Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bags are packed

And I'm ready to go (okay, forgive me.  If you are older than fifty, you get my reference here).

But I am ready to go.  In spite of mournful dogs and a husband who is probably rejoicing that the food police will cease and desist. 

I wouldn't blame him.

I leave with so many prayers and good wishes that I am humbled and overwhelmed.

Thank you, everyone.  I probably won't be able to post while I'm over there (I'll be back on 2/7) but I will have a plethora of wonderful stories and photos for you when I return.

Maybe even a few recipes as well!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Last Supper

Henry is the king of cliches.  "Been there, done that."  "Denial is not a river in Egypt."  "There are more horses asses than there are horses."  "You can't always get what you want."  The kids and I just roll our eyes as he comes out with one after another after another. 

I hope he doesn't read this post, because I'm going to use one myself and that is "be very careful about what you want, because you just might get it."

I'm talking about Cambodia.  I leave on Sunday- THIS SUNDAY!!!  How did this happen?  As I said before, I am terrified and electrified but I think the terrified part is taking over right now.  Am I really going halfway around the world to sleep under mosquito netting and hang around slums, hospitals and orphanages?  Uh - yes, Liz that's what you are about to do. 

So I am in the middle of packing, dreading the 20 hours of air travel, organizing everything at home so I can leave (thank God the burglar is no longer an issue), dreading the 20 hours of air travel, cooking food for Henry so he won't starve while I'm gone (yeah, right - he will probably go hog wild since the food police won't be around), buying gifts for our host families and tying up all the loose ends.  Oh, and did I mention how much I am dreading the 20 hours of air travel?

But I am cooking tonight.  Probably for the last time until I return.  Henry is out tomorrow night (which means I can feast on popcorn and wine), we are out with Henry's brother on Friday night and we are going to have a lovely dinner out (just the two of us) on Saturday night before I leave the next day.  That will be at Float-a-Way Cafe, which is one of my favorite restaurants here in Atlanta.

Since I seem to be maintaining my 15-lb. weight loss (go, Liz!), I don't want to derail myself too much.  Hence, Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli.  Folks, this recipe is GOOD!  It comes from NY Times food writer and chef Melissa Clark and it's easy and delicious.  If you don't have coriander and cumin seeds in your pantry, go buy some.  The broccoli florets make a delicious catch-all for them.

I could eat this for breakfast.  Actually, I probably will tomorrow, but my breakfast preferences are the subject of another post. In the meantime, I will enjoy it this evening and I hope you try it soon also.

ROASTED SHRIMP AND BROCCOLI (adapted from Melissa Clark)

2 large bunches broccoli, cut into florets
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 T. coriander seeds
2 T. cumin seeds
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 lbs. shrimp, shelled and deveined
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Lemons, for serving

Preheat oven to 425-degrees.  Place broccoli on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with coriander and cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and the chili powder.  Roast for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place shrimp in a bowl and toss with remaining olive oil, salt and pepper,  Add lemon juice and zest and let marinate for 10 minutes.

When broccoli has roasted for 10 minutes, remove from oven and add shrimp, using a slotted spoon so you don't add the liquid.  Roast, tossing once halfway through until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more.  Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over before serving.

Serves 4-6.

As my food goddess and heroine Ina Garten would say, "how bad can this be?"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Enough already!

Don't you think these look just as good
as the brownies pictured in the recipe?

The title of this post refers to brownie recipes.  I'm sure you are sick and tired of my endless postings related to them.  I know I am!

That said, I was asked to make something "chocolate" for a close friend who is celebrating a very big birthday this weekend.  Thank heavens I didn't have to make the birthday cake!  (Not sure I'm up to another 3-Cake Marathon again).  No, it just needed to be something chocolate that didn't require a knife, fork or plate.

So I remembered my recipe for Cappuccino Brownies.  That's a misnomer; they should really be called Caffeine Overload Brownies.  The recipe dates back to November, 1991 from Gourmet Magazine (yeah, I'm so old I have recipes dating back that far).

I swear on the lives of my dogs that this is the last brownie recipe I will post.....

But this one is awesome.  It is really, really rich and loaded with chocolate and caffeine.  While I was making it this afternoon, the aromas of chocolate and coffee totally took over my kitchen.  It was like Starbucks on steroids.

What I like about these brownies is the cinnamon in the cream cheese.  It adds an amazing layer of flavor that most people can't identify.  I also like the fact that you can cut these into very small squares (trust me, a little goes a long way) and serve them as a tiny little after-dinner taste.

They are rich.  They are deadly.  They are not as easy as my "One-Pot Brownies."  But if you want something a little special without a ton of work, this is your solution. 


For the brownie layer:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 1/2 tablespoons boiling water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 extra-large eggs
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 11-oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with foil, letting it overhang the sides.  Butter foil or coat with cooking spray (if you are lazy like me, then you will opt for the spray).

Melt chocolate with butter and espresso mixture over medium-low heat.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then stir in remaining ingredients.  Blend well.

Spread batter evenly in baking pna and bake for 20-25 minutes until edges are browned and middle is still slightly underdone.  Cool completely, at least for 2 hours.

For the cream cheese layer:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add confectioner's sugar and combine until smooth.  Beat in vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon.  Spread over cooled brownies and refrigerate at least 2 hours until cream cheese layer is firm.

For the glaze:
11 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 1/2 tablespoons boiling water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Stir frequently until chocolate and butter melts and mixture is smooth.  Cool for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour glaze over cream cheese and spread evenly.  Chill until set, about 3 hours.

When well-chilled, use overhanging foil to remove brownies from pan.  Cut as desired.

Yield:  16 - 48 squares, depending upon how you cut them.  Keep refrigerated and they will keep for about one week.

Trim edges before cutting into bars for a more finished look
(and you get to eat the them, of course!)

Oh, and forget about making coffee in the morning ... just eat one of these and you won't need any more caffeine for the rest of the day!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Burglars and Brownies

Folks, it's been a week around here.  Forgive me for not posting but I got distracted.  Really, REALLY distracted.

The endless drapery project.  And I didn't even
mention the kitchen windows...

Remember that burglar I told you about?  Turns out he hit a house several doors down from us at 9:30 IN THE MORNING last week.  This was the morning after we had a neighborhood meeting with the police and detectives assigned to the case.  Suffice it to say it freaked me out, partially because the back of our house is largely windows and we had never felt the need to cover them with drapery fabric.  Long story short, I hit Bed Bath and Beyond quicker than you could say "burglars not welcome here" and got those windows covered up in no time.  I wielded that drill and hemmed those panels like a pro.  Who knew?  Maybe I have a second career as a decorator.  (On second thought, "nah."  I could never be as good as my friend Holli).

In addition, I hid all the valuables, took stuff to the safe deposit box and managed to get burglar bars installed on the basement windows.  Paranoid, anyone?  All in the space of three days.  No wonder I didn't blog!

Then there was the snowstorm and the ice on the road leading to our neighborhood (we live on a cul-de-sac, high up on a hill).  When the snow fell on Thursday, ice formed and no one could get their cars up the hill.  It was a virtual parking lot down there!  We had plans to go to Miller Union for dinner on Friday but that didn't happen!  Nor did we make it out on Saturday night.  We did manage to walk on Sunday, but after two very chilly hours we said "screw this" and went to Taco Mac for beer, fries and the football game.  Best part of the weekend.....and I don't like football!

And today we moved my mom to a new apartment community. 

Okay, I'm done bitching now.  The good news is the burglar is now behind bars as of this morning so I can breathe again.  (Couldn't this have happened before I spent all of that money for window coverings and burglar bars?)  That's okay, I'm not complaining.  I'm grateful we didn't get hit.

One-pot brownies.  The cure for everything!

So it's back to baking and blogging.  And brownies.  I wasn't going to post this recipe because it is so ridiculously easy.  I've posted a couple of brownie recipes here before (see Thomas Keller's Brownies from Ad Hoc on 10/27 or Marbled Cream Cheese Brownies on 10/5) but this is my tried-and-true recipe that I have used for years.  After a long day (and a LONG week), I needed to make them tonight to take to one of "my guys" at the VA hospital tomorrow.  I'm almost embarrassed to post this because it's such a no-brainer.  It requires only a saucepan and you can whip them up in an instant.  The hardest part is waiting for them to chill before you can cut them.


1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs (I use extra-large)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (preferably Droste)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose, unbleached flfour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 oz. (1 bag) semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with heavy duty foil.  Allow foil to overhang edges and grease well with butter or cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a medium-large saucepan.  Remove from heat and add rest of ingredients.  Stir well with a wooden spoon to blend.  Do not use an electric mixer.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes until just set (middle will still look slightly underdone).  It is crucial not to overbake these.  Let cool then place in refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.  Turn out onto a large cutting board, remove foil and cut into fingers or squares as desired.  Store covered in refrigerator for up to one week.  Remove from refrigerator at least 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 10-12 (or one hungry person - just kidding)

Hungry yet?  These are SO worth blowing off
all of those New Year's resolutions!

These are very dense, rich and "chocolate-y."  They are not for the calorie conscious or faint-of-heart.  If you like cakey brownies, do not make this recipe!

However, if you do not make this (seriously easy) recipe, you have missed one of life's great pleasures!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Home From the Holidaze

I don't know about you, but I'm glad to be back to my normal routine.  Well, that would be if I knew what "normal" was.  We came back from a week on vacation with the "fam" (all 28 of them) to find out that burglars are running rampant in our neighborhood.  Apparently there is one particular guy who breaks into homes and besides stealing jewelry, electronics, etc. GUESS WHAT HE DOES?  He raids the fridge, makes a meal for himself, helps himself to a bottle of wine and then rips off bottles of champagne.  Are you kidding me?

I sure hope he doesn't find out about me and the goodies in my freezer.  Or the wine cellar in the basement.  Let's just pray the incessant barking of my dogs (which used to make me crazy, but not so much now) will lead him to believe that my house is SO not worth breaking into.

But on to better subjects.  Years ago I took my kids to New York City and we lived there (courtesy of my sister Barbara and her amazing brownstone in the West Village) for two straight summers.  We loved Bleecker Street and became regulars at most of the restaurants and shops there.  Ah, Murray's Cheese, Zito's (tragically gone now) and Rocco's. 

Which brings me to the point (sort of) here.  That would be Rocco's and their amazing panettone.  If you've never had it, it's a cylindrical Italian sweet bread that is studded with candied orange, citron, lemon zest and raisins.  It's to die for.  It has nothing to do with a Claxton fruitcake.  It's delicious.  I may be Jewish, but I want it on the table for my Christmas breakfast!  It's that good. 

But, wait ... THEY DON'T SHIP!

Enter my sister Barbara.  Rocco's might not ship, but she does.  So we came home from the dysfunctional family trip to find it waiting on our doorstep.  So happy the burglar didn't find it first!

What to do?  I'm the food police right now, so leaving it around for Henry or me to take a slice for breakfast isn't an option.  The only reasonable solution is to just blow it out and send it into caloric overload.  Are you with me here?  I'm talking panettone bread pudding.

We had friends for dinner over here last night, so I knew I could experiment.  I got lucky.  It was really, really good.  Oh screw that.  It was fabulous, even if I do say so myself.  And, it was enhanced by the blood orange caramel sauce that I made on the fly.  I'd order this again!


2 loaves (cylinders) store-bought Panettone (from Rocco's if you are lucky)
8 extra-large eggs
4 cups half-and-half
4 cups whole milk
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Mandarin Napolean brandy, or any other brandy or alcohol of choice (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup turbinado (raw) sugar

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Cut panettone into 1 1/2-inch cubes.  Spread out on two half sheet pans and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, turn cubes with a large spatula and return to oven for another 10 minutes or until golden and crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.

In a very large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half and milk.  Add sugar and whisk to blend, then whisk in vanilla, nutmeg, salt and brandy (if using).  Add cooled bread cubes and soak for 30 minutes, turning occasionally so that bread soaks up as much of the mixture as possible.

Butter a large baking dish (15 x 11 x 3.5).  Pour bread mixture in then drizzle the heavy cream over the top.  Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.  Place the baking dish into a larger pan filled with hot water (bain-marie) and place in the preheated oven on the middle rack.

Bake for 1 hour at 350-degrees until edges are firm but middle is still very wobbly.  Cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning and bake for another 20 minutes or until middle is just set.  It should still shake ever-so-slightly.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes then spoon into serving dishes.  Top liberally with Blood Orange Caramel Sauce (recipe follows) and softly whipped unsweetened cream.

Serves 12-15


6 blood oranges
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

Zest oranges, then juice them (you should end up with approximately 1 1/2 cups juice).  Place zest and juice in a shallow saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook for about 10 minutes until mixture reduces to 3/4 cup.  Remove from heat, let cool then strain.  Stir in heavy cream and set aside. 
Melt butter and sugar in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until sugar caramelizes and mixture is smooth.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and slowly pour in the orange/cream mixture.  Pour slowly and stand back as it will boil and spatter.  When it calms down, turn heat up to medium-high and cook and stir until mixture smooths out.  Add a pinch of salt.

Yield:  approximately 1 1/2 cups

Of course you can make this with regular oranges, but I love the intensity and the drama of blood oranges!  It's a caramel sauce indeed worthy of adorning Rocco's panettone.  Thanks, Sis!