Saturday, March 19, 2005

Recipe--Soft Centered Chocolate Pudding Cakes

What is not to like about a recipe that starts with 14 oz of chocolate and 14 tablespoons of butter? Bring on the Lipitor!

It occurred to me that the Soft Centered Chocolate Pudding Cakes are so darn easy that I could type in the recipe without much effort. The whole recipe only takes about half an hour to make, provided you have the ingredients on hand.

Soft Centered Chocolate Pudding Cakes

makes 8 (easily halved for more modest gatherings or appetites)

14 oz of bittersweet chocolate, chopped (do yourself a favor and don’t use chocolate chips—if there is a Trader Joes in your area, they sell bulk hunks of Ghirardelli cheap.)

14 T of unsalted butter

4 T all purpose flour

1 C sugar

6 eggs

pinch of salt

Crème fraîche, for serving (mix together 1 C heavy cream—not ultra pasteurized!—with 1 T buttermilk in a bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place overnight till thickened. Then chill. Keeps for about a week, if you have that much self discipline. It is absolutely addictive swirled on the top of butternut squash bisque.)

  • Preheat oven to 400. Melt together chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Stir till smooth then remove from heat.
  • In a small bowl, mix the flour and sugar and pinch of salt.
  • In a medium bowl whisk the eggs.
  • Then whisk in the flour and sugar, stir in the melted chocolate until combined.
  • Scrape into 8 one cup ramekins (or 3/4 cup ramekins, that’s what I have and it turns out fine).
  • Arrange ramekins on a baking sheet (for easy group removal from oven) and bake for 12-15 minutes. You want the edges just beginning to crack while the centers are still runny—it will firm up a bit when you take them out.
  • Let cool to the point that your guests don’t burn themselves, but no longer. Serve with dollop of crème fraîche.

chocolate goo

I'm off the hook tonight for most of dinner--Yea! Friends Ami and John are having us over for dinner and they are making the hard stuff--entree, soup, etc. I've offered to bring the fun stuff--wine and dessert. I'm making these molten chocolate puddings that are a cross between a cake and a pudding. Super rich and topped with Creme Fraiche. Maybe I'll remember to bring the camera tonight and take a picture before they are consumed. I'd put in a link to the recipe but it came from a Food and Wine magazine which is less generous with their on-line recipes than Gourmet or Bon Appetit which, as far as I know, post every damn recipe ever published for free access at the Epicurious web site. It's too bad because I find I use the recipes in Food and Wine more often than the recipes in the other two.

I can report back that knitting is possible while grading compositions. I'm trying to fool myself into believing that knitting actually helps me to keep focus better since my mind is less likely to wander to great unknowables, like "when was the last time the bathroom was cleaned?" mid-comp, that is to say, the distraction from the comps is directed rather than all over the place.

Unfortunately grading comps is seriously cutting into my reading time. I can't make much progress on novels right now, so I'm just reading my New Yorker for quick escapes.

If you have a moment, check out John's beautiful photographs on Flickr. My favorite is the chair photo titled "Corner". That and the totally cool and insane burning things set he has.

Friday, March 18, 2005

To eat more fish

Tonight I'm making a tomato-based fish chowder for dinner. I confess that despite my affection for eating seafood, I'm not that fond of cooking it. But fish chowder is about as easy as it gets. My two not-so-secret ingredients that make the soup have some complexity are a pinch of cinnamon and a few strips of orange peel (which I have to remember to take out before serving). I'm also going to try and make a little rouille to stir in at the end--Brian loves saffron and I happen to have some that someone brought back from Europe as a gift. I love rouille in the pureed type of Soup de Poisson they serve in Southern France; hopefully it'll taste ok in my chunky chowder style soup. I'll throw together a salad and get a loaf of Zingerman's bread and that should suffice.

Got any idiot-proof favorite fish recipes I can try so I get us to eat more fish? Send them my way...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The knitting challenge

I have a new knitting challenge--reading and grading compositions while knitting. One of my annual sources of income (granted rather piddley) comes from grading the compositions of mostly Greek students who are trying to get a certificate of proficiency in English. I do this for the English Language Institute at the U-M (I am actually qualified for this--I have two degrees in English and taught ESL for a year at the University of Bordeaux). I can make about $300 per week by spending about 1.5 hours per day grading the comps, which is not a bad return considering that I get to take the comps home and can grade them in my jammies. Comp season doesn't last long, but it does cut into my available knitting time.

I learned to read and knit at the same time while in grad school at UC Davis. It required a bit of a convoluted posture, but I could knit a relatively basic pattern while plowing through dull critical theory texts. I'm just not sure if I can do the same with handwritten wish me nimble fingers and a focused brain.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Recent dinners

The pork in milk ended up being a good choice the other night because it is largely a dish you can leave alone for about an hour, and during that hour my 4.5 year old, Ian, had a spectacular tantrum. So at least we still had a good dinner after all the drama. I made some rosemary roast potatoes and kale with lots of lemon, salt and garlic to go with it. And of course, more red wine (especially necessary after the tantrum).

Last night Brian and I went out while my parents watched the kids and we had a good, spicy meal at Seoul Korner. Many thanks to Ed Vielmetti for reminding me that the place was there. I hadn't been there since I worked at UMS about 5 years ago. The bi bim bop was good, though the bulgoki beef in it was a little bland. Next time I'll probably get it with Tofu. Brian had spicy squid--a huge portion. And unlike the two inexpensive Korean places over on South U (Steve's Lunch and Coffee Break) they do the traditional thing of bringing you 4 or 5 little dishes with various condiments; my favorite this time were some hot pickeled turnip cubes. Also the free cup of soup is a flavorful miso rather than watery cabbage. I do wish Seoul Korner would make brown rice an option, but it's nice to know we don't have to drive far and shell out a lot at Seoul Garden for a simple Korean food fix, though I'd still go there for the tofu-pork and kim chee stew.

Tonight I'm going to make the Mushroom Galette from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (yes, I'm trying to forgive the cookbook for flaunting all that unavailable produce). I've made it before and it's pretty good, especially with some whole wheat flour in the tart dough to make it taste nutty (but not too healthy!). I cut a few corners since I don't have mushroom stock around, but it still works out fine.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Ian's "Wallace" sweater vest

This is a super basic sweater vest I knit up for my 4.5 year old, Ian. He requested a vest that looked like the one his favorite claymation character, Wallace, wears in the Wallace and Gromit series of videos. Other kids in his preschool want to be Spiderman; Ian wants to be an eccentrc, balding, sweater-vest wearing inventor. He has started to call everyone "Chuck", as Wallace does in the films and frequently does Wallace's "cheese" cheer.Posted by Hello

Monday, March 14, 2005

Knitting really really fast

I've decided that the best way to speed up knitting is to be watching a thriller on TV. The always tense show "24" was on tonight and I swear I got about 3 good inches of sweater back done (DK yarn, size 4 needles). Fast paced plots make me knit faster.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Wrong Cookbook...

Turning to Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone was a big mistake in the dregs of March. It made me feel mean and resentful of all those folks who live in less hostile climates and can contemplate decent fresh vegetables and the flavors of living plants while I sit here trying to figure out how to make winter squash acceptable (much less, exciting!) for the 3000th time. I heard a U-M meteorologist on the radio say yesterday that Ann Arbor has broken its snowfall record. More snow this year than they have ever recorded--so it doesn't just feel like a harsh winter, it is one. He also delivered the words of doom "late spring" and "snow until early May." At that point I lunged at the radio and shut it off.

I'm also sick of soup and stew. I was just singing under my breath (to the tune of What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?) "What shall I do when I'm sick of stew now, what shall I do when I'm sick of stew now, what shall I do when I'm sick of stew now, in the depths of winter?" Singing it made me feel a little better, but still culinarily frustrated.

So dinner ended up being Southern-ish chicken with peppers and onions on top of corn grits. The recipe came from Eating Well, a magazine that I'm not usually a fan of since I like butter and salt a lot. But my parents started subscribing to it recently and they hand it off to me when they are done with it. I have no ability to resist any sort of food magazine, even if it is too virtuous for me. The peppers were frozen red, yellow and green ones--since reading the Mark Bittman piece in the NYTimes dining section recently about using frozen vegetables I thought I'd give it a whirl and they were fine and cut out the prep time. I added a little bit of smoked Spanish paprika to the regular stuff called for in the recipe and substitued Penzey's great 4-S Seasoned Salt for the regular salt. The grits were a combo of 1/3 a C of outrageously expensive Anston Mills grits and 1/2 C plain old Quaker grits. I actually liked them better than the Anston Mills grits on their own--they are too rich for me straight up. Of course I added a generous dollop of unsalted butter and far more salt than the Eating Well folks would approve of. But it actually turned out pretty well for a very low-effort meal and I'm pretty sure I'll make it again. Drank some day old Cotes du Rhone from the recent Big 10 wine sale--decent for about $9, but nothing to remember to get again.

Coming up in the kitchen this week--I think I'll have to make a Pork Loin this week since it is neither soup, stew or winter squash (yes, yes, there are other foods that fit the requirements and I'm open to suggestions). Can't decide whether to take the easy route and do the stove-top Italian Pork Loin cooked in Milk or the more labor intensive process of stuffing it with figs or prunes or something like that.

Tell me what you are cooking. Maybe it will help inspire me to get through the next few MONTHS of snowy confinement in a less crabby mood....

And Back to the Kitchen

It's been almost a week since Brian's dad died and the outpouring of support from our friends has been wonderful. We've been spending a lot of time with Brian's mom and food has slipped to the back burner. Normally I cook when under stress, but we've been doing the take-out tango this week. But it is time to go back in the kitchen (and time for a break from pizza...). I'm going to skim one of my favorite cook books, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and see if anything new catches my attention. We aren't vegetarian, but most of the recipes are so damn good in this book that you don't miss the meat (at least I don't, but I was a vegetarian for many years; my meat-loving husband sometimes feels the need to supplement what I make with a grilled chicken breast.)

I watched a movie on DVD last night and can't recommend it highly enough: The Incident at Loch Ness. It's a mockumentary about my favorite director, Werner Herzog, supposedly filming a documentary about the Loch Ness Monster. It reminded me of the film Lost in La Mancha which was a real documentary about a failed
Terry Gilliam movie. This one was funnier (since it was a mockumentary about mock movie) and had lots of Herzog moments.