January 31, 2011

Chocolate Mousse with Orange-Zested Whipped Cream

Great Reasons to Make Chocolate Mousse:
- You're going to a potluck, and it seems schleppy to get something from the grocery store.
- You have slightly embarrassing memories of asking for samples of mousse at the deli counter as a child (that make you wonder where your mother was. Maybe pretending you weren't her child?).
- You were given a KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas that you haven't used nearly enough yet.
- You've gotta break that New Year's resolution sometime. Why not now?

But let's be honest, who really needs a reason for chocolate mousse? The fantastic inspiration for this absolutely drool-worthy recipe comes from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, which (along with Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) is my current obsession. A giant tome of over 1400 recipes, the collection was painstakingly tested and arranged by Amanda Hessler, who drew from 150 years of recipes published in, you guessed it, The New York Times. I feel like there's a big emphasis on what's new and inventive in the culinary world, and it's refreshing to see the recipes from the nineteenth century that my grandmother's mother may have read. There's not a picture to be found, but Hessler's notes about each recipe are lovely and helpful. Also helpful: the book is popular enough that your local library surely has a copy.

The chocolate mousse recipe is not so old, only from 1977, but it is hands-down the best I've had. Hessler warns that you'll likely "dirt[y] eighty-seven bowls in the process." I tend to clean up as I go (a habit my dad will happily explain comes from him, not Mom), so I didn't get a final count, but I didn't think it was so bad. And while there are several different steps involved, there's nothing really tricky about it. It took less than an hour altogether. Don't be scared away, it's definitely worth a little bit of work.

Not too sweet, it hits just the right note of decadently rich but airily light. This is a chocolate-lover's dessert, for sure. I swapped out the liquor in the original recipe for orange juice and zest and added orange zest to the whipped cream, as well, and it brought just a touch of brightness to the situation. On quick note: Very little liquid is added to the melted chocolate, so it will seize up a bit if you don't work quickly. Don't worry about that, I tweaked the recipe to make that happen on purpose. The slightly hardened chocolate can still be easily beaten into the whipped cream and egg whites, and you'll have delightfully teeny pieces of melt-in-your-mouth intense chocolate. The thought of those tiny chocolate bombs had me in the kitchen with a spoon an embarrassing number of times this weekend. If you don't want them, just add a couple tablespoons of water to the egg yolks. But also be aware that we cannot possibly be friends.

January 29, 2011

30-Second Herbed Ricotta Spread

I'm not kidding about the thirty seconds, this spread comes together in a flash. It's so easy that I didn't even think about posting it until I'd been enjoying it almost every day for a couple weeks. At that point, it seemed wrong not to share! Forgot you were responsible for bringing an app until, oh, right when you need to be out the door? No problem, this is literally as simple as shaking some herbs over ricotta and transferring to a pretty dish. Pick up crackers on the way, and you're good to go.

This is simple enough that I tend to make it in single batches of just a couple tablespoons either right when I'm hungry or as I pack my lunch. Savory and flavorful but not too heavy, this spread tastes like more than thirty seconds worth of effort! It seems appropriate for this to be a short post. Plus, with only half a minute worth of commitment, how much convincing do you guys really need?

January 24, 2011

Pink Pesto Pasta with Beets, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese

You should know that I have a minor addiction to beets (or, as the boyfriend and the twin prefer to call them, dirt apples). As in, I can happily sit down to a bowl of completely unseasoned steamed or roasted beets. So, when an ironically bespectacled hipster at the farmer's market told me about a pasta she'd made with beet green pesto and garlic chevre, how could I possibly deprive you all (ahem, me) of this delightfully pink dish?

Beet greens are decidedly under appreciated. Even knowing how easy they are to use, I have a tendency to toss them out. They're a little like kale, but with a nicer flavor. I wouldn't recommend eating them raw, but they can be sauteed or tossed into any soup you'd normally use spinach or cabbage in. But here's what can be the problem: they turn everything they touch deep purple. I made my usual vegetable soup with beet greens instead of spinach once. It was as delicious as ever, but I couldn't convince the boy to eat purple soup!

Flip those suckers around. The other end is due for some damn glory.
Not a problem with this pasta. Instead of deep purple, the pasta is more of a green-flecked fuchsia after being tossed with the pesto. Add in tangy goat cheese and throw in some steamed asparagus and beets (the normal part of the beets, that is), and I am in heaven.

January 8, 2011

Creamy Pineapple Rice

Oh man, some holiday detox is definitely in order in my life, how about yours? I loved being home with the fam for a few weeks, but it's nice not to be surrounded by hundreds of cookies every day. And also sad. Christmas cookies cause conflicting emotions. You feel obligated to eat them (You don't want to insult Jesus, right? Or Santa?), but they cause tummy aches if you eat them for meals as well as snacks and dessert. Moral of the story: holidays are dangerous. Wonderful and magical and totally worth some of my clothes not fitting for a couple weeks, but dangerous nonetheless.

Let me tell you briefly how much the people that I love love me back before diving into a deliciously rich-yet-not-terrible-for-us recipe: For Christmas, the padres gave me a KitchenAid (!!!) and a coffee grinder, among other wonderful things. The boy gave me two knives, each of which cost more than the entire set we had before (also, they're made with the same folding technique used on samurai swords. That's how you know a boy bought them), among other fun kitchen things. And the twin, in a blinding example of twin-weirdness, somehow picked the same theme for my gifts that I chose for hers: mustaches.

Twins are not to be trusted. Too weird.

It was a wildly successful Christmas. So successful that the blog was shamelessly ignored (sorry) and the sugar high is still wearing off. My first week back in Nawlins has been marked almost entirely by either plain fruits and vegetables or experiments that still need tweaking, but we did enjoy one of my old standbys last night. Super easy to throw together, pineapple rice is a nice way to dress up any number of easy weeknight dinners: chicken breast or pork chops, grilled tofu or steamed asparagus. Best made with regular brown rice (although you can use quick-cooking in a pinch), it's hearty and savory, but the pineapple lends a sweetness that goes beautifully with the creamy, slightly sticky texture imparted by the last-minute addition of a couple pats of butter.