Brownies with Homemade Raspberry Sauce and Caramel Ice Cream

IMG_0613I was recently trying to find the perfect chocolate dessert for an extra special meal I was planning. I found a great recipe for a French flourless chocolate cake on the Wednesday Chef. But then I thought: why not make brownies? They share the same basic principles: a few good quality ingredients, and chocolate reigning supreme. I made homemade raspberry sauce, and dolloped some Haagen-Daz caramel ice cream on top. The raspberry sauce adds the perfect tartness to the rich, walnut brownies; and the caramel ice cream adds a nice complementary flavour that cuts the one-dimensionality of the chocolate.

I chose Deb’s favourite brownies from Smitten Kitchen. And added a handful of chopped walnuts for some crunch. I followed the standard recipe for a berry sauce.  In the end the raspberry sauce was worth all of the 5 minutes it took to make. A tablespoon of sugar added to fresh raspberries to break down the fruit on the stove top; and a squeeze of lime at the end. The mixture is pulpy and needs to be strained to get the silky, ruby ribbon of raspberry syrup.

Though there was no ‘quinelle’ of ice cream–just a nice spoonful of it–it added the perfect golden, syrupy note. It was the perfect, sinful end to a delicious dinner.

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Blueberry Banana Bread

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In the oven, the blueberries burst creating purple-blue swirls in the banana bread. Add a handful of blueberries to a standard banana bread recipe. Substitute mashed bananas for the acorn squash in the recipe.

I’ve been using this same recipe for years which uses buttermilk + vegetable oil, making it a healthy treat. I love throwing this together when I’m particularly worn down with writing and want something delicious baking in the oven to have with tea.

The loaf always comes out golden.

Roasted Vegetables

IMG_0545Sometimes all I want to eat are vegetables.

I had a very dear friend visiting this weekend, and this is the feast we rustled up for a low-key sunday dinner. We roasted eggplant drizzled with oil and chopped garlic; brussel sprouts seasoned with salt, pepper, balsamic and oil; and sweet potatoes sliced and perfectly crisped. The salad was delicious too: sliced red peppers, mixed greens, avocado, finely chopped onions, herbs-de-provence, olive oil, balsamic, salt pepper. It was the perfect elixir for a long week.

Broccoli, Fingerling Potatoes and Boiled Egg Salad

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I recently discovered a wonderful blog, Happy Yolks. Part of the charm, of course, is in the pun. But I also love Shaun and Kelsey’s photographs and recipes. I especially love their bright salads. Cauliflower swirled with radicchio, chives, celery, dates, walnuts in a dijon mustard based dressing. Or their shaved brussel sprouts, pear, lentils and bacon salad. YUM.

This is my take on their Broccoli Gribriche. Gribriche is a french style sauce. It’s got the consistency of mayonaise, but it is yolk-based. In keeping with the spirit of the sauce–but ick I certainly don’t want an over creamy sauce that makes the broccoli soggy–I only added a dash of mustard to the dressing to emulsify the delicious baking juices.

Ingredients

I made this salad for myself, and tossed together whatever I had in my fridge. I love the recipe because it requires none of that unattractive precision that makes you feel more like a matron and less like a cook. Since it’s all roasted and garlicky, go crazy: adjust the recipe to taste and quantity.

Broccoli
Fingerling Potatoes
3 Lemon Slices
2 Hard Boiled Eggs
1/3 Cup Chopped Red Onions
2 Cloves Finely Chopped Garlic
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
Olive oil to taste

1. Heat your oven to 400 F. Rinse and dry the fingerling potatoes.
2. Toss the potatoes in some olive oil (enough to coat). And chopped garlic. Bake for 30 minutes.
3. Half way through, add the broccoli florets and mix. Place the 3 lemon slices on top and bake for 15 minutes.
4. Caramelize 1/3 cup onion in a frying pan with a dash of oil. Set aside when translucent.
5. Chop boiled eggs into bite-size chunks and place in a salad bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add slightly cooled onions.
6. Add the baked mixture to the bowl and mix.
7. Add mustard, olive oil and salt to taste.
8. Finish with some freshly ground pepper.

Rather than a ‘sauce,’ the mustard and olive oil dressing emulsifies the slightly runny yolks of the eggs and the delicious olive oil/garlic bits from the roasted veggies. It’s the perfect bowl of dinner.

Perfect Oatmeal with Chopped Dates

IMG_0508It’s snowing outside. Large, filigreed snowflakes. The kind you would imagine cut from folded paper. I’m up early and it’s the perfect morning for oatmeal. This humble breakfast grain is my absolute favorite. With a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, a splash of maple syrup and a tiny bit of milk to bring it all together. I added some chopped dates to the mix this morning. It was delicious. Perfect in every way.

 

Soft-Shell Crab Po’ Boy

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Now this is a sandwich: breaded and fried soft-shell crab, creole sauce and slaw slapped together between two slices of french bread. It’s the kind of sandwich that drips all over the plate in the most pleasurable way.

I’m in New Orleans for a conference. And I’ll admit the little of the French Quarter I’ve seen I find a little creepy. Garishly restored. But I had the chance to saunter into a sunny brunch place this afternoon right on Jackson Square. It’s called Stanley’s and (shudder) it is a little touristy too. It’s not a grocery counter, hidden deep within the quarter that only the locals know. Still, the marble-topped tables and the tall windows give it a something something. I opted for the po’ boy but Stanley’s is famous for their New Orleans take on the traditional eggs benedict.

The magic of the po’ boy is that it is quintessentially frontier food. It’s not about the nuance of the creole sauce or the style of breadcrumb, but rather an experience of a tried and tested arithmetic of ingredients. It’s about the soft-shell crab or oysters found in abundance on the coast that spill gloriously out of the sandwich. It’s about what can produce warmth and nourishment, when there isn’t time to labour for it.

Despite the garish splendor of the Disney quarter, this divine sandwich is exactly the kind of food I imagine frontier people (French, African, Spanish and European itinerants) sought out for comfort. Unembellished and perfectly over-the-top.

Champagne Cookies

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Ok so there isn’t any actual champagne in these cookies. I mean, what a waste of champagne that would be. It’s so much better bubbling in a champagne flute. But look how sweet these cookies are: K and J lent me some champagne flute cookie cutters for K’s Champagne Friday (they insist on the respect of capital letters) holiday party. My prompt was a classic christmas cookie. A pretty short-bread cookie, bling-ed out in christmas colored icing and sparkles. I opted for a light sugar glaze and some gold sparkles. Champagne bling.

The cookie itself is a maple nutmeg butter cookie. Maple syrup is absolutely divine. It’s a staple in my refrigerator. Every morning it transforms my hum-drum breakfast of oats into nothing short of a miracle. I cook oats for 7 minutes on the stove; and then add a dash of milk, an enormous SPLASH of maple syrup and crushed walnuts, and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

These cookies are also *spectacular* un-iced with coffee. They have the butteryness of a cookie and a special maple-y sweetness accented by nutmeg.

Ingredients 
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes about 40-50 cookies

1 Cup (2 Sticks) Unsalted Butter
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Large Egg Yolk
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 1/4 Teaspoon Flaky Salt

1. Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer.
2. Drizzle in the egg yolk while the mixer is running. Then add the maple syrup.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, nutmeg and salt.
4. Mix in the flour mixture to the butter mixture. You should have a dough in ‘loose clumps.’
5. Tightly wrap the dough in foil or cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

6. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
7. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out 1/8 of an inch think. Cut into fabulous shapes and bake for 7-11 minutes.
8. Let cool. And then decorate!

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K made the most spectacular hor d’oeuvres.
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Deviled Eggs
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Deliciously melting tomato bruschetta
IMG_0217 Prosciutto wrapped melon: which reminds me of this wonderful moment in Eat, Pray, Love (yes, that’s right. I totally read it and totally loved it) when Elizabeth Gilbert orders for a table of her Italian friends in exquisite Italian. And amongst the many delicacies are slices of melon draped with thin slices of prosciutto. Unfortunately I just can’t bear the taste of melon. It is nothing short of a culinary tragedy. I tried one yesterday because K. and J. had so enticingly set them out.
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Pickled Okra; Pecans; Olives