Tuesday, August 16, 2016

One-Bowl Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownies

I will rarely say no to one-bowl desserts, peanut butter, or brownies, so when all three are involved I'm definitely going to be happy.  Unlike many peanut butter brownies, in this recipe the peanut butter is stirred right into the batter instead of swirled on top, so you save an extra bowl and extra step, and still get plenty of peanut butter flavor.  These brownies are soft and fudge-y, just like I like them.  They're great on their own, but even better with a scoop of ice cream on top.

One-Bowl Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownies
(adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, original recipe here)
Makes a 9x13 pan of brownies

12 T softened butter
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups (15 ounces) sugar
4  large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (2 ounces) cocoa powder
1-3/4 cup (8.75 ounces) flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
12 ounces chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking pan with oil.
2. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and peanut butter together until smooth and creamy, 1-2 minutes.  Beat in the sugar, followed by the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla.  Beat in the cocoa powder until the mixture is smooth and homogeneous.
3. Beat the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Scrape into the pan and try to get the batter as even as possible.
5. Bake 20-24 minutes, until a tester comes out slightly wet (you don't want completely raw batter, but also don't want the tester to come out clean -- go for somewhere in between).

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Udon with Kale and Peanut Sauce

My husband recently requested something with kale for dinner, and I found this recipe which was both tasty and super easy.  Everything except the noodles and kale was already in my pantry, so shopping was quick too - double win!  Sriracha, peanut butter, and fish sauce make for a flavorful, creamy sauce -- the amount here makes a fairly mild dish, but you can double the Sriracha (or more) if you like it spicy.  The sauce clings to slippery udon and ribbons of lightly cooked kale to create a light dinner.  Don't skip the peanuts on top -- their crunch really adds a lot.  

Udon with Kale and Peanut Sauce (adapted from Food 52, original recipe here)
Serves 2-3

1 T plus 1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 bunch Lacinato kale, ribbs removed and leaves cut into ribbons
6 ounces udon noodles
Minced scallions, to serve
Chopped peanuts, to serve

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. While the water is boiling, combine the soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil, and fish sauce in a skillet and whisk to combine. Heat over medium low heat for a minute, and then whisk in the peanut butter.  Turn off the heat.
3. When the water boils, add the kale and blanch for 15 seconds.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the kale to the peanut sauce and stir well to combine -- the kale and the water clinging to it should melt the peanut butter and thin out the sauce.
4. Return the pot of water to a boil, and cook the udon according to package directions.  When cooked, drain and add to the skillet with the kale.  You may want to reserve some of the cooking water and add it in if the sauce looks too thick or the noodles are dry.
5. Transfer the udon to bowls and top with scallions and peanuts.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Nectarine Limeade

The hot weather has still not let up here in Boston, which means there is a definite need for more delicious cold drinks.  This one is a little more labor intensive than I would normally recommend, but on the other hand it is really refreshing and delicious.  The annoying part here is that the nectarines are blanched in boiling water to make peeling easier -- you could potentially skip this step, but then the peeling part would be more time consuming.  In any case, once those nectarines are peeled, they're combined with lime juice and sugar for a lovely pink, perfectly sweet-tart summer drink.  

Important note: we found that the flavors were best after they had some time to combine and chill in the fridge -- right after mixing the drink was a little too sharp, but it had mellowed out perfectly when we tried more the next day.

Nectarine Limeade
(Serves 4 or so)

3 nectarines
4 limes
1/4 cup superfine sugar
2 cups water

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Cut an X in the bottom of each nectarine, and then boil for 60 seconds.  Run until cold water, and then peel.
2. Chop the nectarines into chunks and add to a blender.  Squeeze the limes over the nectarines, and add the sugar and water.  Blend until very smooth.
3. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher.
4. Chill for several hours before serving over ice.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Instant Pot Potato Salad

I'm a definite Instant Pot addict, and recently learned how to make potato salad using pressure cooking as a shortcut for cooking the potatoes and eggs.  Chopped potatoes and whole eggs go into the cooker together and are perfectly done with just 4 minutes of pressure.  While everything cooks, whisk up a quick dressing -- I have instructions for both creamy and vinegar-based options below.  Of course, you can also fancy things up with more fresh herbs, small-diced veggies, or dried spices.  Both versions were really tasty, and I'll definitely be using this short-cut again in the future.

Instant Pot Potato Salad

2 pounds waxy potatoes, trimmed and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 eggs
2 T cider, rice, or wine vinegar
1 tsp salt

For a creamy dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced

For a vinaigrette:
2 T cider, rice, or wine vinegar
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Put the potato chunks into the Instant Pot, and carefully place the eggs on top. Pour one cup of water on top.  Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Quick release the pressure.
2. Carefully transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water.  Drain the potatoes, place them in a large bowl, and sprinkle with the cider vinegar and salt and gently stir to combine.  Let cool.
3. If you want a creamy dressing, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, and Dijon mustard.  Season with a generous pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  If you want a vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, chili flakes, paprika, and garlic.  Whisk in the olive oil gradually.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
4. Peel and dice the eggs.  Add them to the dressing along with the potatoes and scallions, and gently stir to combine everything.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Bittersweet Brownie Drops

These cookies have a super-intense chocolate flavor -- definitely an adult chocolate cookie packed with both melted bittersweet chocolate and chocolate chips.  My mom and I made them for a picnic on the Boston Harbor Islands, and they were so tasty (even if they got a little smushed in our pack).  They're really delicious on their own, and in my opinion even better crumbled up over ice cream! 

Bittersweet Brownie Drops (adapted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts)
Makes about 30 cookies

4 T butter, cut into chunks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Scant 1 cup (6.5 ounces) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 T flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with foil or parchment.
2. Melt butter and chocolate together.  Stir in sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Beat in each egg one at a time, stirring well until incorporated.
3. Whisk together the flour and baking soda in a separate bowl, and then stir into the chocolate mixture.  Stir vigorously until the batter is smooth, glossy, and comes away from the side of the bowl.
4. Make sure the batter is cool, and then stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
5. Scoop rounded tablespoons of batter onto the lined cookie sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are puffed and crackled on the surface, but slightly soft to the touch.
6. Cool on wire racks, and then store in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pork Cutlets with Cantaloupe Salad

I've really been feeling melon this summer, and this cantaloupe-focused dish is a really interesting way to enjoy it.  Pork cutlets are marinated in grated cantaloupe and lime juice, which makes them extra tender and flavorful.  And the salad on top really makes this dish special. I did find that at least with my melon, a julienne peeler was useless for making thin strips of cantaloupe -- it just turned it into mush.  If that's the case for you as well, just thinly slice the melon to get nice thin strips.  The cantaloupe is tossed with fresh herbs, fish sauce, and spicy jalapeno -- I would never have thought of this combination but it really works! Yum.

Pork Cutlets with Cantaloupe Salad (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 3

For the pork:
1 cup grated cantaloupe
2 T fresh lime juice
2 T olive oil
Generous pinch of salt
Several grinds of black pepper
6 thinly sliced pork cutlets

For the salad:
2 cups thinly sliced cantaloupe
3 thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup fresh mint, minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
2 T fish sauce
2 T fresh lime juice
A handful of coarsely chopped peanuts

1. Combine the grated cantaloupe, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Prick the pork all over with a fork, and then add to the bowl.  Marinate about 1 hour.  
2. Meanwhile, make the salad. Combine all the ingredients except the peanuts in a container, mix well, and stash in the fridge until ready to serve.
3. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry.  Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add oil, and once it's hot, add the pork.  Cook for just a couple of minutes on each side.
4. Serve the pork topped with the cantaloupe salad and chopped peanuts.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Day-Glow Honeydew Agua Fresca

If you're also melting from the current heatwave, let me suggest this fantastic fruity drink.  It's super easy -- just puree honeydew melon with a little sugar, water, and lemon juice, and then strain out the solids (if you like a smoother drink).  Chill and drink in large quantities!  It's so refreshing, and I won't tell if you add a little something stronger (psst...pisco is really tasty!)  Plus -- the color is amazing!

Day-Glow Honeydew Agua Fresca

4-1/2 cups chopped honeydew melon
3 cups water (approximate)
1 T sugar (preferably superfine, but regular is fine too) 
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine the melon with 1-1/2 cups water, the sugar, and the lemon juice, and puree until smooth. Add it about a cup of the additional water, then taste and add more water, sugar, and/or lemon juice to taste.  Chill well, and then serve over ice.