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Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting

10 May

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One of the most enjoyable parts of my Go Mighty goal of making 50 cakes for 50 people is the constant experimentation I am allowed to engage in, all in the name of cake-making. If I see a cake that looks interesting, I now feel as though I have a perfectly legitimate excuse for making it, whereas before…all right, so still I would have made it before I started on my cake journey, but at least now I get to give the cakes to people instead of just sitting around in my kitchen with a fork, eating cake for breakfast. This is the part where I should probably say something about how people should not be eating cake for breakfast. Moving on.

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This chocolate frosting was the topper for a chocolate and vanilla marble cake (much like this cake, but with plain milk subbed in for coconut milk) that I made a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to drizzle something over the top of the cake, but whipping up a simple glaze just didn’t seem to fit the feel of the cake. Because the cake is so light, I thought a glaze might end up making the cake a bit spongy, or, on the other end of the spectrum, when it sat a while it might form a bit of a crust, which would definitely be at odds with the delicate crumb of the cake. Does this sound like too many concerns to have for a cake? Because when I typed that just now, it seemed like I was maybe overthinking things a bit too much. It’s a cake, after all. It will taste good, glaze or no glaze.

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But! Why not make the cake taste great? And there it is, my friends. The very thing that makes me do things like audition chocolate frostings until I find one that is fit to be paired with one of my favorite cakes. This frosting, so intensely chocolaty, is more akin to a sauce than a standard finish for a cake. Lightly spooned over the top of any cake, it drapes beautifully down the sides and sets up like a dream. I imagine that this frosting/sauce would taste incredible over some vanilla bean ice cream, but, in a turn of events that shocks no one more than me, I haven’t yet tried that particular combination. Can I trust one of you to get on that and then report back to me on the results? If nothing else, it’s a great excuse to make some of this frosting/sauce. Not that you need an excuse (said the lady who is about to step away from the computer and make more cake).

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Last Year: Two of my all-time favorite recipes on this site– Rice Noodle Salad (Bún) with Vietnamese Turkey Meatballs and Coconut Lime Frozen Yogurt and Chewy Ginger Cookie Sandwiches (the best ice cream sandwich I have ever eaten in my whole life)

Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder

½ cup milk (I used 1%)

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a small or medium saucepan set over low heat, stir together the sugar and cocoa powder. Slowly drizzle in the milk, stirring as you do so, taking as much time to add the milk as you please so that the mixture does not clump together. Increase heat to medium, then stir the mixture constantly until it just comes to a boil. Reduce heat just a tad, then continue to stir mixture for another 2 minutes while it just barely simmers, producing just a bubble or two at the surface every few seconds.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, then stir in the vanilla. Allow the mixture to cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the chopped chocolate and stir until completely smooth. Allow the frosting to cool completely before frosting a cake. If you are planning on drizzling some of this over some ice cream or profiteroles, it need not be completely cooled (in fact, slightly warm might be a preferable temperature in those instances).

Makes about 1 cup of frosting or sauce, enough to frost 1 bundt cake or lightly spread over the top and middle of 1 double-layer 8-inch cake (but don’t plan on using it to frost the sides—this is strictly a drizzling or draping type of frosting).

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Avocado, Fennel, and Egg Salad

22 Mar

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I have an almost phobic dislike of mayonnaise. It wasn’t always this way. I can remember not caring one way or another about mayonnaise when I was a kid, but, as an adult, there are few food items that make me want to turn around and run more than the sight of mayonnaise. I don’t care for the odor, I possess no tender feelings about the taste, and, up until a jar mistakenly showed up in our refrigerator last week, I don’t think I had so much as touched a jar of mayonnaise for the better part of a decade.

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So, what is a person to do when the topic of egg salad comes up? Ordinarily I would just excuse myself politely and then shudder off any lingering thoughts of the m-word, but since I have taken it upon myself to help those who may be in need of some post-Easter-egg-dying recipes, ignoring the problem really isn’t going to help anyone. Besides, shouldn’t we all just face our fears instead of—okay, no, so I am not even going to pretend that I am planning on making friends with mayonnaise. I’ve lived this long without it, and I think I am doing just fine.

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Luckily for me, and lucky for the state of egg salad, one doesn’t need mayonnaise in order to whip up an utterly dreamy batch of egg salad. Looking for another creamy sidekick to help bind some eggs together, it occurred to me that I could just use the food that I have been using for years to adorn my sandwiches in place of mayo: avocado. Super smooth, wonderfully rich, and delightfully mild, avocados make a perfect addition to egg salad. Because I have been on a huge fennel kick lately, it seemed only natural to add a handful of chopped fennel to the salad, and, sprinkled with a shot of fresh lemon juice, it was just the thing to make this salad sing. Piled on slices of hearty, multigrain bread or nestled on top of a hill of fresh greens, it’s an egg salad I think anybody would greet with open arms.

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Last Year: Polenta Toast with Roasted Asparagus and Fried Eggs

And, in case you missed the link above, here is an article I wrote for Portland Farmers Market last year about naturally dying Easter eggs (those beautiful eggs seen in the picture above were dyed using onion skins!).

Avocado, Fennel, and Egg Salad

1/3 cup chopped fresh fennel

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ medium avocado, peeled and diced into cubes

3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh fennel leaves

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine chopped fennel and lemon juice. Toss to combine, then set aside while you prep other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine avocado, eggs, chopped fennel leaves, pepper, and salt. Toss to combine. Add chopped fennel, along with any remaining lemon juice from the bowl, and toss everything together to combine. Taste for seasoning. You may want to add more salt and pepper.

Serve on toasted bread, on top of fresh greens, or, if you are my husband and you like to use a tortilla chip as a fork, eat it as a dip with tortilla chips.

Easter Foods and a Vegetable Frittata

21 Mar

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My son recently told me that he likes Easter more than he likes Christmas. This was not entirely surprising to hear, since the kid, as I may have mentioned before, has a thing for rabbits. The thing about my son’s relationship to Easter is that, while he loves bunnies, he is not in any way interested in eating bunny-themed treats. Just as in the case of the aforementioned carrot muffins, things shaped like bunnies are, according to him, “too cute to eat.” Chocolate eggs are fine, but, as evidenced by the pile of animal-shaped chocolates we have had sitting on a kitchen shelf for two years now, chocolate bunnies are off limits.

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What is not off limits, thanks to the preponderance of egg-related art projects that come along with Easter, is food made with eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. Whether you are decorating hard-cooked eggs, making cascarones, or creating your very own Easter egg tree (no, seriously, click on that link and behold the glory of a tree decorated with 10,000 individually decorated Easter eggs, and then sit back and dream about the type of omelet that family could make with the insides of those 10,000 eggs that they blew out one at a time), you’re likely to find yourself with a few eggs sitting around this time of the year.

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Though you may not have to think up as many egg dishes as the Kraft family of Germany, chances are you’ll have a few eggs at your disposal this Easter. This is where I come in to help. For the next week or so, it’s going to be all eggs, all the time, or at least until Easter passes and we can all go back to focusing on what we normally focus on around here, which is to say: cake and salads, because that seems to be the theme as of late. (Not at all related, by the way.)

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We’ll start here, with the simplest of egg dishes. A frittata is like a delicious compost pile for all of your refrigerator leftovers. Throw in a bit of this, a bunch of that, stick it in the oven, and moments later you’ve got yourself one delightful meal. The frittata I feature here is comprised of half of a leftover baked potato, the last ribs of a sliced onion, and some day-old garlicky sautéed kale, all topped off with a nice lid of shredded Parmesan cheese. Suitable for any time of the day, it’s a two-part winner for your leftovers and your tummy. Everyone wins.

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Last Year: Chocolate Swirled Bread–another great entry in the cake-as-bread category

Vegetable Frittata

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup thinly sliced onion

½ cup diced, cooked potato

1 cup leftover cooked greens (chard, spinach, greens, what have you)

4 large eggs

salt and pepper to taste

dash of good hot sauce (Tapatio, Tamazula, and Cholula are all good candidates)

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven’s broiler. Arrange an oven shelf in the highest position.

In an ovenproof skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, stir to combine and heat through, then add cooked greens. Stir to combine, the reduce heat to low.

In a small bowl, combine eggs, salt and pepper, and a dash of hot sauce. Whisk with a fork until eggs are combined. Add Parmesan cheese, and stir to combine.

Pour eggs over vegetables in skillet. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, coax any egg run-off back towards the vegetables. Allow to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the bottom of the eggs seem somewhat set, and the edges of the eggs appear be just beginning to dry. Place skillet on top shelf of oven, directly beneath the broiler. Broil frittata for 2 to 4 minutes, until the middle is set, the top is puffed, and the color is just tinted golden.

Remove from oven, loosen frittata with spatula, and serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 3 to 4 people.

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