Molten Chocolate Cake with Blackberry Thyme Sauce

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Every day I crave chocolate. I need a little something sweet to round off my meal and feel satisfied. Without it, I’m itchy for just a taste and it’s like wearing a wool sweater if I don’t satisfy that craving. Despite obvious lack of restraint, I do treat myself in moderation so when I do get my treat I don’t devour the entire thing in two seconds. And, I usually don’t want anything fancy or trendy. Just a plain slice of chocolate cake will do just fine. That’s why this recipe for the good old standby molten chocolate cake is perfect for me. Sometimes, it’s best to keep it easy and predictable. No frills. Of course, you can dress it up for company with some fresh blackberry thyme sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. Now, that’s indulgent.

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Blackberry Thyme Sauce:

1/3 cup sugar

water

1 cup fresh blackberries

1 T fresh thyme

In a small saucepan, add the sugar and add just enough water to make a sandy consistency. If there are sugar crystals on the sides of the saucepan, make sure to wash them down with additional water. This is important because the crystals will make the entire batch crystallize once sugar starts to boil. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium.

Cook until sugar and water until it reaches a light caramel color. Turn heat down to low, and add the blackberries and thyme. This will make the sugar seize up, but that’s ok. Slowly heat everything on low heat, mash the berries, and gently stir until mixture becomes smooth. Remove from heat and let steep for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and chill in the refrigerator.

Molten Chocolate Cake:

from Food & Wine Magazine

yield: 4 individual servings

4 oz unsalted butter

6 oz bittersweet chocolate

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

pinch of salt

2T all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter and lightly flour four 6-oz ramekins. Tap out excess flour. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet.

In a bain marie, melt chocolate and butter. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt at high speed until thick and pale.

Whisk the chocolate and butter until smooth. Quickly fold in the egg mixture along with the flour. Ladle batter into ramekins and bake for 12 minutes or until the sides are firm but centers are soft and jiggly. Let cakes cool in ramekins for 1 minute, then invert and unmold onto a plate.

Garnish with blackberry thyme sauce and softly whipped cream.

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Sweet Potato and Chard Galette with Ossau-Iraty Cheese

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If you’ve never had a galette, you need to get this in your repertoire. It is seriously a great thing to have in your pull-it-out-of-your-@ss arsenal for things to make on the fly. All you need is a good, reliable pate brisee (simple pie crust) recipe and some sweet or savory ingredients to fill it. The galette is so versatile, it can go either way- sweet or savory.

I also discovered it can be a nice addition to your brunch table. Virtually fuss free, if you can make the pate brisee dough in advance, even freeze it you’re half way there. All you have to do it decide on your filling, saute it up and top with cheese…or not. I used sweet potato and a green olive swiss chard filling. The cheese I used is French, made from sheep’s milk from the Basque country. It was a nice choice with enough buttery flavor to compliment the salty olives and capers in the chard mixture.

Easy. It’s rustic so perfection doesn’t really matter and a little lopsided or uneven and it’s got character. Done and done.

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Sweet Potatoes:

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4″ rounds.

Steam the sweet potato rounds until just cooked, not too mushy. They should be able to keep their shape. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the galette. *Potatoes can be cooked the night before.

Swiss Chard Mixture:

1 bunch swiss chard, stemmed and rough chopped

2 T butter

1 T olive oil

1 garlic clove

1/2 tsp capers, chopped

1/4 cup green olives, sliced

1/2 cup ossau-iraty cheese, grated

Parboil the chard until just wilted. This should take no more than 2 minutes. Drain, let cool and squeeze out excess liquid. Roll into a paper towel and let sit.

In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter and olive oil over medium flame. When pan is hot, saute chard with garlic (do not let garlic brown) and add the capers and olives. Remove from heat and let cool.

Pate Brisee

from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

1/2 cup ice water

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

12 T (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into small cubes

2 T heavy cream or 1 small egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the flour, salt  and butter into a bowl. Using your fingers, cut the butter into the flour leaving some large, irregular pieces. Using a fork, mix the flour and butter mixture while slowly pouring in the ice water until the dough begins to form clumps. Add more ice water if needed to brink the mixture into a cohesive mass. Gently pour out onto a work surface, need lightly until there are no dry patches and separate the dough into two. Flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least an hour.

Remove one of the disks of dough (save the other for something else) and dust your work surface with  flour. Make sure to smooth out any cracked edges in your disk of dough. Proceed to roll out in a circle until approximately 1/8″ thick. If dough cracks or you get some holes, just pinch off excess dough and patch up the cracks. This dough is very forgiving, but you will need to work quickly so the butter does not warm up.

When you have your round shape, transfer dough to a parchment lined sheetpan. Layer on the sweet potato rounds first, leaving an inch border around the edge to fold over later. Top with chard mixture and finally, sprinkle with cheese.

Start folding the edges over one side at a time, each corner will slightly overlap the previous corner. Continue until all sides are folded over. The important thing here is not perfection, but a sealed edges so juices from the filling will not leak out.

Brush with cream or beaten egg and bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are golden.

Let rest for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Slice and serve warm.

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52 Weeks: 15/52

Hello again! This week was filled with a few more exciting days than the last. After all, change is welcome and more fun is encouraged around here. So, let’s have at it:

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Spending some time across the border. No trip is complete without a fresh bag of churros.

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Piping hot and soon to be devoured before the bag becomes translucent from grease.

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What a nice surprise. A box of chocolates delivered especially for me! The insert recommends that the chocolates be consumed within a couple of weeks. So not a problem. In fact, since I have so little self control, they could be gone in days.

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Salsa bar where we enjoyed some seafood tacos while visiting Tijuana. They were so tasty we will definitely be back to try others here.

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While we are in TJ, why not stop by the Baja Craft Beer tasting room? Tons of craft beer to choose from and many from Baja. Excellent!

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If you know me, any chance I get when I’m away from home I head to the local market. In this case it was the Soriana to look for salsa that we don’t have at home. Unfortunately, pickings were slim but check out the cookies.

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After all that indulgence, I’m on a steady diet of mandarines for the rest of the week.

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Being that’s it’s now the end of another week, why not celebrate? Cheers to a weekend full of non-stop adventure!

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Asparagus Salad with Avocado Meyer Lemon Dressing

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Spring is here but these past couple of days feel more like summer with the 80 degree temperature we are having. When it’s warm out, sometimes all I want is a fresh and flavorful salad; crisp and cold, of course. The local farmer’s market down the street had tender asparagus, delicate greens, and lots of radishes. They also have the very best and most beautiful kale and rainbow chard which I couldn’t resist.

I wanted to keep the freshness and natural flavors as much as possible in this salad and not over dress and drown out my earthy greens. I am a lover of salad dressing and tend to be way too liberal in my application so I was proud of myself for showing some restraint here. Besides, this avocado oil and meyer lemon dressing is best when just barely drizzled atop to give a hint of flavor since the avocado oil is a touch in the smoky side.

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Avocado Meyer Lemon Dressing:

yield: 2-3 servings

1 T fresh meyer lemon juice

3 T avocado oil

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Combine lemon juice, avocado oil and garlic in a dish and whip with a fork until emulsified. You’ll know when it’s emulsified when the dressing turns opaque and it looks homogenous. Add salt and pepper to taste, set aside.

Salad:

1/2 bunch asparagus, steamed but not soft. You want it to be slightly crunchy.

1 bunch mixed salad greens

1/2 avocado, sliced thin

Ricotta salata cheese, grated (just enough for garnish, approx 2 T)

Toast the ricotta salata in a dry non-stick skillet over medium heat. Keep moving the cheese with a spatula so it doesn’t burn. When it turns golden in color, remove from heat and place in a small dish, set aside.

Place the greens on the bottom of the dish and layer 8-10 asparagus stalks on top. Follow with half of the sliced avocado and fan it out. Sprinkle with toasted ricotta salata and drizzle the dressing over. Enjoy!

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Not Your Amusement Park Churros: Savory Edition

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On a recent jaunt to Tijuana, we had dinner at a new- to- us restaurant. To start things off, we had some drinks and along with our libations came a small dish of crunchy churros. They were made with blue corn and looked like these here, and did not resemble the typical cinnamon sugar deep fried dough treat at all. The only thing they had in common is the shape and the deep frying, but that’s it. These savory botanas are in a class all their own. Best enjoyed with a cold glass of beer, these snacks are better than peanuts and will leave you wanting more.

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Savory Churros:

1 cup Instant Corn Masa Flour (I used Minsa brand)

3/4 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp onion powder

canola oil for frying

1 tsp chile powder

limes

radishes

Combine dried masa flour, salt, oregano, onion powder and water. Mix until well incorporated and homogenous. Break a small piece the size of a quarter off and roll between your palms. If it rolls smoothly without sticking, it’s ready. If the mixture is too tacky, add more dried masa flour 1 tbsp at a time. Or, if mixture is too dry and crumbly, add water 1 tbsp at a time. The ideal consistency will allow you to roll the dough on a wood cutting board without additional flour or water.

Once the mixture is ready, roll long ropes 3-4 inches long and approximately 1/8″ thick. Transfer to a parchment lined sheet pan. Once the bottom layer is full of ropes, set another sheet of parchment over and continue rolling and transferring to the parchment. Make at least 3 layers. Deep fry until golden brown and transfer to a paper towel lined sheetpan. Sprinkle with chile powder.

Slice limes and radishes for garnish.

When you’re ready to eat the churros, squeeze some lime juice over and enjoy immediately.

*if you have a meat grinder attachment to your kitchenaid, I imagine this process would far more efficient. But then again, when it’s made by hand, you sure do appreciate and savor each bite.

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52 Weeks: 14/52

This week went by quick which is always a good sign, but then the weekend speeds by even faster. Here’s what I was up to:

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The view from Cowell’s Mountain is spectacular. We took a late afternoon walk up here for the first time. It was quite a trek all the way up but well worth it.

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Gelato on a warm day although I wanted sorbet.

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Happy to see my mint plant is making a comeback!

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Balboa Park at night during a mid-week date night.

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Swiss chard and carrots from the farmer’s market.

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Tried a new food truck and I’ll just say the tacos were so good they certainly give my standby local favorite a run for their money. I can’t stop thinking of what I’ll order next time and when will that next time be? Tomorrow?

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It’s nice that we have a local place to pick up fresh beer but then again, here in San Diego you can’t throw a stone without hitting a craft brewery. The best part? The beer is outstanding of course!

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This greets you when you finish your $2 sake to-go cup. Say hello to the demon within. Bwaaaahahaha!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

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Potato Rounds and Romesco Sauce

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Sauces make most everything taste better. It’s true that some foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits really don’t need anything extra, but sometimes condiments make the flavors pop. These roasted potatoes are a good example of a snack that is enhanced by a flavorful take on the classic Catalan romesco sauce. This sauce would also be excellent on grilled fish and if diluted with olive oil, it can make one heck of a dip for bread. I know because I’ve done this before, many times. The only danger is you could possibly devour the entire loaf of bread because the romesco is that good. The mix of sweet potatoes, purple and russet potatoes give a nice variation of flavors and keep things interesting. My favorite was the sweet potato because it was complimentary to the sweetness of the predominant flavor of bell pepper.

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Romesco Sauce (variation of the classic):

yield: 2 1/2 cups

Roasted Potatoes:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1 russet potato

1 purple potato

1 sweet potato

grapeseed oil (enough to coat potatoes)

salt to taste

Fresh oregano for garnish, rough chopped

Romesco Sauce:

2 guajillo peppers

5 roma tomatoes

1/4 onion

1 red bell pepper

5 cloves garlic

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup olive oil

1 T sherry vinegar

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 tsp salt

Slice potatoes thin, approximately 1/8″ thick. Place in a large mixing bowl and add just enough grapeseed oil to coat lightly. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Place potatoes in a single layer on a parchment lined sheetpan and bake for 30 minutes, turning potatoes over half way through. Turn oven off and let potatoes sit for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.

In a dry pan or comal, heat the guajillo peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onion, bell pepper, almonds until each is blackened but not burnt. For the almonds, just toast to golden, do not blacken. Remove from the pan as they are done, each ingredient will blacken at a different rate. Place the bell peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sweat for 15- 20 minutes. Peel off the skin and set aside.

Place the chiles, blackened vegetables, almonds, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, and salt in a blender. Puree until smooth.

Serve with roasted potato rounds.

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52 Weeks: 13/52

 

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This week was much better than the last mostly because I wasn’t sick and also because we made another trip over the border. This time, we stopped for drinks at La Justina, a newish bar/restaurant for some drinks before dinner.

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Mezcal cocktails- mine is the one on the right in the tin cup, a Marie Antoinette. It was delicious but I thought with a name as extravagant as Marie Antoinette, it deserved a fancier glass. But, it’s what’s inside that counts and the elixir lived up to its namesake.

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Dinner at Verde y Crema, also a Baja restaurant. It was our first time here and I must say, getting here was an adventure. We got lost on the cab ride over and had to make a few phone calls to get back on the right track. Once there, we settled in with more drinks and this ceviche before dinner.

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I usually don’t watch DWTS, but since Nene from Atlanta Housewives is competing, I’m glued to the tube. Go Nene!

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We took a walk round the hood this week and lo and behold, guess what we found? A cache of tender, young nopales! You bet we’ll be back to collect some more.

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A new view from a different walking route. Change is good.

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

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Barbadian Gin Punch

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This gin punch is ready for summer. It’s ready for longer days, lazy, warm days and a whole lot of sitting around on the porch just sipping away and enjoying the day. Yeah, that sounds about right. I know Spring just started, but it’s been warm here and this will be a nice way to start the weekend because it’s never too soon.

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 Barbadian Gin Punch Swizzle

adapted from Imbibe Magazine, original recipe here

I doubled the recipe below to make two servings

4 oz gin (I used Farmer’s for it’s mellow flavor)

4 oz coconut water

1 oz lime juice, fresh squeezed

1 oz simple syrup

4 dashed Angostura bitters (2 dashes per glass)

crushed ice

Fill each glass to the top with crushed ice. Combine all other ingredients in a large glass and stir slightly to combine. Pour over crushed ice dividing the mixture between the two glasses. Garnish with a sliced lime and straw. Cheers to Friday!

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Love at First Bite: Papas Canarias

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Spain’s autonomous communities, the Canary Islands are an archipelago located off the coast of North Africa. Unfortunately, I’ve never traveled to the Canaries (had the opportunity and chose to visit Toledo, Spain instead- which was awesome), but I really want to especially after I had a taste of these delicious, words-cannot-describe how amazing these wrinkled potatoes inspired by a Canary Island dish are. Don’t take my word for it, you must make these and taste for yourself if you’ve never had the pleasure of biting into a creamy, salt crusted potato and dipping it into a cilantro-cumin mojo or a red chile pepper mojo. They are addictive like potato chips- you CANNOT have just one. One leads to two which leads to devouring the entire batch if you’re like me and have little self control. But that’s totally ok because life is short and one must enjoy.

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Patatas Canarias

from Made in Spain by Jose Andres

2 pounds baby potatoes, I used baby fingerlings

1 cup salt plus more as needed

Place potatoes in a medium deep pot and cover with cold water. Add 1 cup salt. The potatoes should float so if they are still on the bottom of the pot after you add the salt, you will need to slowly add more until the potatoes float.

Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer for 25-30 minutes. Use a toothpick to check for doneness. The potatoes will start to wrinkle as they become cooked.

Pour out most of the water, leaving just enough to cover the bottom of the pot. Return the pot back to the stovetop. Over low heat, shake the pot until the salt covering the potatoes begins to crystallize. This will take between 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover with a clean towel until the skins have wrinkled, about 10 minutes. Serve with green and red mojos.

Mojo Verde:

Slightly adapted from Made in Spain by Jose Andres

3 garlic cloves, peeled

½ tsp sea salt

1 cup well packed chopped cilantro leaves

¼ tsp cumin seeds

¼ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sherry vinegar

Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and salt together until it forms a smooth paste. Here’s where I veered off from the original directions: Scrape the garlic and salt paste into a tall container (mason jar with large opening is ideal) and add cilantro, cumin, olive oil and sherry. Blend with an immersion blender until the mixture becomes smooth. It goes very quickly. Alternatively, you could do all this in the mortar as it calls for in the original directions. Keep the sauce at room temperature until ready to use.

 Mojo Rojo:

Slightly adapted from Made in Spain by Jose Andres

6 garlic cloves, peeled

 ½ tsp seal salt

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp sweet pimento (Spanish smoked paprika)

1 dried guindilla pepper, I used a guajillo pepper

¼ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sherry vinegar

Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and salt together until it forms a smooth paste. Here’s where I veered off from the original directions: Scrape the garlic and salt paste into a tall container (mason jar with large opening is ideal) and add cumin, pimenton, dried guindilla pepper (break it up with your hands), olive oil and sherry. Blend with an immersion blender until the mixture becomes smooth. It goes very quickly. Alternatively, you could do all this in the mortar as it calls for in the original directions. Keep the sauce at room temperature until ready to use.

*If you’ve never seen the television series “Made in Spain” with Jose Andres, be sure to check it out. He’s amazing and it’s a great high quality show where you actually learn something unlike, ahem, some of the other food shows that are all flash, no substance. I hope JA isn’t mad I finished off the mojos with an immersion blender instead of soldering through with the mortar and pestle. What can I say, I was hungry and anxious to eat these again!

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