdled) and stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture, stirring to combine the ingredients well.
6. Line twelve 1/2-cup muffin tins with paper liners and spoon the batter into the liners, filling them halfway.
7. Bake the cupcakes in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a rack and let them cool.

10 Ounces Cream Cheese, at room temperature (I only used 250g)
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1/4 Cup Molasses
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3-4 Cups Confectioner Sugar, sifted

1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy.
2. Mix in molasses, cinnamon, and cloves.
3. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Continue adding sugar to desired consistency.
4. Fill a piping bag with the frosting and pipe large swirls on top of the cupcakes.

Christmas Macarons

December's busy schedule is catching up with me as I desperately try to catch up on holiday baking before everyone leaves on holiday. I had 8 egg whites leftover from another recipe that I'd stored in the freezer and then defrosted, so I decided it was time to tackle macarons (aged egg whites are apparently key because they have less moisture). I made 2 attempts ... the second using more food colouring and peppermint extract. Neither was perfect, but at least both sets had feet!
I found an amazing recipe source online (with video!) that I tweaked only slightly. I added some peppermint extract and green food colouring to the outside to make it a little more Christmas-y. I increased the powdered sugar by 10g and decreased the ground almond by 10g, because ground almonds are sold in 100g packages here. I substituted dark chocolate for the milk chocolate in the filling ganache to make the taste a little more grown up. Finally, I didn't let the finalized macarons sit for 24 hours because I didn't see those instructions until it was too late. The finished product wasn't perfect, but people did seem to appreciate them, so I'd encourage you to give these a shot!

One Year Ago: A less festive dessert, Espresso Chiffon Cupcakes with Fudge Frosting

Christmas Macarons (adapted from Daydreamer Desserts)

Macaron Shell
90 grams egg whites
210 grams powdered sugar (see notes above)
100 grams ground almonds (see notes above)
25 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp peppermint extract
green food colouring

1. In a bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and ground almonds. Sift through a sieve twice and set aside.
2. With a hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites until they appear foamy, approximately 30 seconds. While the mixer is running carefully pour in the granulated sugar in a slow stream and continue beating the whites on high until they reach a consistency similar to that of shaving cream.
3. Add in peppermint extract and green food colouring (10 drops or so until the shade is right) and beat until mixed in (the second time around, I added this too early and couldn't get the right consistency, I think this is the right point to add it, but feel free to experiment).
4. Be careful not to over-beat, or the meringue will be too dry.
5. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the meringue all at once. Begin folding, continue folding until the batter resembles a thick pancake batter. The folding should not take more than 50 strokes.
6. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit.
7. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
8. When ready, bake for approximately 16-17 minutes, depending on the macaron size they might require a longer baking time. Allow them to cool, then transfer to a wire rack.

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 ounces dark chocolate

1. Heat heavy cream and chocolate in a small dish in the microwave. Stir until melted completely. The original suggests chilling in the fridge, but I find it makes the ganache too difficult to spread later and just allow it to chill on the counter (my apartment is fairly cool this time of year!).

Assembly (I didn't follow these, but they're all good ideas!)
1. Place ganache in a piping bag fitted with a small star tip and pipe ganache onto your macaron shells. (or spread with a knife)
2. Sandwich macaron shells together, place them in a sealed container in the refrigerator and let them rest for at least 24 hours.
3. Remove macarons from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving, and enjoy withing 7 days after making them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chicken with Lemon Grass

When I first tried this dish, I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting something spicier and more flavourful ... and the taste is just a bit mild. Granted, I substituted curry paste for chili paste, but I also upped it from 1 tsp to 1 tbsp, so you'd think it would balance out (Any ideas where to find chili paste in Mtl? It keeps hiding from me!) However, after trying this dish a day or so later (and having 2 co-workers taste it), I think it's blog worthy and tasty ... I just have to change the name from "hot and spicy chicken with lemon grass." I'm still waiting for a recipe from this cookbook to completely wow me. Hopefully that will happen soon!

Chicken with Lemon Grass (adapted from The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking)

1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp water
450g skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced 1/4" thick and 1.5" long
3 tbsp vegetable oil
10 whole dried chilies
1/4 cup minced lemon grass (I used 3 lemon grass which was less)
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp red curry paste (or 1 tsp ground chili paste if you can find it)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 yellow onion, sliced into thin wedges
1 cup julienned carrots
cooked rice

1. Combine cornstarch and water in a large mixing bowl. Add chicken, making sure it's well coated.
2. In a small pot of boiling water, blanch the carrots (cook for 2 - 5 minutes). Drain and shock in ice water.
3. Heat oil in a nonstick fry pan over low heat. Add the dried chilies and cook until they puff up, about 10 seconds. Remove, drain on paper towels, and set aside.
4. Increase heat to high and add lemon grass, garlic, sugar, and curry paste. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
5. Add chicken and stir to separate. Cook until chicken turns opaque, 3 - 4 minutes.
6. Add chicken stock, fish sauce, salt, onion, and carrots and continue cooking for 3 - 4 minutes.
7. Add reserved chilies and serve over rice.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Goat Cheese and Asparagus Risotto

I woke up this morning in pain. It took me a good 20 minutes of pondering off and on before I realized why my poor little arms were so sore ... snow shoveling. I also had plans for a delicious brunch this morning, but then my brunch partner called to cancel ... something about not wanting to brave the snow/sleet combination to drive back to the island and my resolve to walk to brunch crumbled in the face of entirely too much snow. Instead, I ended up at the Val-Mont staring at a bundle of delicious looking asparagus for only $2. Winter, you may leave me in pain and ruin my brunch plans, but I'm going to live in denial and pretend it's spring. I decided to throw together some flavours that make me happy ... asparagus, goat cheese, and prosciutto. The goat cheese may overpower the prosciutto a bit, but this little creation still makes me happy. The trick while cooking this is to not eat too much asparagus and prosciutto while the risotto is cooking ... or maybe that's the key to this meal.

Goat Cheese and Asparagus Risotto

1 bundle asparagus
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
4 cups chicken broth (more or less)
2 tbsp lemon juice (more or less)
1/2 cup dry white wine
70g goat cheese with fine herbs
4 slices prosciutto, torn into slivers

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Bring the chicken broth and lemon juice to a simmer in a pot.
2. Snap asparagus stalks into bite-sized pieces. Place in an oven safe dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Roast the asparagus in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes while you start cooking the risotto.
4. In a deep skillet, melt the butter and fry the garlic.
5. Add the rice and brown in the melted butter for 1 minute or so.
6. Add the white wine and simmer until wine is absorbed.
7. Add a cup of broth and stir. Simmer until broth is absorbed.
8. Continue adding broth 1 or 2 ladles at a time, stirring, and simmering to absorb the broth until rice is cooked.
9. Remove from heat. Stir in goat cheese until melted.
10. Stir in asparagus and prosciutto, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Peppermint Meringues

I had originally planned on attempting macarons for a holiday party, but sadly forgot to thaw the egg whites I had stored in the freezer in time. I was discussing what to bring with the host when she requested meringues. This recipe was fairly simple and turned out wonderfully. My only complaint was that my egg whites never reached the stiff peaks stage. I'm not sure why, but it made the meringues more of a pain to pipe. Hopefully yours will work out better. [ETA: I'm fairly sure I added the extract too early. Recipe has been adjusted accordingly below.] I believe this is a Martha Stewart recipe, but I forgot to bookmark it when I found it and don't feel like searching for it again when I already remember the ingredients!

One year ago: Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

Peppermint Meringues

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

1. Bring a pot of water to a simmer. Preheat oven to 175F.
2. Combine egg whites and sugar in a metal stand mixer bowl.
3. Place bowl over the simmering water. Stir until sugar is melted and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes.
4. Beat egg whites on high for 5 minutes or ideally until stiff peaks form.
5. Mix in the mint extract.
6. Pipe the egg whites into quarter sized cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (If you're feeling fancy, you could incorporate red stripes, but really, that's a step too far.)
6. Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes at 175F.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spicy Red Beef Curry

It would appear that it's been more than a week since I last posted. My apologies, but lately I seem to have trouble finding the time to cook (it's a good thing my freezer is well stocked!). I wish I had a stunning recipe to give you given the absence, but instead we'll have to make do with something that's just good. My main complaint with this dish is I expected it to be spicier. Of course, this recipe comes together in the time it takes to cook the rice, so I can't complain too much. Making it a second time around, I would probably double the curry paste and spices and omit the bamboo shoots entirely. In terms of other changes, I cut the bamboo down to 1 can, added some bean sprouts, cut back slightly on the sirloin, omitted the kaffir lime leaves, subbed basil for Thai basil, and omitted the fresh cilantro. Original recipe with a few notes is included below.

One year ago: Egg Drop (an excellent template for breakfast)

Spicy Red Beef Curry (from The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 shallots, sliced
2 tsp red curry paste (consider doubling)
1/2 plus 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 tsp ground cumin (consider doubling)
1/2 tsp ground coriander (consider doubling)
1 tsp paprika (consider doubling)
450g sirloin, cut into thin strips 2" long by 1" wide
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves, cut into slivers (I omitted)
2 cup canned bamboo shoots, boiled 5 minutes, rinsed, and drained (consider subbing bean sprouts)
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned (I used a whole)
20 fresh thai basil leaves, cut in half
8 fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
steamed rice (for serving)

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a skilled over medium heat.
2. Add shallots and curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk and stir for 2 minutes.
4. Add cumin, coriander, paprika and stir to dissolve spices.
5. Add the beef and toss in the seasonings for 1 minute.
6. Add 1 cup coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, sugar, lime leaves, and bamboo shoot and bring to a gentle boil.
7. Cook uncovered until tender, 10 - 15 minutes.
8. Add red bell pepper and basil (and bean sprouts if using) and removed from heat.
9. Garnish with cilantro and serve with steamed rice.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Sausage and Greens

Confession time: peas are probably my least favourite vegetable. I find them sickeningly sweet and just think they ruin a good dish. My prejudice against peas dates back to childhood and was only reinforced by stories of my dad's pea hatred at a young age. So what am I doing making a split pea soup? I decided to give yellow split peas a try when they kept popping up in Indian recipes. Of course, I had difficulty initially finding yellow split peas, so I bought some green ... just in case ... and then they sat in my pantry for entirely too long. I think I'm okay with peas now ... if they're split peas and paired with a spicy sausage. I didn't quickly find the recommended sausage, so I substituted a lamb merguez and added a little liquid smoke. As an additional warning, this makes a very thick soup and quite a lot of it. I had to thin the soup out a little and I never have to do that.

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Sausage and Green (adapted from epicurious.com)

454g dried green split peas (2 1/3 cups)
340g smoked pork linguiça or andouille sausages (I used slightly less and a lamb merguez)
8 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
5 Turkish bay leaves
3 to 4 cups coarsely chopped kale

1. Cook sausage in a frying pan, browning on both sides (6 minutes total). Add water, cover, and let steam cook for an additional 6 minutes or so.
2. Combine split peas, whole cooked sausages, 8 cups broth, liquid smoke, and bay leaves in heavy large pot.
3. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.
4. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until peas are tender, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes.
5. Transfer sausages to cutting board. Cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick half-rounds (mine were thin, so I skipped the lengthwise).
6. Puree soup using an immersion blender.
7. Add sausages and greens. Thin with more broth if necessary. Simmer soup until greens soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Couscous with Herbs and Lemon

While reading the reviews for the lamb stew I made, I stumbled upon this couscous recipe. I had only impulsively bought basil (should I be worried that I now impulsively buy fresh herbs instead of things like candy?), so I had to make do without the parsley and mint. The original recipe, however, is included below for my future reference (and your use!).

One year ago: The amazing macaroni and cheese recipe

Couscous with Herbs and Lemon (from epicurious.com)

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided (I used cheap EVOO for the first part and my good olive oil for the second)
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups couscous
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

1. Cook onion in 1 tablespoon oil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes.
2. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
3. Add water and broth and bring to a boil.
4. Stir in couscous, then cover and remove from heat. Let couscous stand, covered, 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and stir in herbs, lemon juice, remaining tablespoon oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Lamb Stew with Spinach and Garbanzo Beans

Before I left on my trip, I decided that I should try and cook my way through some of the dried goods I have sitting in my pantry. Specifically, I wanted to make sure I used up all of the split peas I have before they're past their prime. As an added side bonus, it's always nice to only need to buy one or two things when you're cooking a recipe.

I adapted this recipe a lot based on reviews and prior experience. I also substituted veal for lamb because Maison du Roti didn't have any lamb stew meat pre-cut (and I'm still feeling exceedingly lazy after my trip), but the Metro always has veal stew meat. A brief summary of the other changes: less meat, fresh garlic in place of powder, all of the spices are my addition, 2 cups of dried chickpeas (I'm not sure what that comes out to after they soaked), more broth and sauce, less spinach (the baby spinach I bought was much lighter). I served it all over couscous (recipe to follow).

One year ago: Cornbread Dressing that I wish I had been given the chance to make again this year instead of being forced to eat Morrison's ...

Lamb Stew with Spinach and Garbanzo Beans (liberally adapted from epicurious.com)

570g lamb shoulder or stew meat, cut into 1" pieces (I used 375g veal meat)
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup 1/2" pieces peeled carrots
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 can chickpeas, drained (I used 2 cups dried, then pre-soaked them)
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup tomato sauce (I used strained tomatoes)
1 tbsp lemon juice
275g spinach leaves (I used a package of baby spinach that was less than that)
cooked couscous

1. Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper.
2. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add lamb and sauté until brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
3. Add onion, carrots, garlic, and spices and sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Return lamb to dish.
4. Add garbanzo beans, broth, tomato sauce, and lemon juice and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer gently until lamb is tender, about 1 hour.
5. Add spinach to stew. Cover and cook until spinach wilts, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Season stew with salt and pepper. Serve over couscous.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Curried Peanut and Tomato Soup

I think I said the other post would be my last post for a week, but somehow I found myself cooking today. There's something incredibly nice about having a day off at home while everyone else is at work. I should be off getting my oil changed, but it's grey outside and my apartment is so cozy ... perfect weather for a warm, spicy soup.

This recipe is an example of the dangers of watching Top Chef late at night. Earlier in the evening, I had been discussing my obsession with peanut butter with someone, then the episode of Top Chef I was watching had a peanut soup featured in it. I checked my copy of Gourmet Today for a recipe and found one that would've required going to the grocery store or else outrageous adaptations. I turned to epicurious.com instead and found this recipe. The only I was missing was ... peanut butter (peanut butter is clearly too delicious for me to safely keep it on hand). Luckily, I had some peanuts on hand, so I made my own (kind of). I'm sticking with the original recipe below though and just including peanut butter.

In terms of adaptation, I used whole Italian tomatoes because that's what I had and I think the quality is better than most of the cans of diced tomatoes, so I simmered the soup slightly longer. The original calls for mixing the peanut butter with 1 cup of hot water, which I reduced to 1/2 cup, but next time I'd omit it entirely to make the soup a little thicker. I passed on the fresh cilantro entirely. Make sure you use a good quality curry powder as that's the flavour that really shines in this dish. You could easily add some garlic, ginger, and/or lime juice to this to up the flavour (and my homemade peanut butter needed a little brown sugar), but the base of this is solid ... spicy with a hint of peanut butter that's not overpowering.

Oh and according to a reviewer on epicurious, this recipe is "A good way to sneak a little more lycopene into your husband's diet to keep his prostate gland healthy!" I can't say I've ever had that concern while cooking, but maybe you do!

I served this over rice to make it a little more hearty. If you're hoping for a lot of leftovers, double the recipe as this one doesn't make very much.

Curried Peanut and Tomato Soup (adapted from epicurious.com)

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used peanut)
2 teaspoons curry powder (preferably Madras masala)
1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes in juice (I used whole Italian tomatoes)
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
rice (optional)

1. Cook onion, salt, and pepper in oil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Add curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes (with their juice) and broth and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. (I let it simmer a little longer because I was using whole tomatoes.)
4. Stir in peanut butter. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
5. Puree until smooth using an immersion blender.
6. Serve over rice.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Frosting

As a warning, this recipe will likely be my last post until after I return from American Thanksgiving. With luck, I'll return with some good classic Southern recipes to share. In the meantime, feel free to revisit the Thanksgiving recipe bonanza from last year.

A friend of mine is hosting a board game afternoon today, so of course I wanted to make cupcakes to bring over to her place. After consulting with her preferences (she wanted something with coffee in it), I decided to make a recipe I've been eying since mid-summer when baking was less than a popular activity in my apartment. The original recipe calls for a berry buttercream frosting, but it's definitely not the time of year for berries and I have a bottle of kahlua from making the cappuccino fudge cheesecake. My only complaint with the kahlua frosting is that it didn't setup very nicely (I probably should've chilled it before trying to pipe the cupcakes!), but it's delicious so I'm going to go ahead and share it with you! I also now have 8 egg whites sitting in the freezer, so expect some experimental chocolate peppermint macarons for the holidays.

The only changes I made to the cupcake recipe were to only use dutch-processed cocoa powder (she also uses black cocoa) and to only use espresso powder (she uses espresso and instant coffee).

Mocha Cupcakes (adapted from Desserts for Breakfast) with Kahlua Frosting (from Crazy Monkey House Eats)

Ingredients for Cupcakes
makes ~15-18 regular-sized cupcakes (or 12 with one ramekin for tasting before you go to the party)

1 cup (225g) sugar
1 cup (110g) flour
8 tbsp (48g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
4 Tbspn espresso powder, divided
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn baking soda
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the cupcake molds with cupcake liners and set aside.
2. In a mixer bowl, combine sugar, flour, Dutch-processed cocoa powder, 2 tbsp espresso powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten egg, vegetable oil, and milk. Stir to mix.
4. Then, with the mixer on low, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until evenly distributed.
5. Combine the boiling water and 2 tbsp espresso powder.
6. Pour the hot coffee into the cake batter and mix on medium low until smooth, making sure to occasionally scrape the bottom of the bowl.
7. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full.
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes. When a toothpick inserted at the center of the cupcake comes out cleanly, the cakes are done. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Ingredients for frosting
8 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
4 tbs kahlua
1 1/2 butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla

1. In a double boiler over boiling water, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and kahlua. Whisk until the mixture becomes thick and has a pale, even color (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.
2. In a mixer bowl, combine the butter and vanilla. Mix with the electric mixer until the butter is very fluffy.
3. Slowly incorporate the kahlua mixture into the butter. Mix until well blended. The frosting is now ready to use.

Poutine Calzones

If you did a double-take on the title, then you sadly missed my facebook feed with a sneak peek of this dish. If you think I must be losing it to make a poutine calzone, then you're probably right, but I was pleasantly surprised with how well this recipe turned out.

At work this week, we had pizza for one of our seminar series ... feta cheese with olives and tomato. I was contemplating making my own and browsing through cookbooks for inspiration when I stumbled across a calzone recipe. I've never made a calzone, so that seemed like a good idea. While thinking about the calzone though, the thought of a poutine calzone popped into my head. The reason I've never made poutine at home (in addition to living so close to La Banquise and Ma'am Bolduc) is fear of not being able to make good crispy fries. I'd seen a recipe for poutine pizza on foodgawker, but was worried about the fries being too soggy. A poutine calzone seems to solve that because soft fries seem more natural ... almost like a poutine samosa calzone.

I did take an out of character shortcut while making this though ...
 Mostly, I was worried about maintain the authentic flavour of the poutine, so I cheated on the sauce.  I've never made a velouté before.  Next time I think I'll try to actually make it as it sounds relatively simple.  To make it extra delicious, I splurged on good cheese curds from Val-Mont.  If you've never tried these before, I highly recommend them for snacking!
You could take another shortcut and buy frozen french fries, but I opted to oven roast potato wedges (probably making it closer to samosa filling than classic poutine, but that's okay!).  The end result filling still looked great if I do say so myself:
A little folding over and crimping it closed:
Some egg yolk to be sure it browns up and you have a beautiful golden brown calzone:
Measurements below are rough approximations. I only made 1 recipe of pizza dough and ended up with extra filling (which I thought made a fine snack on its own). I'd estimate that each calzone is 2 servings. You should be able to flash freeze the uncooked calzones and bake them up later.

4 baking potatoes
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 package St. Hubert poutine sauce (or 2 cups velouté)
160 - 200g cheese curds
2 recipes of quick and easy pizza dough (or other pizza dough)
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Peel potatoes and cut into wedges. Layer potatoes on a baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes, turning every 10 - 15 minutes to ensure even browning. When done, reduce oven heat to 350F.
2. Meanwhile, cook poutine sauce.
3. Divide each dough recipe in 2 (for a total of 4 balls of pizza dough). Roll out dough into a 9 or 10 inch circle.
4. Top lower half of each circle of dough with 1/4 of potatoes, 1/4 of cheese, and 1/4 cup poutine sauce (roughly, reserve extra for later) being sure to leave enough room to close the calzone.
5. Fold dough over the filling and crimp the dough closed.
6. In a small bowl or cup, beat egg with 1 tsp of water. Brush calzones with egg wash.
7. Bake calzones in oven at 350F for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Serve calzone with another 1/4 cup poutine sauce poured over the top.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fettucine Alfredo (Hazan Recipe)

There's something about the colder weather that makes me crave cheese. It's not that I don't eat plenty of cheese in the summer, but as the weather cools I want cheese on everything. On my walk home this week, I was debating stopping at the store to indulge in a dinner of baguette and cheese, but at some point I decided I'd be somewhat more responsible and cook something using ingredients I had on hand. I've posted a fettucine alfredo before. This recipe is less saucy than the other (although next time I'd probably make it with a little less pasta as the pasta absorbed everything a bit too much for my taste). Surprisingly, I like this without the added garlic and other seasonings (just a hint of nutmeg). Make sure you use a good quality Parmesan. Hazan recommends pairing this sauce with homemade fettucine or tortellini.

One year ago: A less simple pasta ... tortellini with walnut and mascarpone sauce

Fettucine Alfredo (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp butter
500g fettucine or tortellini
2/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
black pepper
whole nutmeg

1. In a large and deep skillet (suitable for tossing pasta), put in 2/3 cup of heavy cream and butter over medium heat. Cook for less than 1 minute, until cream and butter have thickened. Turn off heat.
2. Cook pasta, draining while it is still very firm and even slightly underdone.
3. Transfer drained pasta to the pan with butter and cream. Turn heat to low and toss pasta thoroughly.
4. Add remaining 1/3 cup cream, 2/3 cup grated Parmesan, a pinch of salt, a few grindings of pepper, and a very tiny grating (less than 1/8 tsp) of nutmeg.
5. Toss again until pasta is well coating. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan on the side.

Pomegranate and Fennel Salsa Quinoa

This recipe originally called for serving the salsa with pork chops, but I'd used my pork on the sweet and sour pork dish, so I decided to pair it with quinoa instead. I had some extra shrimp in the freezer, so I threw that in as well. If you're going vegetarian and trying to make this more of a meal, I think chickpeas would also meld well with this. Apparently I'm not a big fan of fennel and I could've very happily done without it and maybe add some walnuts to the salsa, but I know some people like fennel. This needed a bit more acid but I was low on rice vinegar, so I added a squeeze of lemon juice.

One year ago: Swiss chard and sweet potato gratin

Pomegranate and Fennel Salsa Quinoa (adapted from Gourmet Today)

1 large fennel bulb
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 large pomegranate)
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar (maybe a little more or some lemon juice)
2 tsp mild honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup quinoa
cooked shrimp/cooked chickpeas/cooked pork chops

1. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. When done, remove from heat and let sit a few minutes covered.
2. Meanwhile, cut off and discard fennel stalks. Halve fennel bulb lengthwise, core it, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces.
3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a 12 inch heavy skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and cook, stirring until just tender, 6 - 8 minutes.
4. Transfer fennel to bowl and stir in pomegranate seeds, scallions, cilantro, vinegar, honey, and salt.
5. Mix salsa in with quinoa. Add protein of your choice. Season if needed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sweet and Sour Pork

I seem to be having recipe block right now. This is the second week that I've intended to make pork chops with pomegranate and fennel salsa only to get distracted by other ideas. The first time around, it just didn't happen and the pork made its way to the freezer. This time around, I was seized by the idea of cooking some Chinese for dinner and the pork was sacrificed for the greater good (fulfilling a craving). After deciding on my walk home that I simply needed to make Chinese for dinner, I jumped on the first pork recipe I could find in Land of Plenty for which I had all of the ingredients. The sauce on this dish is amazing ... not what you might expect based on American takeout, but delicious. I'm including below the original directions for cooking the meat. I hadn't planned on deep frying the pork, but then the oil was deep enough to somewhat pull it off, but I had the temperature a little high so it had already nicely browned and I didn't want to risk the second deep frying. I'm sure it would be better doing it correctly, but it's up to you! According to the original, this serves 2 as a main dish with one vegetable (don't forget the rice to soak up any extra sauce!).

Sweet and Sour Pork (from Land of Plenty)

340g boneless pork loin
peanut oil for deep-frying
2 eggs (you may use less)
3/8 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp rice wine
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp black Chinese vinegar
1 tsp light soy sauce
3 3/4 tsp cornstarch
3 scallions, green parts only, sliced
3 tbsp peanut oil
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tsp sesame oil

1. Trim fat from meat. Cut into slices 1/2 inch thick and cut into 1/2 inch strips. Place in bowl. Add marinade ingredients, mix well, and let sit for 30 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and cornstarch for the sauce.
3. Heat oil for deep-frying to 300F.
4. Beat eggs together. In a bowl, mix the cornstarch with enough beaten egg to make a thick batter. Mix the batter with the pork strips.
5. Drop battered strips into oil, adding individually to prevent sticking and stir to separate. Fry for 3 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove, drain, and repeat until all strips are cooked.
6. Reheat the oil to 375F. Add strips in one or two batches and deep-fry until crisp and golden. Remove and drain.
7. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a clean wok over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
8. Add the stock, bring the liquid to a boil, and then add combined sauce ingredients from step 2.
9. Stir as liquid thickens, then add scallions and sesame oil. Stir once or twice, pour over the pork and serve.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mashed Brussels Sprouts

At my dinner party, one guest showed up with brussels sprouts cooked with bacon. At the time, I wasn't quite sure I'd like them. My memories of brussels sprouts seem to involve frozen bags being heated to a stinky mess, but after one bite of this dish, I was convinced that perhaps I'd been too hard on the poor vegetable (or perhaps bacon just makes everything better). The next day, when I saw brussels sprouts on sale at the Val-Mont for $1.50, I couldn't resist (not that I'd even know what a good price is for them!). Originally, I planned to make this recipe as stated, but on a trip to Maison du Roti to pick up bits of bacon (lardons), I found lardons du prosciutto instead ... and really who could pass on prosciutto? I also subbed a shallot I had on hand for onions. The end result is good ... nothing life changing, but a great way to get something green ... which carbs, cheese, and bacony goodness.

Mashed Brussels Sprouts (adapted from Kayotic Kitchen)

2 pounds potatoes
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts (my bag was only 1lb)
1 large onion (or shallot)
3 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp curry powder
200g cream cheese
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
150g bacon bits (or prosciutto)

1. Peel, wash and cut the potatoes in 4.
2. Wash the Brussels sprouts. Slice off the stem and remove the outer leaves. Cut the bigger ones in half and leave smaller ones whole.
3. In a large pot, mix the potatoes and sprouts, add 1 garlic clove, salt and enough water to submerge the potatoes and sprouts. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until tender.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, cook the prosciutto/bacon bits. Set aside.
5. Finely chop the onion.
6. If you have plenty of bacon grease, you can skip this. Otherwise, melt the butter in the skillet.
7. Add onion and 2 cloves minced garlic to the skillet. Cook until lightly browned.
8. Add curry powder and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
9. Add milk, cream cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring until cream cheese has melted. Remove from heat.
10. Drain potatoes. Mash them to desired consistency. Stir in milk/cheese mixture. Top with bacon or stir in depending on whether you value presentation or bits of bacon in every bite.

Orzo with Everything

Usually, I would wait to post this recipe because I adapted it significantly from the original based on what I had on hand and I'm confidant that the original (or at least a closer variant on the original is better). But instead of waiting to make it again as it's already quite out of season and I have a feeling I'll forget this recipe if I don't post by the time spring/summer rolls around, I'm posting. I'm also including below some variation suggestions that I think would work well.

To make this a full meal, you might try adding shrimp or chickpeas. The recipe also suggests serving cold, but I'm more of a fan of hot dishes, so if you can't bear to wait for it to cool, go ahead and eat right away, although some commenters did note that the flavours meld better made the day before.

One year ago: Some Carrot Soup I never really appreciated because I came down with the flu the next day or so

Orzo with Everything (from epicurious.com)

1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta; about 10 ounces)
1/3 cup (packed) chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (consider doubling)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (consider cutting back to 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (use white balsamic if concerned about the orzo being brown)
1/4 cup (packed) chopped Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives (consider doubling)
1 cup finely chopped radicchio (consider substituting arugula or red cabbage)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (consider substituting feta)
2 large garlic cloves, minced

1. Cook orzo in pot of boiling salted water (some people cook in chicken broth for more flavour) until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain well. Transfer to large bowl.
2. Add sun-dried tomatoes, oil, vinegar and olives and toss to blend. Let stand until cool. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)
3. Mix chopped radicchio, pine nuts, chopped basil, Parmesan and garlic into orzo mixture. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

Every once in a while leftover ingredients and pantry staples come together to create delicious surprises. I ended up modifying this recipe so much (both intentionally and accidentally) that I'm not sure it can even be said to be adapted at this point. This recipe was built around the leftover pumpkin puree from the weekend's cheesecake. It also ended up using leftover onions, shallots, black beans, and red wine. With red wine, red wine vinegar became a necessary (and amazing) substitute. There was no beef broth to be found, so chicken was substituted instead. I may have been a little short on cumin and I couldn't pass up the prosciutto at the Val-Mont in place of ham. The cooking method also changed slightly for a smoother final texture and more convenience. Finally, I only realized while pondering why my soup looked so different from Smitten Kitchen that I'd forgotten to include the tomatoes (I may have also accidentally used more beans because I used dried beans instead of canned). Even with all of these changes (or maybe in part because?), the end result was better than I could've imagined it would be.

One year ago: Another soup ... also amazing!

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup (inspired by Smitten Kitchen, from Gourmet)

2 cups dried black beans (soaked, cooked, and drained ... or you could use 3 cans)
1 1/4 cups chopped onion (more or less)
1/2 cup minced shallot (more or less)
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tsp epazote (optional, but recommended with dried beans)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup red wine
125g prosciutto, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1. In a 6-quart heavy kettle cook onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, epazote, salt, and pepper in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown.
2. Stir in beans.
3. Stir in broth, pumpkin, and red wine until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
4. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender.
5. Just before serving, add prosciutto and vinegar and simmer soup, stirring, until heated through. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spiced Pearsauce Cake

This is another recipe from the "I need something to take to a work breakfast collection." It's probably my favourite breakfast cake that I've made in a while (although with cream cheese frosting perhaps it's not breakfast appropriate). As soon as I saw it on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I had to make it. Of course, a reasonable person would not be baking another cake after making two cheesecakes (and brisket) the day before. But then again, most reasonable people probably don't purchase nearly 2kg of cream cheese within the span of a week. This recipe was definitely worth baking again ... it's moist, flavourful, and delicious.

In terms of adaptation, I went with a pearsauce version or this cake. Originally, I had planned on buying unsweetened applesauce, but then one of my dinner party guests had to go and make homemade applesauce ... with citrus, spices, and rum! My experience with applesauce is mostly limited to childhood memories of being sick and eating a tiny bit out of a small plastic cup, but this applesauce was different ... and amazing! I couldn't very well go and buy applesauce with such delicious applesauce leftovers sitting in the fridge, but I also didn't want to go through the hassle of trying to adjust the batter to sweetened, spiced applesauce. As option C, I decided to make my own pearsauce. I followed the recipe offered on SK, but simmered it a bit longer uncovered because it seemed a little watery. The directions for making pearsauce are included with the recipe below, but feel free to substitute applesauce. Also, please note that this makes more pearsauce than you need for the cake ... I'm too lazy to try to estimate how to scale down to the right amount!

Spiced Pearsauce Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, from Gourmet)

For pearsauce
1 3/4 pounds pears
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
For cake
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (218 grams) packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (365 grams) unsweetened pearsauce (recipe included)
1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped
For frosting
5 ounces (142 grams) cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces or 42 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces or 120 grams) confectioners sugar
1/2 (1 teaspoon) teaspoon cinnamon

1. Peel, halve, core and de-stem pears. Chop them in half again if they are particularly large.
2. Place pears in a medium saucepan with balsamic and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook with the lid on for 30 minutes, or until the pears are very tender.
3. Puree with immersion blender. Simmer for another 10 or 15 minutes uncovered if the sauce seems watery.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan. (Now's a good time to toast those walnuts for 10 minutes in the oven.)
5. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
6. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
7. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in pearsauce.
8. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts.
9. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.
10. Make frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy.
11. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated.
12. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Brisket (sort-of)

There are three things I miss about Texas: Tex-Mex, steak, and barbecue. Barbecue in ZTexas is serious business and there are few things better than driving out to Salt Lick on a weekend afternoon, waiting an hour to be seated at community picnic tables, and ordering from a seemingly horribly limited menu with a choice of sausage, pork ribs, or brisket served with potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, and white bread that normally you couldn't get me to touch, but is perfect for soaking up barbecue sauce. Having spent entirely too long on the phone with my dad before being reminded that grilling is not the same thing as barbecuing, I should point out now that this isn't true brisket. There's no pit, there's no smoke, it's a sad imitation, but it's as close as I'm going to get right now. The dry rub and mop were roughly inspired by a cookbook I picked up last time I was in Houston called Texas Home Cooking. I say roughly, because I ended up going out on Friday night instead of going home at a reasonable hour and buying black pepper (it figures the moment I decide to make the switch over to fresh ground peppercorns and get rid of the bulk black pepper that was old and not so great is the moment I run out of pepper). I also managed to forget while cutting and rubbing the meat at 11:30pm that I had planned ahead and bought extra paprika just for this recipe, so my rub ended up being pepper-free and paprika-light! The method I followed was one described on Smitten Kitchen. I also took the suggestion of adding liquid smoke to my mop. It's not the same, but there is something wonderful about that smell. I cheated and used bottled barbecue sauce because for some reason, you can buy Stubb's sauce up here. I couldn't pass up a little taste of Austin in favour of an untested sauce recipe. I think I'll be trying a recipe from Texas Home Cooking soon though on some ribs. If there's success, I'll report back!

Plan on starting this recipe the night before you're serving it as the meat did seem to taste better after resting for the day. This can be made in the oven (see the SK link) if you don't have a huge slow-cooker. I couldn't fit all of the meat in mine, so I ended up with a tiny hunk being stored in my fridge for a rainy day (I also ended up having to cut the meat smaller than I wanted to in some cases to make as much as possible fit which did seem to make it tougher).

If you're in Montreal, good luck finding raw brisket. Le Biftheque in Ville St-Laurent does carry it!

Brisket (sort-of ... see above for the source mashup)

4 - 5 kg of brisket
barbecue sauce for serving
Dry Rub
3/4 cup paprika (I had to use less)
1/4 cup ground black pepper (I had to omit)
1/4 cup chili powder, preferably homemade (I did a quick and dirty rough approximation and used 2 tbsp ancho chili powder, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp Mexican oregano)
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp ground cayenne
Mop (you may end up roughly doubling this so keep extra on hand!)
1 bottle of beer
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp dry rub (I used the leftover from rubbing the meat)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp liquid smoke

1. In a medium bowl, mix together dry rub ingredients.
2. Rub meat with the dry rub. Ideally, you would do this the morning before you're serving and let it set for the day in the fridge, but if not, no worries!
3. Place meat in a slow cooker.
4. In a medium bowl, combine all of the mop ingredients except the beer (I used the bowl with the leftover dry rub so I have no idea how much dry rub I used).
5. Pour mop and beer over meat. Don't worry that it doesn't cover the meat. As the fat melts, you will have plenty of liquid.
6. Cook in the slow cooker on low heat for 10 hours (ideal for overnight!).
7. Cool the meat slightly. With a spoon, scrape off the large knobs of fat from the brisket. Transfer to an oven-safe dish (or keep it in the slow cooker if you're lucky like me and it has a removable oven-safe dish). Allow the meat to rest for at least an hour, ideally most of the day.
8. One hour before you're ready to serve, preheat the oven to 300F. Skim the fat off the top. Remove the meat, thinly slice it and return it to the fat-skimmed liquid.
9. At this point, I became concerned that there wasn't enough liquid left to keep the meat from drying out when I reheated, so I poured in another beer, some vinegar, worcestershire, liquid smoke, a little ancho chile powder, mexican oregano, and black pepper (I bought pepper the day it was cooking!). Heat in oven, covered, for at least 30 minutes or until bubbling and warmed through.
10. Remove the meat from the mop and serve with barbecue sauce.

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

After I got back from San Francisco, I asked the friend who watch my cat what she'd like me to bake for her. I expected a request for brownies or grapefruit yogurt cake, but instead, she wanted pumpkin pie. I was stumped, having never made pumpkin pie and not even remembering if I liked pumpkin pie. I checked Smitten Kitchen and sure enough found pumpkin brownies and ... bourbon pumpkin cheesecake. Of course, these ideas distracted me. I pushed aside the idea of bourbon pumpkin cheesecake, not wanting to buy a bottle of bourbon just to make a dessert (there were also the naysayers who didn't seem to sure it would even taste okay). Then I was offered the remnants of a bottle of Jack Daniels ... that works and there go my excuses. The end result was delicious ... lighter than your typical cheesecake.

The original recipe includes a graham cracker and pecan crust that looks amazing. I skipped on it because it seemed like just a little too much for everything I was cooking that day and I only have one springform pan and it was spoken for. With the pre-made crust, this came together remarkably easily. Because I was using a pre-made crust though, the filling didn't all fit, so I put the excess in two smaller ramekins ... one for me the next day and one for the cat-care giver who prompted this recipe! I'm glad I did because only a small sliver of pie was left over!

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake (from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Gourmet)

1 9" graham cracker pie crust (or make your own using the link above)
For filling (see notes above about filling amount)
1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons bourbon liqueur or bourbon (doubled from the original, the flavour was still subtle)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (roughly 3 250g packages less 1/4 cup)
For topping
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon
Garnish: pecan halves

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur in a bowl until combined.
3. Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in large bowl.
4. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
5. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.
6. Pour filling into crust, smoothing top. Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes (leave oven on).
7. Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and liqueur in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake and bake 5 additional minutes.
8. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours.
9. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours.

Cappucinno Fudge Cheesecake

This recipe has been on my mind for nearly a year. The problem was, it's a ridiculously complex dessert ... and quite the investment in cream cheese, chocolate, and other ingredients. I also wanted to save it for an occasion when I would have plenty of as Smitten Kitchen warns that it's decadent and serves more like 30. Apparently she's never met my friend's because my group of 22 only left one small piece after finishing off a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake, some mint brownies, making a dent in homemade applesauce, and eating a fair amount of other food. All of this food was for a 3-part celebration (or excuse to eat): my belated two year anniversary of being in Canada, the belated one year anniversary of this little food blog, and an early American Thanksgiving as I'll be with family for Thanksgiving this year. A good food blogger would've gotten pictures of the food and on that point, I failed miserably ... except for a before and after of this cheesecake. Here you see my less than stellar icing skills:
 And in this after shot, you can see the layers of the cake.  The bottom is a cookie crust, followed by a kahlua-spiked chocolate ganache, then espresso flavoured cheesecake, then a vanilla flavoured sweetened sour cream layer, and finally the beautiful icing!

Be warned, this recipe is a lot of work and time intensive (a lot of cooling, although I think I should've served it slightly cooler as the ganache layer was slightly hard). To prevent being pressed for time, I did the cookie and ganache layers the night before (hooray for cooking at midnight!). My only complaint with this recipe is that the crust came out a little hard. I have three theories for what went wrong. (1) I think I may have slightly burnt the cookies before turning them into crumbs. I pulled the chocolate crumb dough out of the freezer as leftovers from a previous recipe and overcompensated for the frozen dough by upping the cooking time too much. (2) The cheesecake portion of the dish did not want to set, so I kept cooking it (slightly burning the top, which I cut off after it puffed too much and served as a lovely breakfast on the day of cooking) and likely burned the cookie crust more. (3) My springform pan let the kahlua and possibly butter leak out, removing much needed moisture. I need to work on forming a better seal with it. Luckily, the crust certainly did not sink the dish!

Two other comments: SK says for a 9" inch pan instead of 10" to use 3/4 of the cheesecake layer. I put the full amount in and it fit, so go ahead and make the full amount. Leftovers can always be placed in other dishes or trimmed! I weighted the cream cheese using my scale. Eyeballing it though, 3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese appeared to work out to roughly 3 250g packages minus about 1/4 cup or so of the last package.

One year ago: Tomato Sausage Risotto (If you haven't tried this recipe yet, make it this week!)

Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake (from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 9-ounce box chocolate wafer cookies or 9 ounces of homemade chocolate wafers
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 tablespoons hot melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
20 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese (for metric, see note above), room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder or coffee crystals
1 1/2 tablespoons ground whole espresso coffee beans (medium-coarse grind ... I used the ground espresso I have on hand for my morning drink which is a finer grind)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons mild-flavored (light) molasses (I think I used dark)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make crust:
1. Finely grind cookies, chopped chocolate, brown sugar, and nutmeg in processor. 2. Add butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down bowl occasionally, about 1 minute (my processor wasn't big enough, so I stirred together by hand).
3. Transfer crumbs to 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides.
4. Wrap plastic wrap around fingers and press crumb mixture firmly up sides to within 1/2 inch of top edge, then over bottom of pan.
Make ganache:
5. Bring cream to simmer in large saucepan (I heated in the microwave with the chocolate to save time).
6. Remove from heat; add chocolate and Kahlúa.
7. Whisk until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth.
8. Pour 2 cups ganache over bottom of crust.
9. Freeze until ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes.
10. Reserve remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature to use later for decorating.
Make filling:
11. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F.
12. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended.
13. Beat in flour. Stir rum, espresso powder, ground coffee, vanilla, and molasses in small bowl until instant coffee dissolves; beat into cream cheese mixture.
14. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
15. Pour filling over cold ganache in crust — it will go nearly all of the way to the top, don’t panic.
16. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until top is brown, puffed and cracked at edges, and the center two inches moves only slightly when pan is gently shaken, about one hour.
17. Transfer cheesecake to rack. Cool 15 minutes while preparing topping (top of cheesecake will fall slightly, making room for topping). Maintain oven temperature.
Make topping:
18. Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend.
19. Pour topping over hot cheesecake, spreading to cover filling completely.
20. Bake until topping is set, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack.
21. Refrigerate hot cheesecake on rack until cool, about three hours.
22. Run small sharp knife between crust and pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter.
23. Spoon reserved ganache into pastry bag fitted with small star tip and decorate as desired.
24. Chill until lattice is firm, at least 6 hours.