Marlon Delno’s Chocolate Date Cake, Southwest Style

Several years ago, the Epicurious.com site was a thriving hub for foodies curated by Condé Nast, not only culling the best recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit, but also managing a forum for discussion and submission of personal recipes.  They even published a cookbook of member recipes a few years ago, and I’m proud to say that one of mine was requested for inclusion (Sesame Noodles Jordan).

While many of us who met in that Epicurious Forum have regrouped and perpetuated a much livelier and enjoyable forum via Facebook, one of our favorite contributors, an older gentleman from Texas, has not participated.  But still,  Marlon’s Korean Bulgogi recipe inspires one of my favorite ways of grilling pork or beef kabobs – Korean Pork Kabobs – and his Chocolate Date Cake, Southwestern Style is an easy dessert I turn to often for its moist and unique combination of dark chocolate with a bit of a kick.

I made this again last night – and the photo shows that we enjoyed a bit for dessert before posting this recipe for

M. DELNO’S CHOCOLATE DATE CAKE, SOUTHWEST STYLE

 

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup whole pitted dates, coarsely chopped (Bob’s Red Mill chopped date pieces work perfectly for this)
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour (I use BRM whole Wheat Pastry Flour, but any AP flour will work)
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground red chili (such as New Mexican), or ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 ounces coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate or same amount dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º.

Generously butter bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium saucepan bring dates and 1 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add butter and sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. Stir in baking soda until dissolved. Pour into a medium bowl and blend in egg and vanilla.

In separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, salt, ground red chili or cayenne, and cinnamon. Stir into date mixture. Then stir in ½ cup chocolate bits and chopped nuts. Pour into prepared springform pan and sprinkle remaining ½ cup chocolate bits over top. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester comes out dry.  Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then remove sides and bottom of pan. Can be served warm or cooled completely.  Excellent on its own, but also especially nice with a scoop of coffee ice cream.

 

 

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Yvonne’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese

My Facebook friend Yvonne, a fellow schnauzer-lover and accomplished home chef, recently posted her latest mac and cheese dish to our closed foodie group.  The key to its deliciousness, besides her skill in the kitchen, was Beecher’s Flagship cheese.  Handmade in Seattle, available at retail if you can find it, for about $25/lb, or by mail order with shipping costs that can double the cost of a pound.  There’s also a milder jack cheese component, and a surprising touch of both garlic powder and chili powder.

Upon seeing the photos Yvonne posted of ingredients, recipe on the package, and finished dish, I was determined to find a suitable substitute and try this out myself.  Seeing that Flagship is a combination of nutty-flavored Gruyère and cheddar, I searched – where else – but at Trader Joe’s for some excellent cheese stand-ins.

Mission accomplished, my cheese en place included these:

Gruyere

NZ cheddarJack cheese

The rest was simple, and seriously rivaled by longtime favorite Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese.

YVONNE’S “WORLD’S BEST” MAC & CHEESE

(adapted from Beecher’s recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

12 ounces penne pasta

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

8 ounces each sharp cheddar and Gruyère, shredded

4 ounces Jack cheese, shredded

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp chili powder

1/8 tsp garlic powder

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º.

Butter a 9 x 13” baking dish.

Cook penne in 4-6 quarts boiling water about 9 minutes, until they’re cooked but still chewy.  Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside.

Melt butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour.  Continue whisking for 2 minutes.  Slowly add milk while whisking and cook until sauce thickens, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Add 14 ounces of the cheddar/Gruyère mixture, 2 ounces of the Jack cheese, salt, ¼ tsp chili powder and the garlic powder.  Stir until everything is melted and incorporated.

Combine pasta and sauce in large bowl or in the same saucepan you just used if large enough, and scrape into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with remaining cheeses combined with the remaining 1/4 tsp chili powder.  Bake uncovered 30 minutes and let set 5 minutes before serving.

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This will serve 6 hearty portions with a salad for dinner, or more as a side dish.  Can be refrigerated and reheated or recipe can be halved.

Smoked Paprika Roasted Chicken Thighs

Thanks to Sam Sifton for posting the inspiration for this recipe on the NYT Cooking Site.  I’ve made it twice and my husband declares – “you have to make chicken thighs this was always!

Sifton’s recipe had butter in the rub; I subbed olive oil, upped the lemon juice, and added the pom molasses.  And rather than grill, I changed the cooking method to oven roasting to preserve all those lovely cooking juices for a reduced glaze at the end.

Easy enough to prepare with the spice paste and refrigerate hours ahead of cooking time, and then you’re free until revisiting your dinner for a little over an hour of mostly hands-off cooking time.  The beauty of this dish, besides the simplicity of preparation, is that the chicken thighs remain juicy and tender even after an hour of roasting, and also after reheating if you have leftovers.

Smoked Paprika Roasted Chicken Thighs

INGREDIENTS:

8 very meaty air-chilled chicken thighs on the bone, totaling 4-5 lbs.

1 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika

2 tbsp smoked Spanish paprika

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp honey

juice from 1/2 Meyer lemon, rind cut thickly and reserved

2 tsp pomegranate molasses

4 cloves garlic finely minced

PREPARATION:

Either early in the day or just before roasting, cut off any excess flaps of skin hanging off the chicken thighs and season them with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.  Combine all the spice paste ingredients (except for pieces of lemon rind) in a large baking dish and then rub the paste all over the chicken pieces, loosening the skin a bit to get some under it.  Scatter the lemon rind pieces around the chicken, then cover and refrigerate until ready to roast.

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Preheat oven to 400º and place the chicken, skin side down in one layer, in a large cast iron skillet.  You can add the lemon rind pieces or discard at this point.  Roast for 30 minutes, then turn over with skin side up and roast for another 30 minutes.  If skin needs crisping at this point, turn on the broiler for just a couple of minutes to get it the way you like.

Remove chicken pieces to a serving platter.  Reduce the pan juices over medium high heat to a piquant, syrupy sauce to brush or pour over.

This makes a hearty dinner for 4-6, depending on the size of your chicken thighs and your guests’ appetites.  Leftovers reheat beautifully.

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Served with oven-baked crispy fries and salad.

 

Kale, Sausage and Vegetable Soup

My husband and I just finished off a pot of this and he suggested I re-post for cold weather comfort.

ronilovescooking

Before kale started getting into everything from cookies to treats for dogs, there was kale soup – a hearty concoction that takes no special talent to prepare.  All that’s needed – the ingredients, a large soup pot, and the bit of time it takes to chop, sauté and simmer.

I combed the web for a version of this soup I recall from many years ago when our friend and neighbor Mariyln Fuller hosted a Sunday night soup party.  Damned if I can recall what the other two soups were, because that’s the one that stuck in my mind – I went back for seconds, forsaking the others I’d tried.  The taste memory was so intense that I knew it would be easier to reinvent it myself than try to find her version from an ancient issue of Gourmet.

And so it goes.  This makes a huge pot and can certainly be…

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Patriots AFC Lasagna

Go pats!

ronilovescooking

Anyone can put together a nice lasagna.  I’ve been doing variations on the theme since my early years as a novice cook, most memorably preparing a giant pan of lasagna as part of the two-day celebration for my husband’s graduation from law school.  Each time, a tweak here or there in the choice of meats, lasagna noodles, sauce or cheese has led to  another better outcome than those that preceded it.

A few years ago when our beloved/much maligned Patriots (depending on where you’re from) were once again playing in the AFC Championship game, I created this recipe for a lasagna that would sate our adrenaline-charged appetites.  As we look to yet another AFC Championship game coming this weekend, this will be on the menu.

The first key to this lasagna is the Trader Joe’s No-Cook made-in-Italy noodles.  No more hassles with those ridiculous curly-edged noodles of yore that would stick…

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Braised Lamb Shanks Cleopatra with Beans

Those of you who have been following my posts know how huge a fan I am of lamb, the other red meat.  From ground lamb to a whole leg and everything in between, I gravitate to the richness of this meat, especially when prepared with a Middle Eastern or Moroccan flavor palate.

Today’s preparation of meaty Australian lamb shanks is my adaptation of a recipe from “Cooking with Daniel Boulud”, for his Leg of lamb Cleopatra.  I use most of his spices and aromatic vegetables, and added pre-soaked dried cannelini beans to the dish to soak up all that meaty flavor.

It’s key to lay your lamb shanks in one layer, and for this my 9-1/2 quart oval Dutch oven is perfect for four.  If you’re preparing more, bring out that large high-sided roasting pan you use for your turkey and keep it very tightly covered with heavy-duty aluminum foil once it goes into the oven.

BRAISED LAMB SHANKS CLEOPATRA WITH BEANS

INGREDIENTS:

4-6 lamb shanks, preferably Australian or New Zealand, weighing 12-16 ounces each

3/4 lb. dried cannelini beans (white kidney beans), soaked overnight in 6-7 cups water and 1 tbsp salt; rinse and drain before adding to your pot

Spice Paste Rub

1-1/2 T cumin

1 t cinnamon

½ t allspice

½ T coriander

¼ t nutmeg

½ T cardamom

½ t ground ginger

½ t ground anise

pinch of ground cloves

1 t black pepper

1 t kosher salt

1 small shallot minced

About 3 T extra virgin olive oil, enough to make a paste when combined with above spices, plus more for browning the lamb

Aromatic Vegetables – all coarsely chopped

2 medium sweet onions

1 very large shallot

3 large carrots

1 small head fennel

1 stalk celery

6 medium sized garlic cloves, or 3 very large

Braising Liquid

1 cup full-bodied red wine

6-7 cups beef broth

1 drained 14.5 ounce can diced or crushed Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, or 1 cup chunky marinara sauce

PREPARATION:

Combine spice paste ingredients in large bowl and add the lamb shanks, rubbing the paste all over.  Transfer to a large ziploc bag or other container and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350.  Heat about ¼ cup olive oil in very large Dutch oven or roasting pan, as described above, on medium high heat and brown the lamb shanks, in batches if necessary.  Remove to a plate.

Browned shanks

Lower the heat to medium and add all aromatic vegetables, sauteeing about 10 minutes.

Aromatics

Add the wine gradually to deglaze the brown bits from the pan.   Return the lamb shanks to the pot, laying them in one layer over the vegetables.

In the pot

Add the drained beans and cover all with the beef broth and tomatoes.

Covered with broth

Bring to a boil and bake tightly covered about 2-1/2 hours – lamb and beans should be very tender.

Remove all solids to a large bowl and reduce sauce over medium high heat to concentrate flavors.  Then return everything to the pot.  Serve immediately or refrigerate after cooling to serve the next day.

Finished dish transferred to roasting pan for serving – the shanks are smothered under the blanket of beans and aromatic vegetables.

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Organic Pork Osso Buco

Osso buco with lemon risotto is a meal that I first enjoyed at Mamma Maria in the North End around 1992, and has ever since been at the top of my list for company fare or special occasions.  It can, however, be an expensive undertaking when made with humanely raised organic veal.  But since I discovered Du Breton organic pork osso buco at Whole Foods a couple of years ago, I became an instant convert  to this more affordable and just as delicate alternative at a fraction of the cost.

Spending Christmas alone with my husband, this was the entrée I planned when I found this perfect meaty 2.2 lb. package at WF for just over $15.

25550386_10215077506681195_3879081192534026363_nTo complete the menu, we began with jumbo shrimp cocktail with my kick-ass spicy cocktail sauce, then home-baked artisan crusty bread, lemon risotto, sauteed broccolini, and apple-pear-cranberry turnovers, adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe.

Usually made for company, I cut my recipe in half – which means you may revert to full recipe by doubling it.  This is adapted from a favorite Epicurious version.  Allow for one meaty portion per person – even with the bone, there’s enough there to satisfy a hearty appetite:

ORGANIC PORK OSSO BUCO 

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INGREDIENTS:

4 cuts of Du Breton organic pork weighing about 2 lbs, each tied with kitchen string

1/4 cup all purpose flour for dredging

S&P

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 medium sweet onion halved and sliced thinly

1 small carrot, 1 celery rib, and 1 clove garlic all finely chopped

1/2 cup each dry white wine and chicken broth

half the tomatoes from a 28-ounce can whole Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup halved calamata olives or other brine-cured olives pitted and halved

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

2 stems Italian parsley

2 strips lemon peel julienned

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/3 tsp black pepper

GREMOLATA GARNISH:

1-1/2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley mixed with 1 small minced garlic clove and 1 tsp lemon zest

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 325º.

Sprinkle tied pork pieces with s&p and dredge in flour, shaking off excess.  In 3-4 quart Dutch oven large enough to hold the pork in one layer, heat the olive oil and 1 tbsp butter ovefr medium-high heat.  Add the pork and brown well on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate.  Lower heat to medium, add remining 1/2 tbsp butter and sauté the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring until onions are pale golden.  Add remaining stew ingredients, bring to a boil while stirring, and add the pork in one layer, turning once to coat with the sauce.  Cover pot and braise in middle of oven about 2-1/2 hours.  Remove strings and plate with the risotto, some of the sauce, and garnish with gremolata.