Monday, January 23, 2012

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I have recently developed a fascination with eggs. Before I got married, I rarely even bought eggs. If I did it was more likely than not that they would go bad before I finished the carton. Now we finish a carton of 18 right about the expiration date. This last time I went to the store, I bought two cartons of 18.  My 22 year old self never would have dreamed of that happening. The best part...we are well into the second carton with plenty of time before the expiration date. 

One thing that helped go through those two cartons of eggs so quickly was this Carbonara sauce. The way the sauce coats the noodles is just perfect. And while it doesn't heat up like a dream, it can still serve as leftovers (well over half the food we eat is leftovers from the day or day before). 

If you like pasta, bacon, and egg this is a meal for you. I know it will be a regular in our household.

Fun fact from my cookbook: Unlike many popular variations, authentic carbonara includes no cream or wine, just beaten eggs and cheese (pg. 66).  

Yield: 4 servings

5 large eggs (extra large is good too)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fine sea salt and ground pepper
Kosher salt for cooking pasta
1 lb spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb bacon, finely diced
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley

In a bowl, beat the eggs until well blended. Stir in the 3/4 cup cheese and season with sea salt and plenty of pepper.

In a large pot, bring water to a rapid boil. Add 2 tbsp kosher salt (don't skip this makes a HUGE difference in any pasta you will ever cook) and the pasta and cook according to package directions, until the pasta is 2 minutes shy of being al dente.

In a frying pan large enough to accommodate the pasta later, cook the diced bacon. Drain the grease and set the bacon aside. Warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute until nicely colored and crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

When the pasta is ready drain it, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the frying pan, place over low heat and toss to coat the pasta with the oil. Add about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to moisten, and simmer, continuing to toss, until the water is nearly evaporates, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the contents of the pan to a large bowl. Add the egg mixture and parsley and toss vigorously to distribute the sauce evenly and to ensure that the eggs do not scramble. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the reserved cooking water to loosen it. Serve right away. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

Never underestimate the power of a cookie.

The last couple months I have been so focused on making all sorts of fancy deserts that I haven't made a simple batch of cookies (that we have kept). Yesterday I bought a Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookie from the cafeteria at work. It. Was. Divine. I had to have more. Unfortunately, my lunch break had already reached an end. When I told Hunter about how yummy my cookie was, he was practically drooling. On my way home I stopped and bought some macadamia nuts so more of these cookies could become a reality in my life as soon as possible. 

They did not disappoint. Hunter profusely thanked me for making such wonderful cookies. I reiterate my point: do not underestimate the power of a cookie. Sometimes it hits the spot when no other dessert can, no matter how fancy. 

Yield: about 30 cookies

2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. Mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in the egg and egg yolk and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat as low speed just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and macadamia nuts.

Roll a scan half-cup dough into a ball and pull apart into two halves. Place on cookie sheet, jagged edge down. Bake on prepare cookie sheets 10-14 minutes, rotating cooking sheets halfway through. Cookies will be a light golden brown, the outer edges will start to harden, but the center will still be soft and puffy. 

Source: slightly adapted from Annie's Eats

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chocolate Souffle

My go to desert anytime we go to a restaurant is Molten Lava Cake - or whatever they call their particular variation. You can't really go wrong with fudgy, oozing chocolate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It we ever end up getting a different dessert we almost always wish we had gone with the molten lava cake in the long run.

What is with this preamble you ask? Well, Chocolate Souffle=Molten Lava Cake.

After seeing Chocolate Souffle on an episode of Master Chef Season 1 Hunter longed to try it. So, when there was a recipe for it in my new Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking Cookbook, that was the first thing he wanted me to make. 

Honestly, up to this point I had heard of a souffle, but had no idea what it was. We even had to go on a hunt for souffle pans - and ended up with both a 2 qt. souffle dish and 8 little Ramekins (which are the options given in the recipe). Neither of us really had any idea what to expect when I took it out of the oven and were super skeptical about how jiggly it was and the amount of ooziness inside. 

After a quick internet search, we decided that the end product was close enough to what it was supposed to be and dug right in. 

Oh. My. Goodness. It was SOOOO good! The first one I made in the big pan (pictured right above). Between the two of us, we ate the whole thing. We started out with only about half of it but quickly went back for a second helping. The next day I still was not over how good it was, and luckily neither was Hunter, so I made another batch. The second time around though, I halved the recipe and used the little Ramekins we had bought. It was every bit as delightful and also more practical since there are only two of us. This is definitely something that will be made again and again in our house.

Another great thing about this souffle is that is is made from fairly common, inexpensive pantry items. Score. 

The recipe listed below is the full recipe, but if you feel like that is a little much (I realize not everyone has the same love of chocolate that my husband and I do) then feel free to half it. 

Yield: 6 servings

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs, separated
1/8 tsp salt (just a pinch if you are halving it)
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (we opted for vanilla ice cream)

Pan Options:
One 1 1/2 qt (I could only find a 1 and 2 qt pan so those would work great as well) souffle dish -or-
Eight 6 oz ramekins (the original calls for six 8 oz ramekins but those don't seem to exist)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees for a large souffle or 400 degrees for individual souffles. Butter the pan(s) of your choice and dust the bottom and sides with sugar.

Place the chocolate in the top of a double broiler placed over barely simmering water. Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate is melted. remove from above the water and allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites, salt, and cream of tarter on medium high until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. *

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thick and pale in color. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate.

Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in the remaining whites just until no white streaks remain. Spoon into the prepared dish(es).

Bake the souffle until set and puffed and the center still jiggles when the dish is gently shaken, 25-30 minutes for the large one or 8-10 minutes for the individual ones. Serve immediately.

*Tips for whipping egg whites: Use a clean large bowl. Any fat or grease (butter, egg yolk) will impede the fluffiness you are trying to achieve. Always use room temperature egg whites. Unlined copper or stainless steel are the best bowl options. If you are adding sugar, start adding it very slowly once the egg whites are foamy. Us a balloon whisk, a handheld mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. If using a mixer start on medium speed and increase to medium high as the whites thicken.

Source: Williams Sonoma, Essentials of Baking, recipe pg. 201, egg white instructions pg 26

Monday, January 9, 2012

Raspberry Hazelnut Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting

Have you seen cupcake wars? Quick rundown if you haven't - basically the contestants have to create cupcakes out of completely outlandish ingredients (ie: jalapenos, hot sauce, absinthe, cauliflower, turkey, etc...) before you can make more normal cupcakes that match whatever the theme of that episode is. Every once in a while there will be more reasonable ingredients for that first round like chocolate, marshmallows, etc, etc. Almost since the first time I watched the show (maybe like 6 months ago) I wondered if I could create my own cupcakes.

I did it. I finally created them. Granted, I didn't have the time or ingredient restraints, but for my first try I feel like this was a major success!

I loosely followed recipes for both the cupcakes and the frosting and the result is a wonderful combination of flavors (I mean, who doesn't love raspberries and nutella?) with none overpowering the other. I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Yield: 30-32 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cup sugar
3 oz raspberry gelatin
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry puree (mix raspberries with 2 tbsp powdered sugar in a blender)

For the frosting:
1 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1/2 cup Crisco (you can also use another 1/2 cup of butter if you prefer)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pans. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; mix together and set aside. Mix the sugar, raspberry gelatin and butter until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs into the sugar mixture one at a time, mixing well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until incorporated. Blend in the milk and vanilla extract. Add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. Blend in the raspberry puree. 

Fill the cupcakes cups 2/3rds full. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then take out and allow to cool completely. 

Place the milk in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the flour over the milk, 1/4 cup at a time and whisk until smooth. Place the saucepan over low heat and stir constantly until the mixture becomes thick and pulls into a ball. Remove from heat and put into a bowl, cover the ball directly with plastic wrap, making sure none of it is exposed and place in the fridge (or freezer if you are inpatient like me) until cooled to at least room temperature. 

In a large bowl, cream the butter and Crisco (or just butter). Add the cooled flour/milk mixture and beat until well blended. Mix in the vanilla. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the sugar and then continue to beat for an additional 10-12 minutes (it's worth it, I promise - a not super sweet buttercream used to only be a figment of my imagination) until white and creamy. Add in the nutella and mix until well blended with no streaks. 

Frost the cupcakes, decorate as you please, and enjoy the amazingness.

Source: very loosely adapted from Annie's Eats and Chocolate Therapy

Friday, January 6, 2012

Farfalle with Salmon and Asparagus

My husband is a fish person. Almost without fail, every time we go out to eat he gets something fish related. While I enjoy fish, I do so sparingly. It took me a solid 8 months of marriage before I would even attempt to make fish at home. My first attempt was successful and broke the ice to us eating fish semi-regularly (not as much as Hunter would like though). This dish is one that satisfied both of us, and one we will definitely have again. If I can find more recipes like this one, his dream of fish every week or two might become a reality.

The asparagus becomes almost creamy, the pasta is al dente, and the fish flavor makes for a well rounded meal. The fishy flavor isn't at all overpowering and is almost nonexistent.  The dijon mustard and olive oil brushing compliment the salmon nicely.

If you are afraid of fish, don't be! This is a yummy recipe that is bound to please. 

Yield: 4-6

1 lb Asparagus
Kosher salt for cooking asparagus and pasta
6 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 bunches green onions, including 3 inches of green tops thinly sliced
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
2 lb skin-on salmon fillet, cut into 4-6 pieces
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
Salt and pepper
1 lb farfalle

Positions a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Trim off the tough ends of the asparagus then cut crosswise into 2 or 3 pieces, keeping the tips intact.

In a large pot, bring 5 qt water to a boil. Add 2 tbsp kosher salt and the asparagus and boil until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Just before the asparagus is done, in a frying pan large enough to accommodate the pasta later, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the green onions and red pepper flakes. Scoop the asparagus out of the water and add to the pan with the green onions. Toss the ingredients together and saute until the asparagus pieces are tender, 1-2 minutes. They should not be crunchy. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm. Reserve to water in the pot.

While the asparagus is cooking, place a baking sheet on the lower rack in the oven. Brush the flesh sides of the salmon evenly with the dijon mustard and then the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully place the salmon pieces, skin side down on the baking sheet. Roast until the thickest part of each piece is opaque at the center when cut into with a paring knife, about 12-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

While the salmon is cooking, return the reserved water to a rapid boil, add the pasta, and stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain the pasta, add to the sauce in the pan, and toss until well combined.

Serve immediately.

Source: slightly adapted from Williams Sonoma, The Pasta Book, page 93