Brownies

brownies on pewter pedestalWe have all made our share of brownies. In fact, it was the first dessert I ever baked.  I was too afraid to make a cake and deal with frosting, and preferred being rewarded by a chocolate success that everybody is more then happy to devour.  Some people like their brownies “cakey” others “gooey” – I like mine à la Nigella.  When I got her book How to Be a Domestic Goddess back in 2001 I discovered her brownie recipe and have been using it ever since.  Everybody I have served them to exclaims how wonderful “my” recipe is and all I can say is Oh! Thank you Nigella for turning me into a domestic goddess!  Try it and judge for yourself, I’m sure you too will make it your brownie recipe.brownie ingredients

BROWNIES (by Nigella Lawson)

  • 1 2/3 cup soft unsalted butter (3 sticks and 3 tablespoons)
  • 13 ounces BEST bittersweet chocolate
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a brownie pan (13 x 9 x 2.5 inches) with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler, set aside and let cool.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla and sugar.  Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.brownie making

Transfer the cooled chocolate into a bowl.  Beat in the eggs/sugar mixture and then the flour.  Beat to combine smoothly and then scrape into the lined pan.brownies

Bake for about 25 minutes.  When it’s ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark, dense and gooey.  And even with such a big batch you do need to keep alert, keep checking: the difference between gungy brownies and dry brownies is only a few minutes; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.

NOTE: I like my brownies plain but you can add 1 1/3 cup of walnuts or other nuts, white chocolate chips, dried cranberries or shredded coconut.brownie and milk

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Meatball sauce

spaghetti and meatballsWhen one thinks of Italian food, spaghetti and meatballs comes to mind. It’s a great go-to recipe when you have a crowd or a pot luck dinner.  It can be made in advance,  it’s easy to reheat, and everybody loves it from the youngest to the oldest member in the family.   If you are vegetarian or want a lighter meal you can skip the meatballs and only have the sauce.  It is simple, fast and I tend to make a big batch so I can freeze it or reheat it later in the week. Make sure you use San Marzano tomatoes as the taste will make all the difference!tomato sauce ingredients

MEATBALL SAUCE

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 2 – 28oz crushed tomatoes 
  • 1- 28oz whole tomatoes coarsely chopped or cut in the pot with kitchen scissors
  • 3 onions diceds
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon italian seasonings or one teaspoon each of dried basil, thyme and oregano
  • salt and pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven.  Add onions and sautée until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, stir and add the wine and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes if you opt not to make meatballs.  If you do, simmer the sauce while making the meatballs and don’t worry about timing.meatballs ingredients

FOR THE MEATBALLS (makes about 30 -2 inches meatballs)

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 3/4 lb ground veal
  • 3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 onion minced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley minced
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup flouregg shells

In a small bowl mix the breadcrumbs and milk and let sit for 10 minutes while mincing onion, garlic and parsley.

In a large bowl mix meats, breadcrumb/milk mixture, onion, garlic, parsley, parmesan and egg making sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed without over mixing.  Season with salt and pepper.meatballs

Put the flour in a shallow plate.  Shape the meat mixture into 2 inches round balls. Roll each balls in the flour to get them covered slightly and place in a baking dish.  You should roughly end up with 30 meatballs.  When done, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and brown the meatballs.  Depending on the size of your pan you might have to do this in 2 to 3 batches.  You don’t want to cook the meatballs, only browned them.  As they get ready slowly put them in the simmering sauce.  When all done, continue to simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes to finish cooking the meatballs.meatball makingmeatballs in sauce

Right before serving you can chop 1/4 cup of fresh basil and stir into the sauce. Serve with fresh pasta:  thick spaghetti, bucatin or fettuccine and lots of grated parmesan, nice crusty bread and a bottle of red wine.

NOTE: as this recipe makes a lot, you can freeze some of the leftovers for later or crush the meatballs in the sauce and use it as a base for a meat lasagna.empty spaghetti plate

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Poached plums

plumsTwo weeks ago while visiting my daughter in Montreal we both decided to have a “family” dinner with her roommates and a few friends.  One of my favorite things to do while away from home is going in farmer’s markets and grocery stores.  I get inspired by what is available and current in the city or region I am visiting.  While going down the aisles we came up with a menu: crabmeat stuffed fillet of sole, pears wrapped in prosciutto, haricots verts… As we were leaving the produce section I spotted our dessert! Beautiful plums on sale! They are not in season but a trip to the liquor store will take care of making a tasty dessert.

POACHED PLUMS

  • 6 medium plums
  • 1 1/2 cups of red wine ( I like to use Malbec)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • one pinch of ground cloves

Wash and cut the plums in half.  With the help of a small spoon, remove the pit. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the wine, sugar and spices to a boil.  Give the syrup a stir to make sure the sugar has dissolved.    Put the plums in the pan making sure they all get covered with the liquid.  Bring the temperature down to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes uncovered.  The plums are ready when they feel soft when pierce with a knife.poached plums

Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.  Serve with ice cream , whipped cream or on their own for dessert.  They are also great with yogurt or on french toast, waffles and pancakes for breakfast.

NOTE: The cooking time will depend on how ripe the plums you purchased are.  Make sure not to overcook them as you will end up with mushy broken plums.breakfast

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Blood orange sherbet

blood orangesBlood oranges are in season and since it is a short one, I can’t resist buying them.  They are wonderful eaten as is, in fruit salads or on a bed of greens.  They are not as acidic as regular oranges and their sweet juice makes wonderful cocktails.  I love them as a soda : Orangina Rouge and the Sanpellegrino Aranciata Rossa being two of my favorites.  Trying them as a sherbet was even better! The dramatic red of the juice turned into a beautiful pink frozen dessert so light and refreshing, the perfect ending to our Sunday meal.juicing blood oranges

BLOOD ORANGE SHERBET

  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 blood orange juice (from about 10 to 12 oranges) cold
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan mix the sugar and water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure the sugar is totally dissolved.  You will have what is called a simple syrup.  Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until cold (about a  hour).simple syrup ingredients

In a large measuring cup with a spout, mix the cold syrup, juice and heavy cream.  Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manuel ‘s instructions.

Once processed, transfer the sherbet into a freezer safe container and freeze for about 6 hours or overnight .  When ready, just scoop and eat.  The sherbet will keep in the freezer for about a week.blood orange sherbet

NOTE:  you can make the recipe without the heavy cream, you will then have a sorbet as sherbet usually has dairy and sorbet is fruit juice or puree with simple syrup.  I just like that creamsicle taste and feel, thus the heavy cream.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du bouchersherbet and scoop

Kitchen tools I like

When it comes to being in the kitchen we all have our favorite knife to cut with, the mug or glass we drink in and of course those fun tools/gadgets/small appliances.  I thought I would share some of mine with you once in a while.

MICRO GRATER / ZESTER

micro grater with parmesanBy now mostly everybody is using a micro grater and you can find them in speciality kitchen /cooking stores as well as discount and outlet stores.  I use my micro grater mostly for grating parmesan, nutmeg and for zesting citrus but also when I need a fine grate for chocolate, ginger and even garlic.

HAND HELD CITRUS PRESS

citrus press with limes and lemonsWhat did I do before I had this tool in my life! Squeezing by hand with a fork into the flesh of the lemon or lime, having to deal with straining to get rid of the seeds.  This press gets the most juice out of the fruit and the seeds never make their way out.  Again one of those gadgets that you can find basically in all food and kitchen related stores.  They are also sold in the fruit section of grocery store next to the lemons and limes.  Just make sure when you purchase one that it is not made out of plastic but out of metal, as you will get more leverage when pressing.

THERMAPEN

thermapenThis is my most expensive tool.  I got it as a gift from my husband one year and was shocked when I discovered the price! About $100 and they are not sold in discount stores!  But you can sometimes find them on amazon or on their site at a reduction for around $89.  All that to say that it is a great tool to have in the kitchen, one of those tools that makes you think : how did I live without you? It is especially great when you need that precise moment when your sugar has to reach that perfect temperature for making caramel.  The reading is instant so great for roasting and grilling meat.  The fact that they now come in different colors makes you wish you could own more then one.

I have a few more tools and appliances that I will post about in the coming months – hoping this will help you in your kitchen.  What are your favorite tools?

from my kitchen to yours

CK, la fille du boucher

Berry Coulis

dirty spoonHere is a simple little recipe when you have a surplus of berries.  This time of year I make it with berries frozen from last summer’s bounty.  You can make it with one kind of berry but I like a mixture.  It keeps in the fridge for about a week but again in this house it’s gone before you know it! I like it mixed with yogurt for breakfast but it can be used as a sauce on ice cream, poached pears, pound cake or simply on its own.blueberry

BERRY COULIS

  • 6 cups of mixed berries: blueberry, strawberry and raspberry (frozen or fresh )
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup red winestrawberry

Stir all the ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.  Cool down to room temperature, serve or pack in a glass container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

berries in sugarNOTE:  For a refined sauce transfer the mixture into a fine mesh sieve, place over a large bowl and press all the solids until you end up with a smooth sauce and all you have left in the sieve are seeds and pulp.  Store and serve in the same way as above.berry coulis

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucheryogurt and coulis

Chocolate Truffle Cake

chocolate chunksWhen we think of love the following icons come to mind: flowers, pink, red, Cupid and…. let’s not forget,  Chocolate!  For this Valentine’s day I offer you Chocolate Truffle Cake.  Flour-less, part cake, part truffle, it is the easiest cake ever! The hardest part is to get it out of the pan!  This cake has been part of my go-to dessert repetoire for 20 years and is always a great success, especially with the chocoholics in my life.  It came from the Maida Heatter’s Best Dessert Book Ever and the recipe is said to come from the famous Hotel de Crillon in Paris.   It is so rich it can easily serve 12 to 16 guests.  Served with a soft whipped cream infused with your favorite liqueur it will be the perfect ending for that romantic dinner come Valentine’s day.chocolate cake ingredients

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE CAKE

  • 8 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, each stick cut into four pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.  Prepare an 9 inch round cake pan by buttering the pan liberally and by lining the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit.  Butter the paper and dust with a mixture of 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder.  Set aside.cake pan

In a double boiler melt the chocolate, butter and sugar together over medium heat.  Stir frequently until the chocolate and butter have melted and the mixture is smooth with no trace of grains of sugar  Remove the top pan from the double boiler and off heat beat the eggs one at a time with a whisk making sure the mixture stays smooth.

Transfer the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan.  Place the pan into a sheet pan/jelly roll pan and place in the oven.  Add a couple of inch of hot water to the pan and bake for one hour.melting chocolate

Carefully remove the cake pan from the hot water and let cool completely.  Once cool, loosely cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about 3 hours or overnight .

Now, is the hard part: to remove the cake from the pan, run a very thin knife around the pan to release the edges.  Run some hot water in the bottom of the sink and let the pan stand in for a bit; not too long as the cake will melt.  Cover the pan with a cutting board and turn the pan upside down and bang the pan a few times.  The cake will finally come out.  The cake will be very thin, about 2 inches.  Put back in the fridge without removing the parchment paper until ready to serve.chocolate cake

When ready to serve, peel the paper from the cake.  Do not worry if the cake looks messy and wrinkled, that is when the cocoa powder comes handy.  Transfer the cake to a serving plate or platter and, with a fine mesh sifter, sprinkle the cocoa powder covering the entire surface of the cake.  Let sit 30 to 45 minutes before serving.

Serve with a soft whipped cream sauce

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoon confectioner sugar
  • 2 tablespoon rum , you can also use Grand Marnier, Kahlua or Cognac

In a cold bowl and beaters from an electric beater, beat the heavy cream and sugar until it holds its shape.  You want more of a “sauce” then whipped cream.  Fold in the liqueur of your choice and refrigerate until ready to serve the cake.chocolate cake slices

NOTE:  should you have cake left, you can cut into individual pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze as you would chocolate truffles.  Just bring back to room temperature before eating.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucherroses