Saturday, January 9, 2010

Swedish Black Forest Cake

This is another recipe I feel I should put a disclaimer on -- this stuff is rich. However, just by looking at it you know that. This dish serves about 8 and is based on kladdkaka, a Swedish recipe for what is basically a very rich, sticky chocolate cake. I had wanted to make a black forest cake, but seeing as my ingredients and time was limited I opted to make this instead and got Scandinavian on the traditional black forest recipe.

You will need:

9 inch round cake pan
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, 2 tbsp set aside
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup melted salted European style butter
4 oz lingonberry sauce
1 tube marzipan
2 tbsp butter
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 and grease the cake pan. Combine the eggs and sugar and the dry ingredients separately. Mix the two until just combined then slowly add the vanilla and butter. Mix well and pour into cake pan, bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool at least an hour.

Take the 2 tbsp of butter and grease a smooth surface, rolling pin and set aside the rest for your hands in preparation to handle the marzipan. Remove from the packaging and knead into a ball, then roll it out until it's approximately 9 inches in diameter.

Using a spatula, spread the lingonberry sauce over the top of the kladdkaka. Put the marzipan sheet over it and use a knife to trim any extra off the edges. Using an electric mixer, beat the whipped cream and 1/3 cup of sugar until fluffy. Spread over the cake like icing. Using a sifter, sprinkle some cocoa powder over the top. Store in the refrigerator until it is to be served.

Brie, Apple and Hazelnut Schmear

This was the first thing people went for at the party after being given the overview of what was being served -- it also got the most feedback. I kept the hazelnuts whole to add interest but most of the guests found them too distracting but loved the rest of the dip. So if you're not a fan of crunchy things in dip or don't like hazelnuts, just leave 'em out. It'll still be good.

You need:

1 shredded granny smith apple
8 oz softened brie cheese (I just bought a "3-"4 wedge)
4 oz neufchatel cheese, softened
1 cup hazelnuts, chopped finely

Combine and serve. Easy!

Spicy Vodka Sauce

I love vodka sauce but I rarely make it because it involves cream, which is heavy in calories and vodka, which is heavy in cost. However, this recipe made it worth it. It's simple and mostly involves simmering time, which will make your kitchen smell amazing.

You need:

a large pot
15 oz can cubed tomatoes
28 oz tomato sauce or puree, plain
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1/2 cup vodka (the higher quality the better the sauce will be)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 tsp salt

Heat all ingredients except the vodka and cream over medium heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the vodka and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes. Finally, add the cream. Keep hot while serving and refrigerate once you're done -- the dairy makes this sauce a bit more perishable than regular marinara.

Gibanica - Serbian Feta Cabbage Pie

This was a recipe I'd been wanting to try for awhile but it makes so much there was no way I could eat it myself -- I needed some help. Hence how it wound up on the smorgasbord menu.

As something of a disclaimer, this recipe is not for the calorie conscious or vegans. It's full of dairy and is fairly high in fat; however, by cooking this dish using authentic ingredients, one is less likely to go overboard. I found that one piece the size of a playing card was all I needed. Besides, the recipe also makes so much of it that the ingredients called for look a lot worse than they actually are. Anywho, I figured this was a dish that deserved a disclaimer, lest I start getting snarky comments about promoting obesity or heart disease. Besides, that's what gyms are for.

I did lighten the original recipe though; cost was the main reason, although the added nutrients and fiber definitely make a difference. The original recipe called for 2 lbs of feta -- instead, I used 1 lb and one medium-large shredded cabbage.

You will need:

1/2 lb phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup sour cream
6-10 tbsp butter, melted
6 eggs
1 lb feta cheese
1/2 cup flour
1 cabbage, shredded and boiled for about 10-15 minutes
large baking or roasting pan -- the biggest one you have

Preheat the oven to 325. Beat the eggs together and add the flour and salt. Add the crumbled feta, sour cream and cabbage. Put about a tablespoon of butter or two in the pan, enough to grease it. Place 2-3 phyllo sheets in. Follow with about 1/6 of the cheese and cabbage mixture. Top with another 2-3 sheets and add another tablespoon of butter, brushing it over the phyllo as evenly as possible. Again, layer the cabbage and cheese. Do this until you're left with 2-3 phyllo sheets. Use up the remaining cabbage mixture and top with the phyllo and any leftover butter. Bake for around an hour to an hour and a half, or until the center seems set. Allow to cool and cut into squares. This went especially well with vodka sauce but is also delicious on its own.

Potato Gruyere Souffle

I recently held a smorgasbord at my home -- an entire day devoted to cooking and a night devoted to eating for a constantly rotating group of people. It was a lofty undertaking but ultimately, a success. Especially with one cook. Many of these are dishes I would never make for myself, mostly because they're too rich or simply not my taste. I'm trying to expand my culinary horizons, however, so this was a great opportunity to test recipes I otherwise wouldn't have made. These potato gruyere souffles will definitely grace my table again though.

I found the original recipe for these to be a little fussy, and it called for bleu cheese rather than gruyere. I already had a gibanica involving feta so I figured two brined cheeses might be too much. These were a favorite and actually pretty easy once I simplified the method. It may not be a true souffle but it's still worth a try.

You will need:

12-count muffin pan
apx 1 1/3 stick of butter, melted altogether
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 lbs of peeled potatoes
2/3 cup whole milk, room temp
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb gruyere, cubed
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350. Using a brush, grease the inside of the muffin tins with butter. Dust with the bread crumbs. Boil the potatoes until tender then quickly peel. While they're still hot, use a fork to scrape away at the potato to produce crumbs -- you can also use a ricer or food mill for this. Throw them into a large bowl and beat with 1/4 cup of butter, the milk, salt and eggs.

Fill the muffin tins halfway with the potato mash. Evenly divide the cubes of gruyere between the 12 tins. Use the rest of the mixture to fill them completely. Brush a little butter over the tops and bake in the middle or lower rack for 15 minutes, then 450 for 5 more minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tins.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Vegan Spiced Vanilla Kasha

Kasha was a dish I got very familiar with in Russia -- it's a hot cereal made from roasted buckwheat, usually cooked in milk. As someone excessively averse to sausages and other breakfast meats, this became my first meal of the day nearly every day for the second portion of the trip.

What was served, however, is not exactly this. This recipe is a professionalized version of what I mixed myself every morning in the cafeteria. The kasha served was bland and not quite salty, not quite sweet so I bought lot of vanilla sugar and cinnamon at the store and used them to add some flair.

I made mine in a rice cooker, but the same method would apply if you were using a large covered pot over medium-low heat.


14 oz can regular coconut milk
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup rinsed buckwheat grains
6 oz water

Set all ingredients to cook for 45 minutes on the stove top or however long specified by your rice cooker. With the exception of a dash of sugar, it shouldn't need anything else before serving.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Potato and Celery Root Hummus with Avocado

One of the primary ideas behind the slow foods movement is that live food is good food -- there are compounds in fresh produce that aren't found in imported fruits and vegetables. Hence why I stopped in my tracks when I saw something still actually growing on the refrigerated shelves of the Whole Foods produce section.

Upon closer inspection, it was clearly a celery root. Bright tiny celery stalks were emerging from its top as it stood alone on the shelf. No price, no code, but I bagged it anyway. It was just too interesting to pass up, plus it was an ingredient I'd never worked with before.

Celery root reminds me of the baby in that Czech film, Little Otik. A bit creepy, but once the root is cleaned up and peeled it looks like any other root vegetable. To prepare it for boiling, cut off the top and any roots at the bottom. Using a vegetable peeler, get the rest of the skin off. Using a large sharp knife, chop into small cubes.

You will need:

1 cubed celery root
4 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium avocado
4 tbsp butter or olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
dash of chili powder

Boil the potatoes and celery root for approximately 40 minutes. Throw all ingredients into a bowl and mash -- I recommend using a mixer if you can because it takes awhile to smooth out. When storing, use plastic wrap to put directly over the surface to avoid discoloration. This is especially good served with brown rice or warmed pita squares.