The Chocolate Cake of My Sister (Le Fondant de Marie)

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What is more satisfying to the heart and soul than chocolate cake? Today I bring you the chocolate cake of my sister. A simple recipe using a few ingredients you already have at home.

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For us, we were out of chocolate and picked some up from the corner market. While I was off shopping around for mushrooms (for dinner we were making one of my favorites — gooey, rich, eggy omelettes with buttery mushrooms and onions), LL headed straight for the chocolates. I was surprised to see he had picked out two bars of 100% unsweetened cacao for our cake.

“This must be better than the other kind, a bittersweet chocolate.”

He was right. The cake had a deeper, more intense chocolate flavor than ones using 70% or even 85% dark chocolate. Even the color of the cake was an endless black-brown. The cake itself, with 5 eggs and 2 sticks of butter, had enough fat and moisture for the cacao to bond to. Having enough moisture is critical as the cocoa particles float around looking for moisture to bond with. If the cocoa doesn’t find the moisture it craves, the particles will bond to itself — creating clumps and a grainy texture.

The act of baking and enjoying the chocolate cake is a healing one. The ribbons of dark chocolate mixing into the melted butter and orange-yellow egg yolks. A sheet of chocolate cake batter cascading into a pan, ready to be transformed in the warm oven. And the unmistakable scent of rich chocolate

A chocolate cake is both magical and familiar in the most wonderful way.

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Yesterday’s cake will be in my memory for quite some time. It was made in a kitchen that I hold dear in my heart, using a recipe from a beloved sister, and made at the end of a long day (a long month, really). When I sank my fork into the luxurious, almost black, chocolate cake and took my first bite — well, I felt the richness of life in that moment.

I cannot wait for you to try this recipe, and for you to have a sweet “chocolate cake moment” soon!

The Chocolate Cake of My Sister
Le Fondant de Marie

Ingredients:

200 grams dark chocolate
200 grams unsalted butter (or 2 sticks)
5 eggs
1 tbsp flour
1 cup sugar

  1. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a glass bowl over simmering water.
Bring about an inch of water to a simmer in your saucepan. Set the heatproof bowl in the mouth of the pot, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir chocolate and butter occasionally as it softens. When you have just a few small unmelted chunks, remove bowl from heat (residual heat will melt the rest).
3.  Add sugar and let cool slightly.
4.  Stir in the eggs one at a time, stirring well with a wooden spoon after each new egg is added. (We used our stand mixer with a whisk attachment to do this.)
5.  Finally, add the flour and mix until you have a smooth batter.
6.  Pour into a buttered and floured cake pan (we used a 9 inch pan).
7.  Cook for 22 minutes. Cake should be wobbly in the center. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy! The cake is even more delicious the next day. 🙂

Bon appetit!

Crepes For the Rest of Us (or how to bring down the fancy food industrial complex)

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Crepes used to feel like a romantic, special-occasion meal to be prepared and served by professionals. The pale yellow batter swirled around a special crepe pan, perfectly and evenly spread with expert turns of the wrist using a slender t-shaped paddle. Who has the time, tools, and patience for that? And don’t get me started on the beautifully crafted combination of ingredients that make each crepe bite the perfect bite. Of course they’re miracles — circular treats floating down from the plates of gods and angels.

Lies. I was a fool to believe crepes were inaccessible and should only be made by experts (and deities). In fact, the fancy food industry fooled us! Don’t believe the candy coated lies that exoticized food, and in particular crepes, require a high-degree of skill and precision to make. WE CAN ALL MAKE CREPES.

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We flaunted this truth even further by making crepes on a Wednesday. HA! Take that fancy food industrial complex. (In your face.)

The best part of crepes on a Wednesday (which I believe should be a thing) is you can let your imagination soar. Want crepes with caramelized onions, buttery mushrooms, and smoked ham all coated in a rich béchamel sauce? Done. Want crepes with sweet, ripe bananas and nutella? Easy. I’m on it. Wait, want crepes with bacon, arugula, béchamel, and a dusting of crushed kettle chips? Now we’re talking. Crepe fillings are anything you want it to be. Sweet, savory, salty, spicy. You can have it all!

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So, darling, have your crepe and eat it too. All you need is a few basic tools (pan, oil, a wrist), simple ingredients (flour, eggs, milk, water, salt, butter), and whatever your heart desires to fill the crepes (don’t judge, just eat to your heart’s content).

Oh! One more thing. If the crepe sticks, tears, or burns. It’s fine! Save it by using more batter to patch a tear or flip it over to have one beautifully golden side or just toss it and start over. Whatever you do, don’t give up. There is a crepe-master inside of you begging to make divine crepes just for you.

Crepes (on a Wednesday)

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth. (All of this can be done in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.)
  2. Let batter chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. This makes the batter chewier and easier to work with. (Perfect time to get the crepe fillings together.)
  3. Heat a lightly frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
  4. Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. (Or flip the crepe with a flick of your wrist. Try it!)
  5. Fill crepe with deliciousness and serve hot.

Folding a Crepe:

We usually fold it in two ways:

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#1) Put your filling in a thin line across the center of your crepe. Fold one end of the crepe over the filling, then fold in the two sides, and roll. Think of this as your burrito or egg roll method.

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#2) Spread the filling in the middle of the crepe, you can go very close to the edge if you’re spreading a thin filling like béchamel sauce or nutella, for example. Just leave the chunky filling in the center so the crepe doesn’t tear. Then fold in each side to make a square. Folding your crepe this way is perfect for larger crepes with bulkier toppings.

Award-Winning Spanish Tortilla (Tortilla Española)

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Hello darlings,

One of my dearest friends holds an annual summer celebration at the little known horseshoe pits in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. (Or I should say the “infamous” horseshoe pits as it’s featured in the book, Fifty Places to Make Love in Golden Gate Park.) 😉

My friend — the gracious host — reserves the horseshoe pit, rents the gear, and gently encourages attendees to bring food and drink to share. That is, food and drink containing bacon to share. (Bacon-themed parties have existed since the invention of picnics, and they never get old.)

I scoured blogs, food sites, and pinterest for inspiration (finding so many drool-worthy recipes along the way here, here, and here). But as things go, I spent more time being wooed by the recipes and, because I couldn’t commit, ended up with a tried-and-true dish — the tortilla espanola. Traditionally made with fresh eggs, potatoes, and onions — this rustic Spanish tapa was begging to be transformed with bacon.

The dish was the talk of the horseshoe pit. And it was so easy to make!

Now there are only four main ingredients, so treat each one as though they are a dear friend joined together in one last hurrah.

Enjoy the recipe, my dear friend. We slice ours in little cubes, right in the pie pan, and each bite can be slipped out with a toothpick. Truly a dish meant for sharing with good friends and good wine.

Until next time, take good care of yourself and perhaps we’ll see each other someday at the horseshoe pit!

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Spanish Tortilla
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Ingredients:
4 small-medium yukon gold potatoes (russet also works)
1 medium onion
8 eggs
4 slices of thick-cut bacon
salt and pepper

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Step 1: Cook perfect lardons. Cut bacon into small strips and cook low & slow. I start my bacon on a cold skillet over medium-low heat. For thick-sliced bacon, it takes about 4-5 minutes per side. It’s annoying and painstaking to flip over each piece, but I get crazy focused on perfectly cooked bacon and use chopsticks to turn over every, little lardon. Remove cooked bacon from the pan. Drain oil but leave enough to cook your onions and potatoes.

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Photo from OhMyVeggies

Step 2: Caramelize your onions, in bacon fat. Slice the onion in half, and then into thin half-rings. With this recipe, I cook my lardons first, drain off most of the fat, and save some to cook the onions. OhMyVeggies has a great tutorial on how to cook perfectly caramelized onions. (I was so tired of burning my onions!) I don’t have the patience to follow OhMyVeggies’ instructions exactly, so it takes me about 20-25 minutes on medium to medium-low heat to get caramelized onions that I love.
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Step 3: Prepare and cook your potatoes with the softened onions. The slicing here is important. Slice them thinly if you want the egg to seep in between layers of potato and onion. Or, chop them in chunks if you like heartier bites of potato. But whatever you do, add the potatoes to the softened onions so everything gets coated in bacon fat.

Step 4: Add the eggs. Gently beat the eggs with a fork and add a dash of salt. Add the cooked lardons into the bowl with your eggs. Then pour the egg+bacon mixture over the potatoes and onion. Gently move around the potatoes so egg seeps into every nook and cranny.

Btw, when it comes to choosing eggs, GreenPlateRule and HoneyAndHuckleberries did some digging and found the only differences in the quality of the egg is what grade they are (A, AA, B) and whether they’re organic. The rest is a food industry gimmick — cage-free, free range, brown, white, and vegetarian are basically the same quality.

Step 5: Lift and flip! Lift the edge of the egg and tilt skillet to let uncooked egg run underneath, until bottom and edge of tortilla are set but center is still wet. Set a large plate on top of skillet. Swiftly invert tortilla onto plate, then slide back into skillet, cooked side up. Cook until center is just set, about 2 minutes longer. Cut into squares.

Party Tip:
When I’m bringing this dish to a picnic or a friend’s party, I prefer cooking the entire egg mixture in a pie pan in the oven. Then I can take the dish out and carry it directly to my party. It’s a bit of a cheat since this means I don’t end up flipping it. But so convenient and tastes just as great.

Just mix the cooked potatoes, onion, bacon, and raw egg in a greased pie plan. Put in the oven at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until all of the egg is cooked but still looks a little wet in the center.

Bon appetit! 🙂

Korean Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Sobaegi)

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Hello darlings,

Growing up, my parents were on a great adventure establishing a new life for themselves in a foreign land. They took challenges head on and raced into the future, gobbling up any opportunity that came their way. But one thing my mother missed dearly was food from the country that raised her.

So she brought food from her childhood to us, by growing the most beautiful (and hard to find) Korean vegetables right in our backyard.

We spent countless spring and summer days planting, tending, and harvesting that garden. And in between tips and instructions, my mother would share stories about her childhood.

When I went to visit my mother a week ago, we were doing the same thing — snapping off ripe fruit and vegetables, harvesting, and preparing our lunch. And the memories of my childhood, filled with stories from my mother, filled the air with the ripe scent of lush greens and vegetation.

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I made a favorite of mine with some of the vegetables from my mother’s garden — fresh cucumber kimchi. I love eating this with spicy, salty food. It also pairs well with fried foods. The crisp, spicy cucumber will cut through the oil and refresh your palate.

From my mother’s garden to yours…

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Korean Cucumber Kimchi
Oi Sobaegi

Ingredients:

Brine + Cucumbers:
10 persian or kirby cucumbers (or any cucumber without a waxy skin)
2 tbsp of coarse sea salt (super cheap at asian markets)
8 c. of boiling water

Kimchi Filling:
1 bunch of chives, chopped in small pieces
1 carrot, grated (use a mandolin or buy grated carrots to save time)
3 tbsp Korean red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru — found in any asian market or on amazon)
2 tablespoon fish sauce (myulchi aekjeot)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 inch knob of garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:

  1. Wash the cucumbers.
  2. Add coarse salt to the boiling water. This is your brine for the pickles.)
  3. Put cucumbers in a large bowl and fill with salted, boiling water. The water should cover all of the pickles. I cover the bowl with a plate or a lid that will hold the cucumbers down. But not a big deal if this isn’t perfect. Keep covered for 1 hour.
  4. While the cucumbers are hanging out in the brine, mix all of the ingredients for the kimchi filling together. Mix all of this well since it’s the magic sauce that will flavor the kimchi.
  5. After one hour, remove cucumbers and rinse off brine. Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise, and then in half again (lengthwise).
  6. Combine the kimchi filling with the brined cucumbers and mix well. (I use disposable gloves to really massage the filling with the cucumbers. The gloves help protect your skin from the chili flakes.)
  7. Put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill over night. And then enjoy as a crisp, spicy side dish. Perfect for balancing fried foods, hot soups, or a simple stir fry.

Bon Apetit! 🙂

French Tomato Pie (tarte à la tomate)

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“I had a steel band, food made with love, and an entire roast pig to look forward to!”

Hello darlings,

I went to the most fabulous brunch last weekend. It was a rare escape from boring small talk and dry conversations about work, commutes, and Burning Man. Instead, this brunch was a joyful celebration of birthdays, anniversaries, and dear friends moving on to their next great adventure (to LA…sigh).

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Not that any of this mattered much to me, I had only met most of the party-goers a few weeks ago.

I was there for the dancing, the food, the promise of homemade buttermilk biscuits.

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My love and I had some fresh tomatoes from my mother’s garden, so we decided to bring a simple French classic from Lyon — a tomato pie. I wish I had more pictures to share, but I had no idea the pie would be received so beautifully by the party-goers. People were practically fainting over the rich, buttery flavors of the pie crust paired with the luscious, ripe tomatoes. The contrast was made even stronger with the layer of dijon mustard coating the bottom of the pie. We tossed in some onion caramelized with butter, et voila — a masterpiece.

So please, darling, put your fresh tomatoes to use in this very easy, very popular tarte à la tomate. Best served outside, with a cocktail in your hand, and followed by dancing with your neighbors.

Until next time!

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Tomato Pie with Mustard
tarte à la tomate

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS:

Pie Crust
1 1/2 c. of flour
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 c. of unsalted butter (one stick)
1/8 to 1/4 c. of cold water

Pie Filling
1 tb of butter
4 oz of French Mustard
3-4 large, ripe tomatoes
Half an onion
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Prepping the Crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Grease pie pan (we line ours with parchment paper to keep it clean).
  3. In the bowl of a food processor or a stand mixer, combine flour and salt. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. With machine running, add cold water in a slow, steady stream. Keep mixing until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to over process. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Roll out your dough on a floured surface. (Flour the rolling pin too!)
  6. Drape the crust into your pie pan, and prick the bottom lightly with a fork. (This prevents the crust from ballooning up while you pre-bake it.)
  7. Bake your pie crust for 5 minutes — this helps the crust stay nice and flaky. (Tip: bake the pie on the lowest rack in your oven to get the bottom to toast up nice and evenly.)
  8. Take the crust out and let it cool while you prep your pie filling.

Pie Filling:

  1. Slice the tomatoes whole and lay flat on a lined baking sheet.
  2. Bake tomatoes in the oven with your pie crust (about 5 minutes). This removes some of the water in the tomato so the pie doesn’t get soggy, and deepens the flavor of your gorgeous tomatoes.
  3. Chop your onion in half rings. Heat up butter in a sauce pan on medium-low.
  4. When butter is fully melted, toss in onions and cook until softened (and a little brown). Should take about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Spread the bottom of pre-baked pie crust with dijon mustard and cover with sliced tomatoes.
  6. Top with caramelized onions, herbes de provence, salt and pepper.
  7. Bake at 375° for about 20 minutes.
  8. Serve warm or room temperature.

Bon appetit!