Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ooey Gooey Brownie Salted Caramel Cake

I'm originally from the St. Louis area -- I miss the Midwest - it will always be home.  That being said, I desperately miss New York but what I miss the most is the ocean.  Colorado is beautiful -- but there is no water - no water from the sky, no water to sit by and dream what is on the other side, no shores to walk along and let your mind wander.  Oh yeah....we have a reservoir -- woweeeeee....teasing I tease.  We do have the glorious mountains.

One day, our dream is to live in California - I adore the Pacific Ocean - I love California and have been so lucky to have traveled there several times.  The Pacific Coast Highway one of the most beautiful drives ever.

Back to St. Louis -- St. Louis is home to many culinary treats - ice cream cones...Italian food "on the hill" including toasted ravioli which I made for my New York family and they were wowed... and ooey gooey butter cake to name a few. 

This morning I decided I wanted to play with the ooey gooey butter cake - so I thought --- brownies....salted caramel -- and the ooey gooey butter cake topping...I wanted to add some candied pecans to the mix - but time slipped away.

Ooey Gooey Brownie Salted Caramel Cake

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 fudge brownie mix (don't report me to the food police)

1 8 ounce cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
2 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup salted caramel (purchased from store or make your own)
1 teaspoon of vanilla

In a bowl - stir together the one egg and 1/2 cup of melted butter.  Stir in brownie mix until combined.   It will be thick -- press evenly into the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan.  Bake in 350 degrees oven for 20 minutes.  (I had to go 20 minutes -- mountains -- but check at 15 -- should be still soft but not runny).

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, two eggs, two cups of powdered sugar, vanilla, melted butter, the salted caramel until it is combined.  Pour over baked brownie crust. 

I took a few dollops of salted caramel and made a beautiful design on top which disappeared in the baking - so don't waste your time. 

Ok, not so beautiful but art is subjective.  It was a little Pollocky.

Bake for 35 minutes -- center will not appear totally completely (that's nuts -we had a warm gooey piece right after we took it out of the oven and it was glorious) in pan on wire rack before cutting into bars - you can sprinkle with powdered sugar if you like but why gild the lily?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

North - The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland

This will be one of those books that I pull out to read like a novel, that I will use for inspiration and achieve greatness. 

It is full of seafood recipes along with other typical Icelandic fare.  Photos of beautiful Iceland, beautiful food and encyclopedic information about the food and people of this beautiful area.

Each section is broken down as follows:

Bacalao Producer
Arctic Char Smoker
Rugbraud Baker
Seabird Egg Collector
Barley Farmer
Dairy Farmer
Birch and Mushroom Forager
Sheep Farmer
Hardfiskur Producer
Salt Maker
Goat Farmer
Blue Mussel and Dulse Harvester

Will I cook from this book - yes -- there are things I can recreate easily (butters, mustards, potato and veggie dishes and some seafood)- will I cook from it everyday - no.  Will I read and learn about the people and food of Iceland - yes.

This book is beautiful and will earn a spot on my bookshelf for inspiration.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Great Titles from Kyle Books

My friends at Kyle Books sent a few of their newer releases for me to review. 

First up:

Olives, Lemons & Za'atar

Olives, Lemons & Za'atar is a gorgeous book - I fell in love with when it was first released.  I have tagged many recipes to try out.   The first recipe I made was the shrimp in garlic sauce and it was outstanding, served with some toasted sourdough bread -- perfection.

Some of the other recipes that caught my attention are:

Red pepper and onion flatbread
Za'atar bread
Date cookies, because I love all things date
Macaroni cookies -- sesame seeds and anise seeds
Knafese - shredded phyllo with walnut or cheese filling
Scrambled eggs with halloumi


Sweet Mandarin Cookbook

Sweet Mandarin is a nicely done cookbook with great instructions and pictures.  I have a few standouts tabbed for trying.

Peninsula style chicken with cashew nuts
Asian style hamburger
Firecracker chicken
Dad's chicken Fried Rice (love that it looks light and lovely and not dark and greasy)
Lemon chicken deluxe
Pear and ginger cupcakes
Chile, chocolate macaroons
and, of course, Fortune cookies

I made the Peninsula style chicken with cashew nuts but changed it up a little - it was really delicious.  The instructions are written clearly and the ingredients were not difficult for me to find here in Denver.  Most ingredients, if not accessible easily in your Asian section at the market, can be ordered online. 

One of the things that I loved about this book is that it does have a small dessert and cocktail section.  Many Asian cookbooks have very limited recipes on the sweet side. 

Caribbean Potluck

Caribbean Potluck is comfort food meets Caribbean vibe.  I haven't had a chance to cook from it soon but I'm thinking the Baked ham for Christmas and the risotto will be in the next week or so.  I've never been to the Caribbean but this book will at least give me a glimpse into the flavor of this beautiful paradise.

Marmalade glazed leg of lamb
Baked ham with ortanique ginger glaze
Suzie's Sunday roast pork chops
Wickedest rigatoni alla vodka
Ginger thyme risotto
Jerked chicken and cashew spring rolls with peanut coconut dipping sauce

Jewish Traditional Cooking

I love Jewish Traditional Cooking - it is jammed packed with recipes for typical Jewish standards as well as some surprises.  There are recipes for challah, bagels (thank goodness), pretzels, pitas and a few others I have tabbed are:

Vanilla and almond kipferi
Easy carrot orange and olive oil cake
Shabbat almond peach and apple kuchen
Potato kugel (best kugel photo I have ever seen with crispy, thin potatoes layered on top)
Meatballs in tomato sauce with cinnamon and allspice flavors
Perfect boureka

My goal is to attempt the bagels in the next month or so.  The thought of making bagels intimidates me a bit - I'm from New York -- the home of the best bagels ever.  Denver does not provide a great deal of palatable bagels so I will need to conquer my fear!

Smashing Plates

Smashing Plates is a gorgeous book that is worth it's price for the dessert section alone.  That being said the savory section is outstanding. 

Some of the dishes I have tabbed to make are:

Carrot keftedes
Tomato and string bean baklava (yes, you read that correctly)
Honeyed fried feta (so simple but looks delectable)
Wild greens macaroni and cheese
Dried fig leaf pasta rags -- (stunning)
Coffee custard doughnuts with fennel seed sugar
Tahini chocolate cakes with crème fraiche
Chocolate orange and anise tart
Almond rose water and chocolate Mallomar chimneys
Plum and lavender baklava
Apple and Greek yogurt cake with metaxa brandy syrup

Tonight I made roast spatchcock chicken with potatoes, lemon, wild greens and capers and the wild greens macaroni and cheese.   The details and instructions were wonderful and both dishes were delicious.  Andrew, my son, raved repeatedly about the macaroni and cheese.  Now that I know I can sneak in some greens -- I will continue to do that in future dishes. 

Even the greens in the roasted chicken dish were tasty and I'll use that technique in the future when roasting meats. 

Five great books from Kyle this time around - looking forward to their Fall releases - Nick Malgieri's Pastry -- and Farm, Fork and Food by Eric Skokan for starters.

In the world we live in today, I love how I can travel to different lands with a meal.   These cookbooks are sure to send you on  your way  to international flavors and delicious bites.

Another Kyle Books title to check out --- The Italian Table - Eating Together for Every Occasion - I just ordered from Amazon -- it sounded amazing from the description and I will edit this post once I have it in my hands.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

French Comfort Food by Hillary Davis

French Comfort Food by Hillary Davis is a beautiful book overflowing with French inspiration and comfort food.  

The recipes that I have marked to try include, but are not limited to (that phrase is leftover from my legal days), Caramelized Onion and Roquefort Clafoutis, Savory Tomato Basil Cake, Wicked Chocolate Omelet Flamed with Rum, Perigord Garlic and Chicken Soup, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Candied Chestnuts, Endives and Ham Gratin, Potato, Cheese and Wine Casserole, Very Lemon Tart in a Butter Cookie Crust, Rum Soaked Almond Cake from Nantes and Walnut Tart in Walnut Pastry

Last night I made Heavenly Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Melted Cheese and Succulent Roast Chicken with Oranges and Black Olives.  To say the chicken was flavorful would be like stating Las Vegas is warm in July.  The chicken was moist, tender and orangey perfection and the potatoes were creamy heaven (and I forgot that heaven was actually in the name of the recipe). 

My husband appreciates my cooking and there are some meals that earn the "thank you, that was so delicious" statement and last night was one of them (and my husband does not like mashed potatoes) - so score! I had doubled the recipes to share with my neighbor who is running herself ragged with her teenaged daughter who is undergoing some serious medical issues.  I got several Fox stars from the Fox family - not as noteworthy as the Michelin stars but still meaningful to me.

Hillary writes great instructive details -- a novice or experienced cook could recreate any of the recipes in this beautiful book.  The ingredients should be easy to procure in any large supermarket.

Today's mail brought Hillary's other cookbook, Cuisine Nicoise, and I started reading it in the car at the pick up line at school.  Torn Socca with Sea Salt and Black Pepper, Lentil Swiss Chard Soup with Orange Zest, Rustic Garlic and Sage Soup, Risotto with Parmesan, Ricotta and Lemon, Shrimp with Lemony Aioli and Caramelized Pork Roast with Olive Jam are just a few of the recipes that jumped out at me.  The dessert chapter....Madame's Peaches and Cream Tart, Nutella Orange and Rum Mousse, and Limoncello Cake with Towering Meringue --oh my.  I will be writing another post once I try a few of the show stopping recipes from this book.
Both of these books are impressive in their own right.   I cannot wait to delve more into Hillary's French culinary world through these books.
Thank you Hillary for the opportunity to review your wonderful work.


Tacolicious by Sara Deseran is a beautiful book! 

Tacolicious, the restaurant, is in San Francisco - yet another location I missed on our trip West in July.  The book is chock full of great recipes from the restaurant.

The first chapter is Salsas, Pickles and more.  The legendary orange sauce and El Jefe's glove box recado caught my attention.  I'm a fan of tamarind -- and the tamarind habanero glaze looks promising.  The lime cured cucumber, habanero and onion condiment made me wish I had a taco right now to garnish. 

Flaky potato empanadas with salsa verde, spicy tamarind glazed pork ribs with jicama salad -- will soon be on the menu at Casa Hartin. 

Taco recipes include braised beef short rib tacos, taco de Guisado, lamb adobo taco with spices and orange, shot and a beer braised chicken tacos, spring booty taco (veggies),Puerto Nuevo style lobster taco, butternut squash, kale and crunch pepitas taco and my favorite Baja fish taco! 

There is a cocktails and drink chapter - because who wants a taco without a refreshing beverage.

I had to edit my post because I was reading some reviews on Amazon - - the ingredients in these recipes shouldn't be that difficult to find anywhere - I'm in Denver - and I could find almost all of them easily.  I'm a home cook -- a good home cook -- but a home cook nonetheless and nothing here seemed like it would challenge me.  Reviewers were posting that these recipes would be challenging - yes, it is not Ortega taco kit recipes - they will involve some work - but reward is a product of work.   Then we have the folks who spelled palate - pallet - how can you even take anything they write seriously. 

If this book doesn't have you craving tacos, nothing will.

Blogging for Books provide me with this copy - but all opinions are my own.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Italian Vegetable Cookbook

Well known Mediterranean food expert and best-selling author Michele Scicolone has a new cookbook that everyone must own, The Italian Vegetable Cookbook.  I love a cookbook that can get carnivores excited to cook vegetarian meals.  Michele's book contains beautiful photographs and great instructions.

When I received this book - I took my pack of Post-It notes and started tabbing away:

Truffle Parmesan Bigne
Herbed Goat Cheese-Ricotta Crostini
Risotto with Basil, Pine Nuts and Parmesan
Fettuccine with Ricotta and Crushed Peas
Fettuccine with Lemon Cream
Orecchiette with Potatoes and Arugula
Baked Pasta Fagioli
Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
Pistachio-Parsley Pesto
Walnut-Parsley Pesto
Spicy Onion Marmalade
Lemon Potatoes
Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Espresso Sauce
Golden Apple Cake with Rum Cream
Honey Walnut Crumb Tart

I made lemon potatoes Sunday night and they were a huge hit -even my potato hating husband loved them. Tangy from the lemon - mildly herbal from the rosemary - so delicious.  Andrew grabbed every really crispy one - and we fought over the caramelized lemons. (Yes, we ate them).

Fettuccine with Lemon Cream was made tonight and it was incredible.  The whole family ate it up.  Perfect amount of lemon flavor and deliciously creamy. 
Michele has graciously given me permission to share one recipe. 
Fettuccine with Lemon Cream
1 lemon, scrubbed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound of fettuccine
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Grate 1 teaspoon of zest from the lemon  Halve the lemon and squeeze two tablespoons of juice.

Melt the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all of the ingredients.  Add the cream and lemon juice, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce is slightly thickened, about ten minutes.  Stir in the lemon zest, basil, and salt and pepper to taste, remove from the heat, and cover to keep warm.

Michele suggests her Fresh Egg Pasta - but I used a pound of dried fettuccine cooked to al dente, reserving some of the cooking water. 
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss well, adding a little of the cooking water if needed.  Add the cheese, toss again, and serve immediately.
I have a few friends that have made the whole wheat biscotti with walnuts and raisins as well as the baked pasta fagioli and have raved.

If you love good Italian food, grab this book.  If you must have meat - we added some sliced grilled chicken from yesterday's dinner to complete the meal for my carnivore husband.  It's nice to have the protein as a side a couple times a week. 

Thank you, Michele, for a beautiful cookbook.

Update -- Tuesday:

Took the leftover fettuccine with lemon cream - and made chicken soup today - delicious.  Served with garlic parmesan biscuits.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Coconut Banana Bread -- A Pirate's Delight

I use to be so horrible about wasting food.  Letting leftovers go bad, bananas were tossed, the list could go on but then you'd all be asleep.

Something changed a year or so ago, I make sure I try to re-invent leftovers and no brown bananas will ever leave this house ... without being made into a bread.

Here is the recipe (I'm rushing here because someone in Long Beach is sitting on the edge of her seat...)  Hi Dana!

4 tablespoons of butter, soften
2 eggs (I beat them for a second with a fork in a small bowl)
2 bananas - very ripe
2/3 cup of sugar
1 1/4 cup of flour
3/4 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (optional) but coconut extract would be great here
1/2 cup of flaked coconut plus -- coconut to spread on top of loaf -- (I did have toasted coconut for my coconut risotto the other night but decided to use the untoasted in the batter itself - don't use toasted on top of the batter - will burn)
1 tablespoon (or more) of Malibu Coconut Rum -- (1 shot for the baker)

Everyone says - there is a particular way to do things in baking - so that it turns out just right.  What do I do?  I mash the bananas in a mixing bowl, toss in the butter, then the beaten eggs and then add the remaining ingredients...mix it all together lightly with a wooden spoon  -- do not over mix.

I place the batter in a loaf pan --- regular sized loaf pan -- I'll measure later - then I sprinkle the top with a good amount of coconut which will toast up beautifully as it bakes for 40 to 45 minutes at 350.

Your house will smell great and that shot of rum will make you warm and toasty.