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Caramel Chocolate Mousse

Dessert number 3 is a mixture of my two favorites: caramel and chocolate – more specifically a salted caramel and a dark, bittersweet chocolate.

Serves 6

Ingredients
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter, cubed to small pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon)

Directions
In a wide saucepan, spread the sugar evenly and heat over medium heat.  Caramelize the sugar until a deep amber color, just before it starts to smoke.  Remove from the heat and quickly whisk the butter, stirring until melted.  Gradually whisk the cream.  Note that the mixture will bubble.  Whisk the mixture until smooth.

Add the chocolate, stir gently until all melted and smooth.  Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, whisk in the egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff.  Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Sprinkle in the flaky salt.  Fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Keep folding in the egg whites until no streaks of white remain.  Divide the mousse into 6 ramekins or serving glasses.  Chill for 8 hours or more.  Serve as is, no need for anything else.

Meatless Monday – Roasted Cauliflower Pasta

cauliflower_2  

Or Penne e Cavolfiore al forno – this is my version.  When I am home on Mondays, we have “Meatless Monday” as a way to eat more vegetables and less animal protein.  I spent weeks researching and testing this recipe – it’s a reverse-engineer of one of our favorite restaurant dishes.

Ingredients
1 pound penne or rigatoni
1-1/2 pound cauliflower
3 Tablespoons capers, with the vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 Tablespoons fresh sage, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
6 ounces roughly grated mozzarella or fontina
2 ounces finely grated pecorino cheese
1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions
Cook the penne in well-salted water according until al dente.  For example, if directions call for 12 minutes cooking, cook for 10 instead. Rinse pasta with cool water, then drain again and set aside.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom. Cut out tough core and stem any extraneous leaves. Lay cauliflower flat side down and cut crosswise into rough 1/4-inch slices. Break into smaller pieces.

Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower slices, along with any crumbly pieces, in one layer.  You may need to work in batches if necessary. Let cauliflower brown and caramelize for about 2 minutes, then turn pieces over to brown the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped sage, and lemon zest and stir to coat.

Put cooked cauliflower mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked penne and fontina and toss. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with pecorino cheese, then with bread crumbs and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until top is crisp and golden. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley before serving.

Hints:  1) Use salt & pepper liberally in this dish.  2) Sometimes fontina or mozzarella is not an easy cheese to work with.  I put my block of cheese in the freezer before grating.

Thai Street Food – Pad See Yew

One of my favorite dishes, pad see yew is best coming from the street vendors in Bangkok.  I’ve tried many recipes, this is the closest my taste buds can remember.

Ingredients
Cooking oil
8 ounces wide rice noodles (1/4 inch wide)
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 Tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 Teaspoon molasses or maple syrup
1 Teaspoon fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut against the grain into 1/4-inch slices
3 large eggs
10 ounces broccoli florets, cut into 1 inch pieces

Directions
Prepare the rice noodles per the directions on the package. Once ready, rinse under cold running water, drain thoroughly and transfer to a dry bowl.  Add 2 teaspoons oil and toss to coat.

To make the sauce: Whisk the oyster sauce, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, molasses, and fish sauce together in a bowl.

Heat oil in heavy pan or wok in high heat.  Add the garlic and stir occasionally until the garlic is golden brown.  Add chicken and 2 tablespoons of the sauce.  Toss to coat until the chicken is cooked about 2 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the wok and place in a large bowl, set aside.  Add more oil if needed.  Add the eggs.  Stir the eggs gently until cooked, about 30 to 60 seconds.  Remove the eggs from the wok and add it to the chicken.

Add additional oil to the wok if needed.  Let the oil heat up again until it is smoking.  Add the broccoli and 2 tablespoons of sauce.  Toss to coat and cover the broccoli (I use a stainless steel cover from a different pan) for 2 minutes.  Remove the cover and continue to cook the broccoli until crisp-tender.  Transfer the broccoli to the chicken mixture.

Heat additional oil in the wok.  Add half of the noodles and 2 tablespoons of sauce and toss to coat.  Cook until the noodles are starting to brown in spots.  Transfer the noodles to the chicken mixture.  Repeat with the remaining noodles and sauce.  Once the 2nd batch of noodles is cooked, add the contents of the chicken mixture bowl back to the wok and toss to combine.  Cook without stirring until everything is warmed through.

Pesto


Pesto – nothing reminds me of summer like fresh pesto – ok, maybe a good rosé.  We grow enough basil to yield multiple batches during the summer.  This is my recipe below.  We use pesto throughout the year: as a spread for bread, on fish, sometimes steak, or just on pasta as shown above.

Ingredients:
4 cups basil leaves, packed
1 cup cilantro leaves
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/3 olive oil, with additional olive oil if needed
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Place all the ingredients in a food processor with the larger blades.  Pulse the processor until the mixture has the consistency of a coarse sauce.  Adjust ingredients to your taste.

Fall 2015 Favorites

I am in love with 2 collections for Fall 2015. Sadly, I have only taken the time now to look fully at the collections. Happily, neither collection is available just yet, so it’s not too late. Makes me wish I didn’t pre-order other stuff… oh well. Maiyet and Christophe Lemaire both appeal to me because of the simple, easy-to-wear elegance both collections put forth for the upcoming season.

Maiyet – I only have one dress from the line bought several seasons ago and I still get compliments whenever I wear it. The workmanship is gorgeous and I love their philosophy. My take on their Fall 2015 collection: the starkness and elegance of black and white, the drape, and the fabric choices. I may not be able to wear every single piece, but the entire collection is just breathtaking. My top choices for the upcoming season (all photos from style.com):

Look 1:

Look 7: 

Lemaire’s collection shows the partnership influences the label has undertaken. Again the elegance and fluidity of the looks are a major factor in my decision to make them a favorite. I have several pieces from their Spring-Summer 2015 collection this year and since this was the first season I collected, I am quite pleased with every single piece in my closet. These pieces have become my workhorse: Fridays in the office, internal meetings. All pieces can be dressed up or down. My favorites for Fall:

Look 3: 

Look 29: 

The Lowly Brussel Sprouts

I used to hate brussel sprouts – they were often overcooked and bitter. Until a well-known Bay area chef showed me the right way to prepare them, and now I love them. We have them as a side dish quite often. When I am at home, they are a lunch staple for me. I prepare them several different ways, but I always roast them.

Cauliflower is another vegetable that never gets any credit. Often times, I will throw in some cauliflower with my sprouts.

This post will have the simplest way to prepare the sprouts. And when I say simple, it has 4 ingredients – 2 of which are salt and pepper.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients
2 lbs. Brussel Sprouts, the larger ones quartered, the smaller ones halved, leave the tiny ones alone
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Freshly ground Pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make sure to adjust the rack so it is close to the heat source.

Place the brussel sprouts in a bowl. Slowly pour olive oil on top of the sprouts and toss. Add just enough olive oil to coat the sprouts.   Sprinkle with salt and pepper and adjust to your taste.

Place the mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet. Add more salt and pepper if needed. I like these salty like fries.

Roast the sprouts for 10 minutes. Then toss the sprouts around and then roast for another 10 minutes.

Sprouts are done when you see bits of caramelization on the outside and slightly tender on the inside.

Chicken and Soba – a cold noodle dish

The last thing I want to have on a hot summer day is a hot dish.  I found this soba noodle salad in a magazine a while back and have made some modifications on it.

Ingredients
8 ounces soba noodle (I use the Koyo brand)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar (unseasoned)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 scallions thinly sliced
1/2 large English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
4 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves
Optional: toasted sesame seeds

Directions
Cook the noodles according to directions.  Drain and rinse immediately in cold water.  Drain and shake off as much of the water as possible.  Place the noodles in a bowl and drizzle with a bit of the sesame oil and toss to coat to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other.

Whisk the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and oil in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves.  Add the noodles, chicken and scallions; toss to coat.  Then toss with cucumber, radishes and cilantro.  Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds.  I do.

Voila.