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Archive for June, 2010

Crowd Pleasing

Well now this is just embarrassing.  Another chocolate post?  Have I no shame?  I looked at my Recipes page and about one third of the dessert recipes up there involve chocolate.  This from a woman who doesn’t crave chocolate.

My excuse?  Chocolate is a crowd pleaser.  If you show up at a dinner party with a cheesecake or a blueberry pie, there’s a chance someone in the crowd doesn’t like cheesecake or has a “thing” about blueberries (for the record, these people mystify me).

But bring something chocolate, and people will swoon.  And, in my book, if you go through the effort of making dessert, you want people to swoon.  So, like a guy to his favorite t-shirt, I come back to chocolate again and again.

I baked these cookies over Memorial Day to accompany an ice cream sundae bar my mom put together.  They are the perfect sidekick: small enough that no one will feel guilty grabbing one to go with a sundae, yet so addictive that people will ending going back for more.

Technically, these are cookies, but they almost have the consistency of a brownie: slightly cakey, rich and bursting with chocolate flavor.  In other words, crowd pleasers par excellence.

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It is somewhat ironic that today I am posting a vegetarian recipe, since I started working for a meat and poultry vendor at the farmers’ market last weekend.  How’s that for timing?

Answer: pretty bad.  But I’ve been trying to cook meatless meals one or two nights a week, and when I do cook with meat, I want it to be fresh, flavorful and ethically raised.  Hence, why I’m working for EcoFriendly Foods a few weekends a month; all of their animals are raised humanely on small family farms in the Shenandoah Valley.

When it comes to meatless meals, though, I need a dish that can compete — something that doesn’t make me feel like, “Ugh, it’s vegetarian night again” and wish I were grilling sausages instead.  That’s where this pasta comes in.

It’s another Lidia Bastianich recipe, which in her book is paired with a type of homemade pasta called strangozzi.  I did not have time to make fresh pasta, so I just used pappardelle — a somewhat random choice, but it’s what I had on hand, and it worked.

The almond sauce is basically a pesto — basil, a little mint, some garlic, toasted almonds and olive oil.  You whir it together in a food processor and add it to the cooked pasta with some Swiss chard you’ve sauteed in olive oil with garlic and pepperocino.

Now, I’m pretty fussy about mint.  For me, it can go either way.  But in this dish it totally works.  You can barely taste it — basil is still the predominate flavor — but it adds a bright, fresh element to the sauce.  And the toasted almonds add a richness that stamps out any notion this meal is some sort of sacrifice.  In fact, there are times I crave the light, fresh taste of this dish more than anything else. (more…)

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Okay, question time.  The most-viewed post on this site is my blog about tapioca, and I’m trying to figure out why.  I’m not saying it’s the link people click on most on my Recipes page; I’m saying “tapioca” is the most-Googled/searched for term that leads viewers to this site.  What is it about tapioca?  Why do so many people seem to do a search for it every single day?  I’m asking you, readers.  Help me out.

Thank you.  That is all.

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Peace Offering

Well, it’s official: I am the worst.  I make all these promises (“I’ll be better about blogging!” “I’m back!” “I won’t be a total lame-ass anymore!”), and then I break them pretty much immediately.  It’s no wonder my readership on this blog has plummeted.

To my five remaining readers: I am really, really sorry.

I was going to post a recipe for sweet pea crostini, or the multigrain muffins I made recently, but no.  I could not post a semi-healthy recipe as a peace offering.  Unacceptable.  Peace offerings should involve sugar.  And cream.  And chocolate.

So instead, I offer you this chocolate-hazelnut cake: a moist chocolate cake filled with a milk chocolate/hazelnut cream and coated in a bittersweet chocolate glaze.

Let the groveling commence.

I’m not going to make outlandish claims for this cake, but it will win you new friends, elicit marriage proposals and bring about world peace.  Just sayin’.

In fact, it was such a hit at my friend’s dinner party that several guests demoted their prevailing “all-time favorite” desserts and moved this cake into the top spot.  Whoa.

So, if you think you could forgive me and my slack blogging, I was hoping — maybe — we could kiss and make up.  What do you think?  Not sure?  Why don’t you give this cake a try, and maybe then you’ll give me a second chance.  (more…)

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