Sunday, October 22, 2006

New Favorite Brownie Recipe

Yesterday I downloaded a brownie recipe from a link on a Food & Wine newsletter. It sounded so good, I decided to make them right away. Wow! Were they ever good! The brownie was on the dense side, and the glaze was not too thick, nice and glossy, and not too sweet, having been made with bittersweet chocolate. This is a total winner and will be made many times in the future. The only thing I'd do different from the as-written recipe is to melt the chocolate-butter mixture in the beginning and the glaze ingredients over a double boiler, just to ensure that it doesn't burn over direct heat. Other than that, this is a straight forward brownie mixture, very little rise in the dough as there is no leavener such as baking powder or baking soda. After cooling in the pan, the warm glaze is poured over top, allowed to sit at room temperature for half an hour and then chilled another half an hour. We were watching the clock so we could have one right away. We were not disappointed: not too sweet, a nice dense texture and perfect with a cold glass of milk. These would probably not be pleasing if you're of the cakey brownie school, but otherwise totally yummy. They can sit, covered, at room temperature for up to a week, but come on, do you think they'll last that long? I don't think so.

Here's the recipe, adapted from Food & Wine May 2005.



1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Pinch of salt

1. Make the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350° and butter an 8-inch square baking pan. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and unsweetened chocolate and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until melted. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Using a whisk, beat in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the flour and cocoa and whisk until smooth.
2. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer the brownies to a wire rack and let cool completely.
3. Make the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine the bittersweet chocolate, butter, corn syrup and salt and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, just until the chocolate is melted. Pour the warm glaze over the brownies and let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, until set. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
4. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and carefully transfer the entire brownie to a cutting board. Cut the brownie into 16 squares and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Cove of Palm Springs

Today we stopped in at The Cove at Palm Springs to take a look at the eight models.

Here's a video link to The Cove at Palm Springs .

Both Eddie and I were totally blown away by the thoughtful design of these homes. Definitely made for adults without kids. There really are no bad views from any of the models either. These are courtyard homes, meaning there is almost no yard to take care of, and there are interior private courtyards where most all outdoor entertaining takes place. Most plans have room for a small private pool and/or spa.

Evidently, the original plan for the development was to have a golf course, but interested parties did not like the hefty HOA to keep it up, so that was scrapped, which left all of the golf course land as open public areas, never to be developed. Again, the views from the homes are awesome!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Costco: What's Up With That!!??

So there's this new recall on Salinas Valley lettuce, specifically Foxy brand lettuce. And what do we see this morning in the produce room at Costco? You got it, cases and cases of Foxy brand iceberg lettuce. Enough said.

Picked up a pack of portabellas and roasted them using this method from a recent Sunset issue. This works great, and I'm not a big portabella fan, but I love them this way. I've made them once before and both times laid them on top of some peeled garlic cloves which helped infuse them nicely. We skipped the parsley salad and had the mushrooms sliced thinly on slices of buttered La Brea Bakery Rustique bread, the only thing needed being salt and pepper. Here's the recipe as written:

Slow-Roasted Portabellas on Parsley Salad

The balsamic vinegar brings a lot to this dish, so use a good-quality one, if possible. The small investment is worth it--a few drops go a long way. Prep and Cook Time: 45 minutes.

4 portabella mushrooms, stems removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Parmesan curls (use a vegetable peeler)

1. Preheat oven to 250°. Brush mushrooms with 1 tsp. olive oil and put, top side down, on a baking sheet. Bake until shrunken slightly, about 30 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, toss parsley leaves with 1 tsp. oil and 1/2 tsp. vinegar. Add coarse salt to taste.
3. To serve, divide salad among four plates. Slice portabellas and arrange on salad. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and add parmesan curls on the side.
Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving; Cholesterol data not available.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pork Braised in Guajillo Chile Sauce (Puerco en Chile Guajillo)

I'm not really sure from which site I downloaded this recipe, but when I saw it I knew it was one I wanted to try. So the other day while at Costco, Eddie spotted a large 7-lb. package of pork shoulder strips. I thought of this recipe; he thought sausage rolls. So we split the pack 3 : 4. He pulled out the Kitchenaid meat grinder and and ground up his three pounds, added that to lots and lots of chopped onions, salt and pepper, spread it out onto puff pastry and baked it up to a golden brown. Slicing them right out of the oven works best and then we got to sample them. Yummy Yummy!

The next day I started Daisy's pork braise by trimming away excess fat and cutting the strips into about two-inch chuncks. Into the pot with water to cover and salt, brought it to a boil and simmered for about an hour. I could have finished the dish then, but I was out of some ingredients, so I cooled it, stored it in the fridge for a couple of days and finished it off Sunday morning after a quick run through the grocery store. I could not find guajillos, so I substituted half pasillas and half New Mexican.

So, okay, the timer just went off and I took a quickie break to check the stew. The meat is falling apart tender, the sauce is a beautiful burnished red color, and the taste is fantastic -- the flavor is definitely New Mexican but it's not very hot. It needed some salt, so that finishes it. I'll let it sit until dinner tonight and serve it with some brown rice, black beans and crumbled cotija cheese over everything. If we're feeling cocky, maybe we'll scoop it all up into a whole-wheat flour tortilla. Not this time becauase we don't have any on hand, but next time I'll be sure to have a good Mexican beer on hand.

Daisy Cooks! is one of my favorite PBS shows, and I may have to make a trip to the library to give her book a try before deciding to actually buy it.

Makes 8 servings

4 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt
1 bay leaf
10 guajillo chilies
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, peeled and cut in half through the middle
3 fresh plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise through the core
¼ cup canola oil or lard
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pantry Notes: Guajillo chiles are the dried version of fresh mirasol chiles. They are long, tapered, and wrinkled, with a reddish-brown color. They are fairly spicy and available in specialty stores or by mail/internet. (See Sources.) Toasting the chilies brings out their flavor and blackening the onions and tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness. A little work up front that pays off big time down the line.

**as made: could not find this time guajillos; so used 5 pasillas, 5 New Mexico chiles

1. Put the pork in a heavy Dutch oven large enough to it comfortably. Pour in enough cold water to cover the meat by 2 inches. Add 2 tablespoons salt, drop in the bay leaf and bring the liquid to a boil. Boll, skimming the foam from the surface as necessary, for one hour.
(as made: cooled, transferred to fridge and finished 2 days later.)
2. Meanwhile, pull or cut the stems off the guajillo chilies. Tap out the seeds. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add half the chilies and toast them, turning with tongs until they start to change color and crisp up a bit, about 4 minutes. Heat them gently so they don’t burn. Lift them out into a bowl and repeat with the remaining chilies. Pour enough boiling water over the toasted chilies to cover them. Soak until completely softened, about 20 minutes. (top with small saucer to hold under the liquid) Drain well.
3. While the chilies are soaking, wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Put the onion and tomatoes cut sides down in the skillet. Cook, turning the vegetables as often as necessary, until the tomatoes are blackened on all sides and the onions are blackened on both flat sides. (quickly blackened tops under the broiler)
4. After the pork has been cooking 1 hour, ladle off 2 cups of the cooking liquid and pour it into a blender jar. Add the onions and puree until smooth. Add the chilies and tomatoes and blend until smooth. Ladle off another 2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside. Drain the pork, discard the remaining liquid, and wipe out the pot.
5. Set the pot over medium-low heat and add the oil or lard. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the chili sauce into the pot slowly. As it comes to a boil it will thicken. Stir well, especially in the corners, to prevent the sauce from sticking and scorching as it thickens.
6. Return the pork to a simmer, cover the pot and cook until tender, about 1 hour. While the pork is cooking, there should be enough sauce to keep it moistened. If not, add reserved pork cooking liquid as needed. Serve hot.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hello again

I saw this photo of the dinosaurs out in Cabazon and just had to post it. Before moving to the desert, I always knew we were getting very close to Palm Springs when we spotted them. Nowadays, they're not quite so visible from the I-10 freeway with all the development going on out that way.

Well, I apologize for such a long break between entries. We took a little trip to Las Vegas, so between that and just being lazy about making an entry, there's this big time gap. We have actually eaten and cooked, so don't think we're starving here by any means. We went WAY off our diet while in Las Vegas, but with the coupon book we got from the hotel, it was just too dirt cheap to eat anywhere but at their buffet. It turned out to be one of the best we've tried, and I had no negative comments to offer. The best strawberry shortcake I've ever had.

We tried the nearly new South Coast Resort and Casino located at the far south strip area, about 5 miles or so from the heart of town. No biggie, though, because we hardly ever do the stip anymore. Four nights, $59 per night; a real deal! With the coupons and all for two-fer meals and free drinks, we didn't spend that much. We did, however, eat too much. That said, we plan on going back for Christmas, especially with the 25% off coupon we got upon checkout. For such a reasonably priced room it was a knockout: very luxurious bed, sitting area and -- drum roll -- 42-inch plasma TV. We could barely tear ourselves away from that to go do other things. The midnight breakfast specials at the coffee shop are insanely cheap: e.g., $2.95 for a 6-oz. NY strip steak, two eggs, hashbrowns and toast. Who can say no to that?

We're getting back into cooking again, and this morning I threw together what turned out to be something like a minestrone, not that it started out that way. Just this and that sitting around. Saffron oil, onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, hand crushed, homemade chicken stock, small pasta, frozen roasted corn, garbanzo beans, butter beans, green beans, a couple scoops of sun-dried tapendade. Yummy!