Chocolate-Covered Matzo

I first made chocolate-covered matzo for Easter. (I was still channeling Passover and thinking about a recipe I original saw on sfgate.com.) It’s a delicious dessert that works any time of the year, is great for sharing, and can easily be adapted with any flavor combinations you want.

Also, it’s incredibly simple to make and doesn’t require any measuring at all.

Chocolate-Covered Matzo

Ingredients:

Unsalted matzo

Olive oil

Light brown sugar

Dark chocolate

Sea Salt

Method:

1.) Preheat oven to 350 F. Place matzo on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Brush lightly with olive oil then sprinkle with brown sugar. Spread the sugar into the oil and matzo with fingers until evenly distributed.

2.) Place the cookie sheet with matzo in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. In the meantime, chop the dark chocolate.

3.) Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Sprinkle with sea salt (but be sure not to overdo it). Next, sprinkle with chocolate.

4.) Place the cookie sheet with matzo in the oven for another 30-60 seconds to melt the chocolate.

5.) Spread the chocolate evenly across the matzo and all the way to the edges. Freeze for three hours or more.

6.) Once the chocolate is set, break each matzo into approximately nine pieces. Serve or keep in fridge or freezer in an airtight bag or container (or wrap up and give it as a gift!).

Get creative with this recipe. Skip the salt and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes (again, do not overdo it or it can wreak the recipe. Note: The amount of pepper flakes on the matzo shown in the top picture is too much. Keep it sparse!). Zest an orange or a lemon and sprinkle the zest on top of the chocolate. Add your ideas to the comments!

Dad’s French Toast

Dad's French Toast

It’s Father’s Day so this one goes out to my amazing dad. I woke up yesterday realizing I had all the ingredients for French toast so made breakfast the way my dad used to make it. Here’s how to make my favorite French Toast.

Ingredients (that you often already have on hand) for making Dad’s French Toast for two (double, triple, quadruple recipe as required): 4 slices bread (a loaf you can cut yourself is best, like a big French loaf or I used a fresh loaf of nine-grain bread), 2 eggs, splash of milk, cinnamon, butter (for greasing pan), sugar, and real maple syrup.

Here’s how you do it: In a bowl (ideally with a large, flat bottom), whisk together eggs, splash of milk, and a pinch of cinnamon. Heat frying pan over medium heat and add butter so the toast doesn’t stick to the bottom. Cover two pieces of bread with the egg mixture by putting one slice in the bowl and turning it over, then use a fork to lift it out and onto the pan. Repeat with second piece of bread. Cook until each side is golden brown. Repeat with other two pieces of bread.

Fresh nine-grain bread

Fresh nine-grain bread

Mixing the eggs, milk, and cinnamon

Making Dad's French Toast

Serve French toast with a cinnamon-sugar mixture of about 1 part cinnamon to 3 parts sugar (adjust as needed) and drizzle with real maple syrup.

Serve with cinnamon-sugar mixture and real maple syrup

Everything about making this (picking the bread out of the bowl with the fork, making the cinnamon-sugar mixture) reminded me of breakfasts with my dad and made me smile. We’re heading back East to visit family at Christmas so I’ll have to add this to my list of requested meals we eat while we’re there. =)

Mmm... :)

Apple Cheddar Biscuits

A plate of apple cheddar biscuits with fresh picked oranges, limes, lemons, and kumquats from our friends houses

There’s a cookie tube one block from my office. Yup, a cookie tube. It used to be a corner, flower shop but the approximately five-foot-diameter, glass-enclosed tube is now the home of Batter Bakery, hands down the best place to get a scone in San Francisco. My colleagues and I frequent Batter way too often and in an effort to keep my budget and diet in check, I decided to bake my own breakfast snack in the form of apple cheddar biscuits.

Working with How to Cook Everything

I was going to bake scones until I opened How to Cook Everything and read Mark Bittman‘s description of them a “really just ultra-rich biscuits, with cream as the primary liquid ingredient.” That sounds delicious every once and a while but not everyday. Thus, I went with the biscuit recipe (also probably not an everyday always kind of snack but hey, I’m in marathon training and this recipe is not that egregious). My favorite scone at Batter of late is its Apple Cheddar Scone so I added a handful of apple cubes and grated cheddar cheese to Bittman’s recipe (and also substituted the “yogurt or buttermilk” with cottage cheese cause that’s what I had at home and I was curious how it’d turn out, which was well). Here’s how it went down.

Insides of an apple cheddar biscuit

Apple Cheddar Biscuits

(adapted from Mark Bittman’s Yogurt or Buttermilk Biscuits from How to Cook Everything)

Yield: 6

Ingredients:

1 cup cake flour plus more as needed

Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoon backing powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons cold butter

1/2 cup 2%, small curd cottage cheese

1/2 apple, peeled and cut into small cubes

2 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes (I grated the cheese, which made it get lost in the mix. Cutting the cheese into small cubes should fix this)

Ingredients, plus butter (which was staying cold in the fridge)

Method:

Heat the oven to 450F. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut butter into bit and blend into dry ingredients by rubbing butter with dry ingredients between fingers. Thoroughly blend all butter into dry mixture before moving on. Add cottage cheese, apple cubes, and cheddar cheese cubes to mixture and stir until a ball just forms. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead 10 times. Roll into a log and cut into six circles. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy.

Cutting the dough into biscuit circles

Ready to put the biscuits into the oven

Mmm... a hot biscuit (They were good all week eaten at room temperature too. Store in an airtight container.)

100 Kitchens We Love + Dwell Recipes

100 Kitchens We Love on the newsstands at my neighborhood grocery store

I’m very excited because the latest Dwell special issue, titled 100 Kitchens We Love, is now on newsstands. I was one of the two special project editors of this issue and am pretty darn proud of it. The issue features 100 kitchens (with full sourcing information about what appliances, fixtures, lights, and more make up the designs and what materials were used). About 70 of the kitchens come from past Dwell issues, and the other approximately 30 spaces made their Dwell debut in this issue.

Besides having had fun culling all of the information for all 100 projects together (exhausting fun but fun nonetheless), I was also able to create a very cool dwell.com project to correspond with the issue: Dwell Recipes. I asked the residents of some of the projects that we featured if they’d share home recipes with us, and they were all too happy to do so. I received homemade baked ricotta instructions from a homeowner in Iowa, a quick-and-easy recipe for gazpacho with homemade croutons (with drool-inducing photos) from a designer in Boston, and a list of ingredients and steps for a perfect-for-spring-and-summer squash salad with parmesan and pine nuts from a fellow Bay Area resident, among others. It’s like Miyoko Eats—just on Dwell. Check it out at dwell.com/dwell-recipes.

 

Gazpacho from designer Chris Greenawalt

Summer squash salad from resident Heidi Lender

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad

Five consecutive weekends on the road has made me a non-blogger. Fortunately, I’m back at it, bolstered with a few weekends rest. Because we’ve been having a bit of a heat wave here in San Francisco, Rob and I headed out for a picnic. The menu: pesto pasta salad, ranch chicken wraps, and strawberries.

One of my mom’s favorite dishes to make for guests (and easily the most requested) is her pesto pasta salad (made all the better with her homemade pesto that includes basil grown in her garden). Having let my herb garden wane during the winter, I didn’t have fresh basil at my disposal but did have Sergio’s Pasta Shop down the street. With his pesto in hand, I set to work concocting my own pesto pasta salad. Here’s the recipe and images of the delicious results. I highly recommend it for a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Vegetables for Pesto Pasta Salad

Cooked tortellini and pesto

 

Pesto Pasta Salad

Makes enough for a dinner party and lunch the next day

Ingredients:

20 ounces tortellini

4 to 8 ounces pesto

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 bunch asparagus

1 large crown broccoli

1 large or 2 small red peppers

1 handful sun-dried tomatoes

Salt

Pepper

Cooking and cutting vegetables before adding them to the tortellini

Method:

1. Cook tortellini according to package. Drain,  rinse with cold water, and drain again.

2. Pour tortellini into a large bowl and mix with half the pesto until coated.

3. Rinse asparagus after snapping off bottoms. Heat olive oil in a pan. Cook, but do not overcook, asparagus, adding a little water and covering to steam if necessary and desired. Cut into inch-long sections and add to tortellini.

4. Rinse broccoli then cut into small florets. Steam (but do not over steam). Let cool slightly and add to tortellini.

5. Rinse red peppers and cut into quarter- to half-inch squares. Add to tortellini.

6. Chop sun-dried tomatoes and add to tortellini.

7. Add the remaining pesto to the tortellini. Stir until coated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. Serve cold and enjoy.

Mmm... A close up of the finished product

On the balcony. Fun with my phone camera.

Our picnic dinner in the park: Pesto Pasta Salad, ranch chicken wraps (with lettuce and cheddar cheese), and strawberries

Lemon Cakes with Lemon-Vodka Sauce

A lemon cake with lemon-vodka sauce, whipped cream, and blueberries... mmm!

If you like lemon cake and lemon bars, you will love this recipe—which has been described as a perfect mix of the two. For my feast with Rob (featuring Beer-Marinated Orange Ginger Flank Steak), I baked a tray of lemon cakes with lemon-vodka sauce that I then topped with whipped cream and blueberries. I’m not the biggest baked sweets person—leftovers often end up sitting on the counter for days—but this was a treat I indulged in for several evenings after making it.

Ingredients for the lemon cakes

After a quick search on Epicurious.com for lemony desserts, I settled on a combination of two: the cakes from Gourmet‘s April 2005 issue recipe for Lemon Cakes with Basil Lemon Syrup and the sauce from its January 1995 recipe for Thyme Madeleines with Lemon Vodka Syrup (both with some alterations, namely to cut some of the sugar).

Perfect for serving to guests, these cakes can be made the day before, which is exactly what I did.

Making the cakes, about to fold the egg whites into the batter

And... into the oven they go!

Hot out of the oven, cooling off on a rack

Resisting the urge to eat the cakes immediately after baking them, I let them cool overnight then sealed them in an air-tight container until the evening. The sauce was simple enough to make while I was cooking the steak and I set it aside while we ate.

Single serving desserts are wonderful in my mind because there are few things I like as much as a number of decorated items lined up next to one another (just see my post on my Homemade Holiday Granola). After putting a spoonful of sauce in the bowl, I added a cake, topped it with two more spoonfuls of sauce, added a dollop of whipped cream (whipped heavy cream with a teaspoon of vanilla extract added in), and sprinkled with a handful of blueberries.

The results were spectacular. The cake was dense, the sauce gave it the perfect hit of moisture, the unsweetened whipped cream cut the sugar, and the blueberries perfectly complimented the tang of the lemon. I must have said, “This is so good!” at least ten times that evening. When I make this again, I’ll probably try it in a loaf pan or small bundt pan so I can serve it in slices and drizzle sauce over more of the cake’s surface area to let it really soak it up but otherwise, this was a total hit. Mmm mmm!

Yum! (I love making single-serving desserts: they look so great next to one another!)

Lemon Cakes with Lemon-Vodka Sauce

(adapted from Gourmet‘s April 2005 Cakes with Basil Lemon Sauce and January 1995 Thyme Madeleines with Lemon Vodka Syrup recipes)

Ingredients

For cakes:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon, melted

3/4 cup cake flour plus additional for dusting

1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (for at least 30 minutes)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

For sauce:

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup vodka

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Toppings:

1 small carton heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Blueberries

Method

To make cakes:

Place rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350F. Brush eight muffin cups with melted butter and chill for 2 minutes then butter again and chill for 1 minute. Dust cups with flour, knocking out excess. (Alternatively, you can also make one cake, in a loaf or small bundt pan, which I will do next time I make this recipe so I can serve slices drizzled with the sauce rather than individual cakes.)

Beat together softened butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer or in a KitchenAid mixer at medium-high, until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating until well blended. Next, beat in lemon juice and 2 teaspoons zest until combined. Add flour and mix at low speed until just combined. Set aside.

In another large bowl or in the KitchenAid mixer bowl after you’ve transfered first mixture into another bowl and cleaned the mixer bowl, beat whites with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt until they hold soft peaks. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. Stir one fourth of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Spoon batter into 8 prepared muffin tins or loaf or bundt pan.

With your fingers, blend remaining 1 teaspoon sugar with 1 teaspoon lemon zest and sprinkle over batter. Bake until edges are golden and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Cool the cake(s) in pan on a rack for 15 minutes then carefully lift cake(s) out of pan and let cool completely on the rack.

The cake(s) can be made a day in advance and stored in an air-tight container on the countertop once completely cooled.

To make sauce:

In a small saucepan, mix all ingredients and bring to a boil while stirring, then remove from heat and let cool. This can be made a day in advance and stored in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Assemble:

In a bowl with electric beaters or with a KitchenAid mixer, beat heavy whipping cream mixed with vanilla extract on high until consistency of whipped cream. Wash blueberries.

Spoon one large spoonful of sauce into a bowl or scooped plate and place one cake or slice (if you baked a loaf or singular cake) on top. Spoon another large spoonful of sauce on the cake then top with a dollop of whipped cream and blueberries. Enjoy!

Beer-Marinated Orange Ginger Flank Steak

My first steak! (Baked but you can sear first or grill for a more "steak"-like look)

When I recently made fish (the amazing baked fish with paprika-lemon butter), Rob teased me by asking when I was going to make steak. To be honest, I had never made steak before. I grew up in a family that loved to cook (just read my About blurb and how my Caucasian mom would make the best sushi and my Japanese dad, the best daal and aloo gobi) but we rarely cooked red meat. We’ve always been big vegetable eaters and when we did have meat, it was most frequently fish or shrimp, since those are our favorites. Chicken and pork often graced our table but besides my mom’s amazing ribs, I don’t remember eating much red meat growing up. The idea of an all-American dinner of steak and potatoes (or any kind of meat and potatoes) is completely foreign to me.

So, when Rob requested steak, I was excited to take on the challenge. After sending out all-hands-on-deck requests for recipes, I decided to make one a wonderful new friend sent my way: her Mom’s Beer-Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak (which, with her changes and my naming alterations I’m calling Beer-Marinated Orange Ginger Flank Steak, recipe at the bottom of this post!).

Ingredients for the marinade

I decided to make a feast and discovered that this dish was perfect for such an occasion, as the work was almost exclusively reserved for the night before. I gathered my marinade ingredients—an orange, scallions, freshly grated ginger, brown sugar, oil, salt, red pepper flakes, two bottles beer, and soy sauce—and steak (my friend suggested flank rather than skirt but either will do well) and went to work.

Making the usual mess chopping (though I love the look of a working kitchen)

Preparing the steak was proof of my believe that if you can read, you can cook. Sure, there’s certainly a level of finesse, skill, and a sixth sense you develop the more you learn to really cook but everyone can make home-cooked food that tastes good. Any beginners out there, this is a great recipe to try. After preparing the orange and vegetables, all I needed to do was rub the steak with salt and pepper flakes, put half the ingredients in the marinading dish, lie the meat on top, add the rest of the ingredients (and beer and soy sauce at this point), wrap, and toss in the fridge.

Rubbing the steak with salt and red pepper flakes

Putting the steak and marinade ingredients in the bowl

Topping with beer and soy sauce and readying for 24 hours of marinading

My feast featured this steak as the main entree with Acme bread and a rosemary-thyme butter I mixed together, steamed green beans, rosemary-and-thyme roasted fingerling potatoes, and lemon cakes with lemon-vodka sauce, whipped cream, and blueberries for the dessert (which was as amazing as it sounds and for which I’ll post pictures and the recipe next!). With everything prepped in advance, it took exactly one hour from the time I arrived home until we were seated at the table clinking glasses.

Into the oven

I cooked the steak at 400F for five minutes on the first side, about six on the second, and then used the amazing finger test that another good friend and great cook told me about to determine the doneness. It was described to me as poking your finger to know how done the steak is (which made absolutely no sense to me since how does touching your finger tell you anything about your steak in the oven!?) but take a look at this link and you’ll understand. I used this test but then also made a slice to double check before I pulled the steak out of the oven. The ends were cooked to the perfect medium-rare I was going for; the center was a bit pinker than we would have liked but proved perfect for reheating (which then left took them to medium-rare as well). (Update: As a friend and reader pointed out, yes! you can sear first or cook on a grill for a darker, crispier, more steaklike appearance on the outside.)

The steak was wonderful—the ginger and soy sauce standing out as the bold notes with the orange, scallions, and beer as subtler but excellent supporting flavors—and we quickly ate up the rest as leftovers. Now I have one steak down and am excited to tackle the next (knowing that I am perhaps the only healthy home cook in America adding red meat to their diet—Meatless Monday could be half the days of my week—and still certainly being in acceptable ranges). But certainly give this one a try, especially you newbie cooks reading! Enjoy!

Beer-Marinated Orange Ginger Flank Steak

Beer-Marinated Orange Ginger Flank Steak

Many thanks to Eva for sharing this recipe with me and letting me post it!

Ingredients

1 orange, thinly sliced with peel

1 bunch scallions (green onions), thinly sliced

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1 to 1-1/2 pounds flank (or skirt) steak

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 bottles beer, dark ale

Method

In a wide, shallow, glass baking dish, scatter half of the orange slices, half of the scallions, and half of the ginger pieces on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle steak all over with salt and pepper flakes and place in dish. Scatter the remaining orange slices, scallions, and ginger over the steak. Mix the brown sugar in the soy sauce then pour the sugar-soy sauce mix and the two bottles of beer over the steak and marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge overnight.

Heat the oven to 400F. Cook steak for 6 minutes on each side then perform the finger test to check for medium-rare doneness. Enjoy!



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