This classic French Cassoulet with duck confit recipe takes a bit of time to prepare but is totally worth the effort!
This post was sponsored by Anolon Cookware. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own.
“So how’s the cassoulet going?” asked AJ in a text message to me. I had told him the day before that I was going to be making cassoulet and he got excited. WAY excited. So excited that he ended up texting me three time throughout the day to check the progress of the dish. This is a man who loves his French comfort food.
If you’ve never had Cassoulet before, you are missing out. It’s a classic French dish, which often times makes folks think it’s a fancy pants dish. But really it is a dish that has country roots, made for and by peasants. Though the recipe for my cassoulet looks intimidating, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Just allow plenty of time to make the various components or make them ahead of time. Or “cheat” and buy duck confit from an upscale grocery store and just skip the step of making it!
This Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake is a wonderful dessert for a special occasion or for that special someone. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
This post was sponsored by Safeway. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own.
How did February and Valentine’s Day arrive so fast? One minute I’m hanging mistletoe, and the next I’m trying to figure out if I’m going to disappoint my partner AJ by missing another Valentine’s Day. Spoiler alert, it has happened before! Lucky for me, I finally figured out that I can run to my local Safeway for last minute presents! My secret weapon is debi lilly design flower bouquets and vases. They’re reasonably priced, always gorgeous, and available for me any time I want (since my Safeway also happens to be open 24 hours).
Now AJ and I have been together for nearly 18 years so you’d think we would be over getting stuff for each other for every single holiday. But even after all that time, we still try to find time to do something special for each other (even if I occasionally forget until the last minute). But when I have my act together, I also try to bake him something special as well. We don’t always buy presents for each other for EVERY holiday, but I know AJ loves cheesecake, and though it does take a little bit of advance preparation by baking it the day before so it can chill in the fridge, it also means I don’t have to worry about preparing anything on the holiday itself. This means I can just enjoy our time together on that special day!
So, if you’re a planner (which I strive to be) this cheesecake is for you. Make the cheesecake the night before and go to Safeway to pick up a fun debi lilly design vase along with flowers of your choice to make it special. Or if you are a last-minute sort of person (which is probably more the reality for me), know that Safeway has your back with pre-arranged debi lilly design bouquets that are beautiful and won’t breaking the bank. You can just grab and go, cutting the flowers to fit the vase of your choice. Happy Valentine’s Day folks! I hope, regardless of which sort of person you are, you have a wonderful one.
Strawberry Chocolate Cheesecake with Sour Cream Topping
People are often wary of baking cheesecake for fear that it will be overbaked and the top will crack, ruining a beautiful cheesecake. My solution is pretty easy and doesn’t require a waterbath. Just take the temperature of the center of the cake! Once it reaches 150°F, it is done. The center should jiggle slightly but it will set once it’s chilled. And no need to worry about the cracking on top. I make an easy sour cream topping to spread on top, covering up any unsightly cracks. Don’t be scared of the number of ingredients, as this recipe comes together pretty easily. Just make sure to make this cheesecake the night before and let it sit in the fridge to chill properly.
Strawberry filling and sauce
3 cups chopped strawberries (1 pound or 455 g )
1/2 cup <em>O</em> Organics® white granulated sugar (100 g )
1 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoon <em>O</em> Organics® vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Safeway SELECT Cinnamon Graham Crackers (9 crackers or 1 sleeve )
3 tablespoons <em>O</em> Organics® white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon <em>O</em> Organics® vanilla extract
Make the strawberry sauce by placing the strawberries, sugar and cornstarch in a medium sized pot and cooking on medium heat, stirring constantly. At first the strawberries will sizzle a bit then they’ll start to break down and they will produce juice. The liquid will be cloudy and then turn translucent as the cornstarch cooks. Continue to cook until it thickens and the liquid is transparent. Stir in the vanilla extract. Place the sauce in a blender or food processor and process until it becomes a sauce. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9” round springform pan with cooking spray. Place once sheet of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan. Place another sheet of aluminum foil 90° angle from that one. Place the springform pan in the center and crinkle the foil up around the pan so as to catch any drips from the cheesecake.
Make the crust by placing the crackers, powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt in a clean blender or food processor. Process until crumbs form.
Drizzle the melted butter into bowl and process until the crumbs start to clump together.
Dump the crumbs into the prepared pan and press on the bottom of the pan into an even crust. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
While the crust is baking, make the filling by placing the milk and chocolate chunks in a medium sized pan. Turn the heat to medium and stir constantly until the chocolate melts and forms a smooth chocolate sauce stir in the instant coffee and vanilla extract. Set aside to cool.
Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn on low and mix until the sugar is blended in. Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until the first one is incorporated before adding the next egg. Add the flour and beat to incorporate.
Scrape the chocolate sauce into the batter and stir until just blended and uniform in color.
Once the crust is baked, spoon half the batter into the pan and spread evenly to cover the crust. Spoon half the strawberry sauce on top of the chocolate cheesecake filling and carefully spread it over the top. Reserve the remaining sauce in a bowl, covered by plastic wrap, in the fridge.
Carefully spoon the remaining chocolate cheesecake filling on top of the layer of strawberry filling in the pan. Spread evenly and bake in the oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until the center of the cheesecake jiggles slightly, or a thermometer inserted in the middle hits 150°F. Let cool to room temperature and then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, make the sour cream topping by stirring all the ingredients together and then setting it aside for 10 minutes for the sugar to dissolve. Stir to blend, once the sugar has dissolved, then spread over the cheesecake top. Serve with the remaining strawberry sauce.
Luxurious and creamy, chocolate pot de crème with Lindsay Robust California Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Candied Kumquats are a sophisticated dessert that is perfect for a special occasion. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
This post was sponsored by the Lindsay Olives. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own and not endorsed by Lindsay Olives.
I’ve been accused of gilding the lily before. In fact, the New York Times, in their review of my cookbook, said “He doesn’t just paint the lily, he bejewels and shellacs it, too.” And though the phrase often has a negative connotation, I know the NYT meant it in the best possible manner. So when I got it in my head to make a chocolate pot de crème, I started thinking of how I could make it just a little bit extra special. That’s when it hit me that a drizzle of Lindsay California Extra Virgin Robust Olive Oil with its peppery profile would be a great complement to the deep chocolate creaminess of the pot de crème. A sprinkling of sea salt and a garnish of candied kumquats may take it over the edge for some folks but I think it brings it right up to the edge of perfection, making it a new go-to desert for a special occasion.
Now I’ve always been one to take things up to that line of liveliness (and on those rare occasions, possibly, maybe crossing that line). My sister once told me, while shopping for a birthday gift for me, she couldn’t figure out what to get. She would look at a gift and think “Is this tacky or is this Irvin?” Thanks sis. And though I fully embrace my over-the-top sensibilities when it comes to all my life choices (including my dessert) as I got older, I would like to think I’ve refined my tastes slightly. So, though I still love my bold colors and flavors, I’m not quite as vivid as I used to be.
These chocolate pots de crème are a prime example of this new, improved Irvin. Had I decided to make these little jars of richness years ago, I would most likely would have gone overboard. But it turns out the simple of act of drizzling it with the robust olive oil by Lindsay, along with a pinch of salt is enough to give them a sophisticated touch. And the candied kumquats? Sure, I can tell you they are optional, but really they do add that extra little touch. I guess some habits are hard to break.
Chocolate Pots de Crème with Lindsay Robust California Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Candied Kumquats
Pots de Crème are somewhere between a firm custard and a soft pudding. These intensely flavored chocolate pot de crème desserts are an easy-to-make luxurious dessert. Use a high quality dark chocolate, one you really like to eat out of hand, because the chocolate flavor really shines through. Try to find a crunchy flaky sea salt like Maldon flakes to add texture and flavor. The candied kumquats are optional but also easy-to-make and highly suggested.
pots de creme
9 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (255 g (see headnote above))
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons white granulated sugar (55 g )
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Candied Kumquats (optional but recommended)
1 cup kumquats (135 g )
1/2 cup white granulated sugar (100 g )
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons <a href="https://www.ilovelindsay.com/products/evoo/robust-california-extra-virgin-olive-oil" rel="noopener nofollow" target="_blank">Lindsay Robust California Extra Virgin Olive Oil</a>
Maldon sea salt or other flaky sea salt
Place the chopped chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl.
Place the milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Heat on medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk at first to break up the yolks, then a silicon or heatproof spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan as it cooks. Cook the custard until it coats the back of a spoon you dip it into the custard and holds a line when you draw a finger through the custard, about 8 to 10 minutes. If you have an instant read thermometer, it should register around 175°F (don’t go over 180°F).
Pour the custard through a fine sieve into the chocolate. Add the vanilla and instant coffee.
Let sit for 3 to 4 minutes, then stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour the custard into six 6-ounce ramekins or jars. Cool to room temperature, then cover and move to the refrigerator and let chill overnight.
While the pots de crème are chilling, make the candied kumquats (if using) by slicing the kumquats into 1/4-inch thick rings. Discard any big seeds (though they are edible so don’t fuss over it). Place slices in a saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, pour into a container, cover, and refrigerate until use.
To serve, drizzle about 1 teaspoon of Lindsay Robust California Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the top of each pots de crème. Add three or four slices of candied kumquats and sprinkle with Maldon salt.
You will have leftover candied kumquats. It can be kept in the refrigerate for up to a month. Use the syrup for cocktails or to flavor sparkling water. Use the kumquats to garnish puddings, cupcakes, over ice cream or in a winter salad for a touch of citrus sour tangy sweetness.
This quick Bacon Carbonara Pasta with Brussels Sprout dish is easy and fast enough to make for a weeknight meal but elegant enough to serve at a dinner party!
This post was sponsored by Anolon Cookware. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own.
There are certain recipes that are much cherished and loved by folks. As such, these same recipes are vehemently argued back and forth about authenticity. Nothing seems to cause people to comment more than sharing a recipe with the title “carbonara” in it. Some folks add garlic while others say that garlic should NEVER come near the pan. Most folks will scream if cream is added to the recipe, virtually yelling that the addition of liquid dairy leads to alfredo NOT carbonara. As such, I know that folks will most likely be really upset with the idea of me adding brussels sprouts to carbonara pasta. Yet the combination of brussels and bacon to carbonara pasta is such an easy one that I don’t know why it’s not the new standard. Brussels sprouts, charred in the bacon fat, take on a nutty salty flavor, and dull the smokiness of the bacon and cuts the richness of the dish. Plus the bright green vegetable elevates the dish slightly, making it suitable for a weeknight dinner as well as a meal you can serve for a dinner party. Get the recipe for Bacon Carbonara Pasta with Brussels Sprouts over at the Anolon website and find the saute pan and Dutch oven that I used over at William Sonoma!
This post was sponsored by StarKist. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own.
I’ve always been slightly amused by “shortcut” recipes, ingredients and kitchen tips. Sadly it always seems like they are more trouble than they are worth. From using Dr. Pepper in your chocolate cake to trying to clean out a ketchup bottle completely so your pancakes don’t taste like they French fries, there’s a long history folks trying to figure out how to spend less time in the kitchen. Which I get! But since I happen to love cooking and baking, I’m probably not the target audience for these sort of trickeries. But even I occasionally look for ingredients and foods that make my life easier. Which is why I was excited to come across Starkist Tuna Creations® Lemon Pepper tuna. I’ve recently discovered tonnato sauce, and though it’s pretty easy to make from scratch, it turns out, using Starkist Tuna Creations® Lemon Pepper tuna, it’s even easier.
In truth, I’m the guy that can often MacGyver a meal out of random stuff that is in the pantry. I’ve done it before. It’s a talent I picked up in college and I’ve surprised friends in the past, whipping up a meal in their kitchen, when they swear they don’t have a single edible thing in the house. Tuna is one of those things that is often floating in the pantry unused which is sad. From making the ubiquitous tuna salad, to adding it to a pasta dish, to making tonnato, it’s a super versatile ingredient that needs to be used more.
If you’ve never heard of tonnato, don’t worry. I hadn’t either, until I stumbled across it in an Italian cookbook a few years ago. Classic tonnato is an Italian mayonnaise-like sauce flavored with tuna, and it traditionally served over veal. But ronnato is more versatile than you think, and is a great dipping sauce for roasted vegetables. The classic ronnata sauce is made with egg yolks, olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings. Starkist Tuna Creation® Lemon Pepper Tuna takes care of the seasonings, meaning all you need to do is toss the tuna in the blender with mayo and a little olive oil you’ve got an easy weeknight side dish for dinner that is fancy pants enough for company. Now that’s a kitchen shortcut I can get behind!
Roasted Asparagus and Egg with Tonnato Sauce
This easy and quick dish is a great side dish for a weeknight meal but is also elegant enough for company. Tonnato sounds like a creamy chunkless tuna salad but it’s actually makes a great salty condiment for vegetables. Make sure to preheat the oven ahead of time to get it piping hot so your asparagus cooks fast. And if you want your tonatto sauce with a little kick, try using an equal amount of Starkist Tuna Creations® BOLD Tapatio or Sriracha instead of Lemon Pepper.
1 pound asparagus (455 g )
1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgi)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5.2 ounces StarKist Tuna Creations® Lemon Pepper (148 g or 2 packs)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 hardboiled egg
1 wedge of lemon
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus with your fingers. Place the asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the asparagus then toss the together with your hands to make sure the stalks are coated. Roast in the oven 10 to 15 minutes until just tender (your cooking time will depend on the thickness of the asparagus).
While the asparagus is roasting, place the tuna, mayonnaise, and olive oil in a blender, and process until a smooth sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Once the asparagus is cooked, spoon some sauce onto a serving platter and place the asparagus on the sauce. Chop the egg into wedges and place over the asparagus. Serve with a wedge of lemon, to be squeezed over the vegetables and egg right before eating. Spoon the remaining sauce in a bowl to serve along with the asparagus.
These bacon and chives buttermilk pancakes are a total crowd pleaser with the whole slice of bacon cooked into each pancake! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
This post was sponsored by Farmer John and The Bacon Party. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own.
“Are those BACON pancakes?” asked my partner AJ when he came into the kitchen. I corrected him and told them that they were actually Bacon and Chives pancakes but he was too busy getting a fork to listen to me. He grabbed the orange maple syrup I had just made, poured a generous amount and then dug in. The look of pleasure on his face was apparent as he took his first bite!
I was thrilled when Farmer John reached out to me to do a project together. I’ve been a huge fan of their products for ages. Their All-Natural bacon is thick cut and uncured which means I feel just a little bit better eating bacon. Not that I ever really feel guilty about eating bacon. I mean. BACON.
But as much as I love bacon, I like to make recipes with it even more. These pancakes are one of those awesome and fun recipes that are a total crowd pleaser for breakfast or brunch. The minute you put it out on the table, expect them to be gone in a second. You might even have to double the recipe, you know, just in case…
Farmer John All-Natural Bacon and Chives Buttermilk Pancakes with Orange Maple Syrup
These bacon and chives pancakes are a total crowd pleasure. With an entire slice of bacon in each pancake, they make an impressive breakfast or brunch item but are easy to make. You can easily double the recipe for a larger crowd. Just keep the pancakes in a warm oven at 200°F as you make each pancake.
Orange Maple Syrup
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Bacon and Chives Pancakes
1 pound <a href="https://www.farmerjohn.com/products/farmer-john-california-natural-thick-cut-uncured-bacon/" rel="nofollow">Farmer John All-Natural Bacon</a> (455 g)
1 cup all-purpose flour (140 g )
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (well shaken)
1 large egg
2 tablespoon melted butter or bacon fat
1 bunch chives (chopped and divided)
Make the orange maple syrup by combining both ingredients in a small pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 to 7 minutes or until the syrup starts to thicken slightly. Let cool as you make the pancakes.
Preheat the oven to 200°F and place a rimmed baking pan in the oven.
Cook the bacon by placing it first on a cold skillet pan or flat side of a griddle. Then heating the pan to medium heat and fry it, turning the bacon over occasionally, the desired crispness. You can also cook the bacon in the oven or broiler if you prefer. Place the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels, and pour out the bacon fat in a heatproof glass measuring cup, reserving it for later. Wipe clean the skillet/griddle with a paper towel but there’s no need to wash it.
Make the pancake batter by first combining the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir together with a balloon whisk. Whisk together, with a fork, the buttermilk, egg and melted butter (or bacon fat) in another bowl or glass measuring cup.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, folding together with a spatula. When just barely combined, sprinkle about half the chopped chives into the batter and fold to incorporate. Reserve the other half of the chives for when you cook the pancakes
Heat the skillet/griddle to a medium heat and drizzle about 1 teaspoon of bacon fat into the pan. Once the pan has heated up, pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the top of the pancake with some reserve chives, then place a slice of cooked bacon across the middle of the pancake.
Cook until the edges of the pancake start to look dry and bubbles are popping. Confidently flip the pancake over and continue to cook until the second side of the pancake is golden brown. Move to the rimmed baking pan in the oven, and repeat with the remaining batter.
These flavorful marbled Chinese tea eggs are infused with spices like cinnamon and star anise. They are a super easy snack to make and look beautiful once you peel them. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
This post was sponsored by Safeway. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own.
As someone who develops recipes, I often pay a lot of attention to the measurements of each ingredient. It took me awhile to get there, as I used to be one of those intuitive cooks, throwing things in left and right and tasting as I went. Once I started this blog I found that I need to pay a little more attention to whether or not it was 1/2 teaspoon or 1 teaspoon of salt that I added to that dish. I forget that not everyone is like that though, so when I asked my mom for her recipe for Chinese Tea Eggs, she texted me back a recipe that included vague measurements like “some cinnamon” and “2 tablespoons or more” of soy sauce and ending with “I adjust my recipe every time so it’s not a perfect one.” Ha! My mom is the best.
Of course, she’s been making her Chinese Tea Eggs for about 50 years now, so I trust her and her taste. These eggs are super popular in Taiwan, and can be found all over the place. You basically boil the egg first, then crack the shell and let it sit in the marinade overnight. The cracked egg shell allows the marinade to permeate and create a gorgeous pattern on the white of the egg. I’ve been wanting to make these eggs for a while with the New Year here because they’re also a super healthy snack for when AJ is hungry which is basically because he cycles a mad crazy amount. Plus Chinese New Year is just around the corner so these totally do double duty as well!
I’m double happy to be making these with Safeway’s O Organics® ingredients, like their eggs, sugar and teas because they’re organic, reasonably priced and make this recipe simple to prepare. These products are available in my area exclusively at Safeway stores. I used a combination of the O Organics black tea and chai spice tea which already had a blend of spices like ginger, cardamom, star anise and cinnamon in it. Because of this, I don’t even have to use any special spices, I can just throw the tea bags in the marinade! I adore how convenient Safeway is to me, especially since it’s open 24 hours, which means I can run there late at night or early in the morning when there’s a grocery emergency. Which, in my household, happens way more often than it should. I buy my O Organics products at Safeway but you might find them at your own local Albertsons company stores like Albertsons, ACME Markets, Jewel-Osco, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Express, United and Carrs/Safeway. Bounce on over to Safeway.com to find the closest store to you!
Chinese Tea Eggs
These hard-boiled tea eggs are first cooked, then cracked, and cooked again to let the tea marinade penetrate the shell and stain the egg. Once you peel them, you’ll find the egg beautifully marbled and flavored. O Organics Chai Spice Organic Tea is an easy shortcut with spices in it that help make the eggs more complex in flavor. But if you only want to use the O Organics Black Tea, add 2 cinnamon sticks and 2 star anise pieces to the marinade. Use more tea bags if you want a stronger flavor in your eggs or less tea bags if you want them more subtle.
6 large <em>O</em> Organics eggs
1/4 cup Safeway Signature soy sauce
1 strip of orange zest (optional)
2 to 3 bags of <em>O</em> Organics black tea
2 to 3 bags of <em>O</em> Organics Chai Spice organic tea (see headnote above)
1 tablespoon <em>O</em> Organics white granulated sugar
3 cups water
Pour about 1-inch of water into a medium-sized pan and bring to a boil. Place the eggs (cold from the refrigerator) into a steamer basket. Once the water is boiling, carefully move the steamer basket with the eggs into the pan and cover. Steam for 6 minutes. Move the eggs to a bowl filled with ice water to shock them from cooking.
Once the eggs are cooling in the ice bath, place the soy sauce, orange zest, tea bags, sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once the marinade is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, then take an egg out of the ice bath and crack it all over with the back of a spoon. Place the egg in the simmering marinade and repeat with the remaining eggs.
Once all the eggs are in the marinade, cover the pan and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat with the cover still on and let the pan cool completely to room temperature. Move to the refrigerator (still with the cover on) and let sit overnight before eating.
These Brussels Sprouts and Hazelnuts tossed with Sesame Honey Glaze and a touch of vermouth is an easy side dish, perfect for pretty much any meal. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
2017 came and went in a big blur to me. A lot of it was…not so good. But there were highlights. A friend of mine gave birth. Another friend is now pregnant. Friends got married. Some got engaged. Heck, I got engage earlier in 2017. And even though the general state of the country that I live in is alarming to me, somehow I have not lost hope. I adore my friends. I absolutely love my family. And I’m slowly realizing that there is good in the world as well as bad. I refuse to give up and as I get older I realize that I tired of being tired. I want more than just surviving. I want to thrive.
I’ve been taking a long look at some of my own habits and what gets me up in the morning. I still love working in the kitchen. I found a renewed interest in baking, cooking and taking photos. And after a glorious and grueling experience writing and promoting my cookbook, I’ve fallen back in love with writing as well. And beyond that, what started out as a mild hobby in ceramics have exploded into a full fledge obsession. My next semester at the community college where I take ceramics is my last semester and I’m already plotting where I can go from there and who I can learn from. I might (maybe, possibly, no promises but I’m considering it, just don’t hold me to it) even start selling a few pieces of ceramics I have made. (Yeah, that bowl you see the Brussels in? I made it this semester).
And then there’s my collection of cookbooks. I finally got around to buying a couple of bookcases which was life changing. And it also meant that I could actually access my cookbooks easily. Previously it was a HUGE EVENT for me to dig a cookbook out from under the tower of books to just look at it properly. I’ve found myself turning to my collection and making food out them, not just looking at them once and having them getting lost in the stacks. Which is how I ended up looking at Heidi Swanson’s book Near and Far for inspiration.
I’ve long admired Heidi and have been lucky to have met her a few times. She’s just as beautiful in person as she is on her blog and in her writing. And of course, she has impeccable taste. So when I stumbled across her recipe for Brussels sprouts and walnuts I knew I had to make a riff on it. My version is probably as far a stretch from her version as possible, subbing out pretty much ever ingredient other than the Brussels but there’s no way that my Brussels Sprouts and Hazelnut side dish would exist without her for inspiration.
So in 2018, I’m going to look for inspiration. In words. In food. In photography and ceramics and art. I’m going to look at the books I have, at my friends and loved ones and from strangers. I’m going to keep an open eye out for little things that I might have overlooked. And I’m going to pay more attention to big things, instead of dismissing them or acting as if I’m better than the latest trend. I can’t wait to see where 2018 leads me. Happy 2018 everyone!
Brussels Sprouts and Hazelnuts in a Sesame Orange Honey Glaze
These Brussels Sprouts have toasted hazelnuts tossed in, heightening the nutty crunch of these greens. While the Brussels toast in the oven, you toast the hazelnuts and prep the glaze, then combine them all together right before serving, making these some of the best Brussels! The glaze has a toasted sesame oil, a touch of vermouth, orange juice and honey for sweetness and mustard and apple cider for a touch of acidity to balance it all out.
Brussel Sprouts and Hazelnuts
2 pounds Brussel Sprouts (910 grams)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup hazelnuts (140 g)
2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon vermouth (or dry sherry)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon honey
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Trim the Brussel sprouts and halve them (quarter them if they are large). Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
Spread on a large rimmed pan until an even layer. Roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender and one side is caramelized and browned.
While the Brussels are roasting, place the hazelnut in a pan and heat on the stovetop for a couple of minutes, until they start to smell fragrant and get a little toasty. Remove from heat and pour into a kitchen towel and rub the dark skin off of the nuts. If some skin remains, that’s ok. Chop the nuts in half.
Make the glaze by combining all the ingredients together. Once the Brussels sprouts are cooked, scoop them into a heat proof serving bowl, add the hazelnuts, then toss with the glaze. Serve immediately
Inspired by a recipe from Heidi Swanson’s Near and Far cookbook
This festive holiday inspired Peppermint Texas Sheet Cake is a riff on the the classic potluck dessert that feeds a crowd! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
It’s an annual tradition in our household to host a holiday dessert party but last year, because of all the touring and promotions for my cookbook Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, I sadly had to skip it. So this year we made it a priority to have our party and it made me realize how much I missed it! I geared up for our party by baking 17 desserts, which for most folks, probably sounded like a lot, but really was on the smaller end since I’m known to baking 20+ for our parties. Really the holiday shindig is just an excuse for me to bake a lot and try out a bunch of new and different recipes. And one of the most fun ones I made this year was a Peppermint Texas Sheet Cake.
If you’re not familiar with Texas sheet cake, it’s a classic potluck and big party dish. I’ve made a version of it before on this blog (a Tex Mex Sheet Cake with cinnamon and candied spiced pecans on top) and I’ve also contributed a traditional version of the cake to an upcoming cookbook called Feed Your People that is due for release in April of next year. But if you’re not familiar with it, think of Texas sheet cake as a cross between a cake and a brownie. Rich and fudgy, the dessert is thinner than a traditional cake, but more fluffy than a brownie. More importantly, you bake it in a 17 x 12 inch or 18 x 13 inch sheet pan, meaning you can feed a large crowd with it.
Of course, the party wasn’t completely without a massive amount of people. After all, I need folks there to eat my food! The completely lists of desserts included Butterscotch and Pumpkin Bundt Cake; Red Velvet Cake; French Toast Cookies (a new recipe that I just came up based on my cinnamon roll cookies from my cookbook, I’m hoping to share it soon); Cookies and Cream Cheesecake; Citrus Olive Oil Cake; Fig and Walnut Cookies (another new recipe I can’t wait to share with you after I tweak it a bit); Funky Blueberry and White Chocolate Cookie Bars; Orange and Cloves Brownies; Gingerbread M&M Cookies; Apple and Dried Fruit Slab Pie; Pear, Apple & Cranberry Cobbler with Pumpkin Biscuits; Blood Orange and Strawberry Shaker Tart; and Congo Bars. From my cookbook I made Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies, Raspberry Chocolate Marbled Cookies, Caramel Bars, and the Vanilla and Chocolate Marble Cake. Phew! Of course, my biggest fear is always that I don’t have enough food for folks.
And, of course, AJ made his signature ham (which everyone always asks for) and the good folks at Kerrygold provided me plenty of cheese to serve to folks, as well as their new Kerrygold Irish Cream which I served at the party. People left stuffed from the party and everyone had a favorite dish that they loved. I had a number of folks rave about the Citrus Olive Oil cake, one I hadn’t made in ages. It’s an old recipe on the blog – one that I actually need to revisit by updating the recipe and photos. But for me, this Peppermint Texas Sheet cake was the one that I had a blast making. Maybe it was the crushing of all the peppermint canes, or maybe it’s just the combination of peppermint and chocolate that I love so much. Either way, one bite of it, and it just felt like the holidays to me.
Peppermint Texas Sheet Cake
This festive holiday inspired Texas sheet cake is a cross between a brownie and a cake. Made in a large sheet pan, it can serve a large crowd and is easy to make. Remember to start making the frosting while the cake is still baking. You want to be able to pour the frosting onto the still warm cake, so it melts, making it extra fudgy. To crust the peppermint candy canes, place them in a freezer ziplock bag and tap them with a rolling pin until they are the size of small pebbles.
2 cups all-purpose flour (280 g)
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar (300 g )
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (55 g)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz dark chocolate ( chopped into 1/4 inch chunks, 225 g )
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa (65 g )
4 tablespoons butter, unsalted (57 g )
1/2 cup butter, unsalted (115 g or 1 stick )
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar, sifted (340 g )
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 to 3/4 cup crushed peppermint candy canes (see headnote above)
Make the cake by preheating the oven to 350˚F. Coat a 17 x 12 inch or 18 x 13 inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the flour, sugars, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Using a balloon whisk, vigorously stir the dry ingredients together until they are blended together. Place eggs, egg yolks, sour cream, peppermint and vanilla extract in a small bowl and beat together with a fork until smooth and well blended.
Place the chopped chocolate, oil, coffee, cocoa powder, butter, spices and salt together in a medium saucepan. Cook on medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Pour the chocolate into the dry ingredients bowl and mix with a large heatproof spatula to incorporate. Add the sour cream & egg mixture and mix to incorporate.
Pour the batter into the prepared rimmed baking sheet and spread the batter to the edges of the pan, smoothing it out. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Don’t overbake.
About 10 minutes into the baking, make the icing. Place the butter, cream, cocoa, sea salt and corn syrup in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Turn the heat off, and stir in the sifted confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. Once the cake has come out of the oven, while it is still hot, pour the icing over the cake and spread it evenly with a small offset spatula (or butter knife) to the edges of the cake, evenly icing the cake.
Sprinkle the crushed peppermint candy canes over the still warm icing, and gently press down on them to set them in the icing. Let the cake cool to room temperature (about an hour) on a wire rack then move the cake, uncovered, to the refrigerator to cool further for an hour more to let the icing set. Once the icing has set, you can cover it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for up to three or four days, but it’s best served in the first couple of days.
If you’re looking for the best cookbooks of 2017, here’s the second part of a list of cookbooks I loved from a cookbook obsessed man!
You probably thought I was completely done with talking about cookbooks but you’d be wrong! 2017 had so many fantastic cookbooks that came out that I had to break into two posts. Here’s part 2 of my favorite cookbooks from 2017. (And if you missed it, check out part 1 of my favorite cookbooks from 2017.)
I’ve talked about Lily Diamond’s Kale and Caramel cookbook before when it came out but I have to reiterate that it’s a such a vibrant cookbook. Filled with recipes that cater to your stomach and your skin and hair, along with Lily’s enrapturing stories, have me wondering why I don’t take care of myself more. I’m a basic soap and shampoo type of guy but one of these days I’m going to try one of her face scrubs or masks and I’ll blossom in the beautiful butterfly that I am sure is lying underneath all the dead skin. In the meanwhile, I’ll just indulge in her Burrata Artichoke Tartines with Roasted Lemon Mint Pesto or take comfort in her Roasted Tomato Soup with Thyme Crusted Grilled Cheese.
Growing up my best friends were Jewish. I went to so many bat mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs, I actually owned a yarkmulke (ok, actually I accidentally brought one home from Jill Levinsky’s bar mitzvah and just continued to wear it to all the other ones). So when my friend Emily Paster told me about her cookbook The Joys of Jewish Preserving, I was intrigued. What exactly made her recipes Jewish? It turns out a lot. From flavor combinations that are inspired by traditional Jewish foods (like the Rosh Hashannah inspired Apple, Honey and Rose Water Jam) to recipes that use preserves in them (like Hamantaschen). Anyone interested in preserves and want to get different ideas from a food rich culture or folks who are Jewish who want to get into more food preservation would love this book.
Full disclosure, I somehow snuck into the book Hot Mess Kitchen by Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman a million times because I crashed their photoshoot, but even if I wasn’t, I would still adore it. Gabi and Miranda met via social media but not in a creepy Tinder sort of way. They quick became friends and born from that friendship was Hot Mess Kitchen, a hilarious cookbook for every person out there who is just trying to figure out their life. With essays on imposter syndrome and recipes like I’m a Fraud French Toast, to detailed instructions on how to get out of helping to plan the dreaded bachelorette party this book has life advice and kitchen advice all rolled into one. Just one question to Gabi and Miranda though: am I a BFF, Enemy or Frenemy? Because I really hope it’s the last one. It’s sounds way more juicy fun.
I received Robyn Stone’s Add a Pinch cookbook back in the spring when it was released and immediately earmarked a number of recipes. I grew up in St. Louis which isn’t necessarily the deep south but (as I like to call it) is south ADJACENT. So I have soft spot for southern food and Robyn’s book doesn’t disappoint. With to weeknight dishes that will soon become everyday favorites (think Skillet Lasagna or Cheesy Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts) this is the sort of cookbook that makes food accessible for everyone.
Some people’s comfort food is mashed potatoes or lasagna. My comfort food is a warm bowl of Asian noodle soup. But the idea of making pho at home is pretty daunting to me. So I couldn’t wait to get a copy of Andrea Nguyen’s The Pho Cookbook. I love how straightforward Andrea’s recipes are, with tips on how to make every sort of pho that I can think of, from vegetarian to chicken to wok-kissed beef. Expanding on the pho recipes, she also includes recipes for homemade hoisin, chile sauce, and other condiments. I also love how she gives recipes for both “quick” pho (40 minutes total) and more traditional style pho (1 hour to prep and 3 1/2 hours to simmer). Suddenly, making pho at home is within my reach.
Cenk Sönmezsoy from the blog Café Fernando was one of the first blogs that I started reading. He used to live in San Francisco but sadly moved back to Instabul before I had a chance to meet him. So when his book The Artful Baker was released here in the US and he came back to SF, I knew I had to go and meet him at Omnivore Books where he was doing his signing. As I walked in, he nervously stood there with Sarah, the manager and she pulled me aside and asked me if I wouldn’t mind interviewing him! Of course, I was thrilled to chat with him and his gorgeous book (one of the best-selling cookbooks in Turkey) as well as chat with him about blogging. The cookbook itself is stunning, with recipes that are as vibrant as his photography. The Triple Raspberry & Lemon Birthday Cake is a delightfully vivid while the cover cake The Devil Wears Chocolate is just a stunner with the shards of chocolate affixed to the sides. And don’t get me started on his macarons which all look like works of art. Cenk may not live here in SF anymore but at least I have his book here as a poor man’s substitute for hanging out with him.
I’ve adored all of Joanne Chang’s cookbooks, even if I haven’t made it to Boston to go to her bakery Flour or her restaurant Myers + Chang. So it’s not surprise that I would fall in love with her cookbook Myers + Chang at Home. Her recipes are both familiar and comforting but often with a little bit of elevation, nothing too difficult but obviously just a touch to make bring the dish to the next level. Sugar Snap Peas with Ginger Goddess Dressing is the perfect example. Updating the classic Green Goddess dressing with a touch of ginger juice and cilantro pulls the dish in a new direction that sounds just lovely. Her take on Beef and Broccoli is equally exciting, updating it with a peppery ginger beef and Chinese broccoli and serving it over chow fun noodles. This is the sort of Chinese-American cookbook that was meant for me.
In the year 1999, I made a new year’s resolution to be “fearless”. I had just moved to San Francisco and everything frightened me. From how to do laundry at a laundromat properly (are those carts available for anyone to use?) to going on dates (oh man, so many bad dates) I lived in fear. And the year of fearless-ness was life changing. It was the year I settled into San Francisco life. The year I found my groove as a graphic designer pre-internet. And the year I met AJ. So when Erin Jeanne McDowell’s The Fearless Baker showed up on my doorstep I was already sold on the book. Packed full of sidebars with tips and hints on how to be a better baker, this book is like having a friendly pastry chef standing next to you telling, hey maybe you should bake that pie on a baking stone to help crisp up the bottom crust more. With recipes like Caramel Corn Layer Cake (yes please!) and Bourbon-Rosemary Peach Pie this is one cookbook I can’t wait to bake from.
I met Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen years ago at a conference. She was a bit reserved but smart and sassy, just as I expected her to be. Her first cookbook Smitten Kitchen ended up being one of my favorites, with a few go-to recipes that I adore. Her follow up, Smitten Kitchen Everyday, is packed with even more recipes that I know will become favorites. Take her Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Fritters. Born from the fact that takeout always leads to leftover rice, this is the sort of ingenuity that we all need. Because I HATE tossing stuff like leftover rice. And her idea of Manhattan-Style Clams with Fregola, inspired by how much hate there is for Manhattan-style clam chowder, makes me want to run and get clams immediately. I can’t to whip up some practical-but-never boring meals from this book.
I absolutely love reading stories about recipes and where they came from. For me, I can curl up into my couch and read some cookbooks like novels. Unforgettable functions as both a cookbook and biography of Paula Wolfert, the award-winning cookbook author. The book initially was a self-published by Emily Kaiser Thelin then re-released by Grand Central Life & Style. Wolfert’s books were never as popular as contemporaries like Jacques Pepin or Craig Claiborne but her cookbooks on Mediterranean cooking were groundbreaking and her life pretty amazing. The book follows Paula from going to college at the age of 16 in New York at Columbia to hanging out with the influential Beats of the 1950s like Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky to moving to Tangier where she befriended Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams and William S. Burroughs all the way up to her Alzheiemer’s diagnosis in 2013. And, of course, all along the way are recipes that are equally engaging, from Indonesian Beef Satay to her Cassoulet in the Style of Toulouse which takes 3 days to prepare. This book is a must.
I’ve loved the blog Baker’s Royale for ages so I was excited to hear about Naomi Robinson’s cookbook of the same name coming out. The book lives up to my expectations with gorgeous photography and playful recipes like Funnel Cake Cupcakes and Monster Cookie Bark. Though some of the recipes look intimidatingly beautiful and destined to be Pinterest Fails, once you start to look more closely at the instructions they are totally doable even for beginners. With a broad range of easy recipes (Honey Grilled Peaches with Whipped Ricotta) to weekend projects (Raspberry Almond Opera Cake), this cookbook is just the right amount of inspiration and aspiration for all who love to bake.
I’m not a huge fan of single topic cookbooks, unless I absolutely love the ingredient or topic, but there’s something special about Orange Appeal by Jamie Schler. Oranges themselves have such range, from the sweet typical Navel oranges to the sour and bitter oranges like Seville oranges that marmalade is traditional made from, to my favorite, the Blood orange with it’s crimson red inside. But more than that, oranges are one of those versatile fruits that play well with savory and sweet dishes. Jamie explores this topic thoroughly with savory recipes ranging from Mediterranean Lamb (or Veal) Meatballs to Sweet and Sour Marmalade Glazed Oven Baked Chicken to the sweet side of orange, with Chocolate Orange Marble Loaf Cake and Orange Riz au Lait (the French version of rice pudding). With citrus season in full swing here, I’m excited to dive into this book.
There are so many types of cuisine in the world that I am unfamiliar with and Turkish cuisine is one of them. Sure I know about kebabs, dolmas and baklava. But there has to be more that that right? Thankfully Istanbul & Beyond by Robyn Eckhardt is out and can solve that problem. With gorgeous vibrant photography and recipes that reach into lesser known areas of Turkey, this book is the ultimate in armchair food travel. The recipes are accessible and most of the ingredients can be found at a well stocked grocery store. From Meatballs with Pumpkin and Spice Butter to Fingerprint Flatbread to Fresh Fava Beans with Yogurt and Mint, I super excited to dive in deep and start making food.
I was a little baffled by the title Salad for President by Julia Sherman, wondering if it was some sort of political slam on our current president sitting in the White House. But once I started thumbing through the book I was sold on the premise of recipes inspired by artists. I don’t talk about it much but a long time ago, in a previous life, I went to art school and so anything related to art perks my interest. The juxtaposition of art and food, even better. With interviews and recipes from folks like William Wegman and Alice Waters, this cookbook functions as both a coffee table book and a proper cookbook. Recipes like Flank Steak with Bean Sprouts and Kimchi-Miso Dressing and Crispy Yuca Spears with Toasted Fennel Seeds and Pepita Pesto, are truly inspirational. For anyone who loves creativity in all it’s forms, this book is for you.