Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Burnt Carrot Salad with Goat Cheese and Garlic Chips

I have to say I am really really sorry that I do not have a picture of this. Work has been really busy, and I am lucky to get a home cooked meal on the table at all, so snapping some photos before we dig in is usually too much to ask right now. This was a gorgeous dish though. Bright orange carrots with little charred sections contrasted against leafy green arugula. Crumbled goat cheese and little golden chips of toasted garlic. This was a meal for those of us who appreciate the aesthetics of food as well as the flavor.
This was another one of those meals that I hesitated to tell Tim about in advance. My anticipated reaction from him went something like this: "You mean we are having burnt carrots and some lettuce for dinner? And the cheese cost you how much?" I expected that this would be too sophisticated for his simple, meat-and-potatoes palate. I under-estimated him, and the work that I have done to introduce him to good food over the last few years. Luckily, and surprisingly when we sat down with this beautiful salad accompanied by a slightly toasted piece of bread, Tim took his first bite and said "wow, this is good. I really like the carrots this way" and then I almost choked. But he was right. Something happens when you char carrots. It is so simple, but their sweet, rich flavor really comes out.
Now, I know this is really going to shock you, but what really made this salad for me was the garlic. It's flavor is quite subtle in relation to everything else. The toasting of the garlic chips really brought out the sweetness and balanced out some of the garlic's usual spice. Every once in a while you get a bite that has the subtle garlicky kick, and it is so good. Okay, you all know how much I love garlic so I will just give you the recipe.

Burnt Carrot Salad with Goat Cheese and Garlic Chips
Adapted from the Chicago Tribune Good Eating Section

1 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic, very thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
black pepper
8 Medium Carrots, peeled
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Thyme, or 1./2 teaspoon dried
1 small bunch Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley, leaves only
2 small bunches of Arugula, trimmed and rinsed
6 oz Goat Cheese

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 20 seconds. immediately remove and place on a plate layered with paper towels. Let the oil cool and pour into a bowl. Wipe out skillet.
Put vinegar in a small bowl and whisk in 5 Tablespoons of the garlic oil. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the carrots into rough sticks. Toss in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of the garlic oil , thyme, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the same skillet over high heat. Cook the carrots in a single layer. Cook until lightly charred on one side, 3-5 minutes. Turn and cook until lightly charred and tender on the other side, 2-3 minutes.
Toss the parsley and arugula with half of the vinaigrette on a large platter. Arrange carrots on top. crumble goat cheese over the carrots and top with the garlic chips. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad. Serve with toasted bread.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Real S'mores Brownies

I recently tried an impostor brownie.  This brownie tried to claim that it was a s'mores brownie.  This was a flat-out lie.  This brownie had no graham and one measly marshmallow.  Big fat thumbs down from me.  Ever since that experience I have been craving a real s'mores brownie and we all know that if you want something done right sometimes you just have to do it yourself.  Well, I have to say that this little experiment turned out to be quite delicious. 
These brownies were a little better chilled than they were slightly warm.  This made them less messy and gave them a more solid consistency.  The marshmallows were a little hard to eat when they were still warm.  They were also next to impossible to cut before they cooled all the way. 
I used a brownie recipe that was supposed to go in an 8X8 pan, and made this in a 9X13 so that there was not chocolate overload.  This is very rich, so I think that this was a good choice, but who am I to tell you how much chocolate to consume.  I will not judge you if you do not thin out your brownie batter :-)  I used my favorite brownie recipe which I will include below.  Feel free to use whatever brownies you desire.  The only changes I made to the brownie batter were:
I used 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate and 3 oz bittersweet chocolate to make them less sweet
I did not use nuts-there are no nuts in S'mores.  Duh. 

That's all

Real S'mores Brownies

 1 1/4 C graham cracker crumbs
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 recipe brownie batter
mini marshmallows

Mix the graham cracker crumbs and the butter together.  Use your hands to make sure that it is mixed well and that the crumbs are sticking together.  Press this mixture into the bottom of a  greased 9X13 inch pan.

Pour brownie batter over the crust.  Bake this at 350 degrees until a clean knife inserted in the center of the brownie comes out with only a few crumbs on it.  Turn your oven off and turn your broiler on High.  Sprinkle an even layer of marshmallows over the brownie.  Put this under the broiler and watch it closely.  Once they start to turn a nice golden brown pull them out.  Two minutes was the perfect amount of time for mine. 

Allow these to cool completely before slicing.  They can be stored in the freezer if you want to eat them slowly (in a freezer-safe container of course!)  and thawed for a few minutes on the counter when you want to eat them. 

Double Fudge Brownies
*Recipe from The Chicago Tribune Good Eating Section

3/4 C Flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, not dutch processed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 C Chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon flour
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 C sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8X8 inch baking pan. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Mix the nuts with the 1 tablespoon of flour. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate and cook, stirring, until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat immediately and stir in the sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Let this mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
Whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture one at a time. Beat until smooth and glossy-about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture and the nuts and mix until just combined.
Spread the batter into your prepared pan and bake until a tester inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean. This should be 20-25 minutes. Cool pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Java-rubbed Chicken with Garlicky asparagus

I saw the recipe for this chicken rub in last week's Tribune Good Eating section.  I saw the word java and knew I had to keep reading.  This rub is a good balance of a little sweet and a little spicy.  It is a tiny bit too salty for me, so next time I will reduce the amount of salt, but other than that this is a definite keeper. This paired well with some fresh, lemony asparagus and a hearty slice of bread.  A perfectly light and satisfying spring meal.

Java-Rub Chicken
***Recipe from the Chicago Tribune Good Eating Section
6 Tablespoons ground coffee
2 Tablespoons each: brown sugar, sweet paprika, coarse salt
2 teaspoons each: garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper
1 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, unsweetened cocoa powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Prepare a grill for medium heat.  Combine the coffee, brown sugar, spices, and cocoa in a mixing bowl.  Stir to mix. 
Rub the chicken on all sides with the java mixture.  Place the chicken on the grill and cook until heated through.  5-7 minutes per side. 

I could tell that I was going to have extra of the rub, so instead of coating my chicken in the bowl, I spooned the rub out onto the chicken.  This way I was able to save the extra and use it again later.  This is probably not that novel of an idea, but it is worth mentioning so that you are not throwing these wonderful ingredients away for no reason!


This is very simple to throw together and it pairs great with most grilled meat
1 bunch of asparagus, cut up into smallish pieces with the tough ends removed
drizzle of lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic VERY thinly sliced
Put your cut-up asparagus into a bowl.  Drizzle with enough lemon juice to coat.  Stir in garlic.  Put the asparagus mixture onto a heavy duty sheet (or two normal sheets) of aluminum foil.  wrap it up nice and tight and place this right on the grill next your chicken (or whatever else you are grilling).  Let this cook for 10-15 minutes.  The asparagus will get nice and soft, and the garlic will produce a smooth, sweet flavor. This is a perfect way to celebrate Spring!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cookies n Cream Cookies

These cookies were good for the most part.  I thought that they were a little dry, so in the future I would add less oatmeal and bake them for a shorter time, but all-in-all they were really good. I just realized that I left out the brown sugar from the original recipe, but I cannot imagine these cookies being any sweeter, so I don't think that I will add it in the future either.  The combination of white and semi-sweet chocolate works really well, and the coconut adds some interest to some otherwise plain cookies.  The cookies have a lot of texture due to the oats and the coconut, which I like a lot. This is a good twist on your basic cookie without adding any extra work.  Who can argue with that?
The original recipe that I followed said to use a Cookies n Cream candy bar, but our grocery store didn't have them so I subbed in a combination of white and semi-sweet chocolate chips and that worked great!  I wouldn't waste the money on the candy bars, just do it my way!  :-)  If you do want to disobey my request then simply sub in two cups of chopped Cookies n Cream candy bar for the chocolate chips.  But I'm tellin' ya, it's a waste of money.  Okay, do what you want, I don't care :-p
One more note on cookie baking, and then I will let you look at the recipe.  I like to pull my cookies out of the oven a few minutes before they are actually done baking.  I let them complete the baking process on the cookie sheets.  This produces a much more moist cookie.  People who see me do this often tell me that I am making my cookies the wrong way, or that they are not cooked all they way, blah, blah, blah.  Then they try my cookies and they stop complaining.  I highly recommend this method.   All cookies made any other way now seem dry and over-cooked to me.
Okay, you may read the recipe now.

Cookies n Cream Cookies
Recipe adapted from Taste and Tell

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C white chocolate chips
2 C old fashioned rolled oats
1 C sweetened coconut

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cream your butter and sugar together until light and creamy.  Add eggs and mix one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.
Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add and mix gradually to the butter mixture until combined.  Stir in oats, chocolate, and coconut.
Drop batter in spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, or, my personal favorite, baking stones.  Bake 16 minutes.  (Watch them as they get close to 16 minutes, mine were definitely over-cooked at the 16 minute mark, but everyone's oven is different).