bittersweet chocolate…

May 16, 2012 Comments Off on bittersweet chocolate…

…in many forms.  It’s my last week with the kiddos before I decamp for two weeks of design-building a food stand for an Omaha food festival and then four weeks of research and travel in Italy.  Tough gig, I know.  I told them that we should do some of our favorite kitchen things together to mark the occasion.  Grilling is big on the list.  So is pizza.  We did a Food and Wine mac’n’cheese recipe last night and, as usual, C reported that it was “good, but not as good as pimiento mac.”  I agreed with him.

They didn’t mention desserts at all, so I figured I’d experiment a bit.  I overbought bittersweet chocolate a couple of weeks ago, and I certainly don’t want it in the house while they’re gone.  Because I’ll make something, and eat it.  So instead I found two recipes that I thought we could do as a team, that would use up the chocolate, and that would be ridiculous.

Like chocolate souffles!  This is actually an NPR recipe for Salted Chocolate Soufflettes.  The point was that souffles aren’t all that hard, and they’re delicious, so why don’t people make more of them?  I couldn’t agree more.  I’ve played around with enough French pastry recipes in the last few weeks that I’ve become pretty comfortable with beating egg whites into a stiff froth.  There’s timing involved, but once egg white has enough air beaten into it to stand on its own, I’ve realized that it takes some effort to deflate it.  So I figured these seemed eminently doable, even with my ham-handed kitchen skills.  Super easy–melted butter, cream, and chocolate get mixed with egg yolks, the whites from those eggs (plus one or two extra whites, which I had leftover from this weekend’s pistachio ice cream) get beaten into a frenzy and folded into the yolk mixture, and the resulting foam gets spooned into some ramekins and baked for 25 minutes at 375°.  The results were spectacular–C actually backed away from the oven after he took a peek inside because they grew a fairly alarming amount.  They deflated a little bit as they cooled, but with some leftover strawberries and raspberries they tasted great.  Light, airy, and crunchy exteriors, but also rich and pudding-like on the inside.  We’ll do these again.

And for the last round of lunch cookies before the summer peregrinations?  These spectacular &$%ers.  Brown butter chocolate chip cookies, from Food and Wine this month.  No real secrets, here, just brown the butter before it gets creamed with the requisite sugars.  Small detail, huge difference.  Even though the rest of the recipe is basically a simple Toll House cookie, the browned butter adds a really nice nuttiness and some serious color.  The dough sits overnight, which I’m guessing autolyses the flour nicely.  And, helpfully, the recipe calls for a full quarter-cup scoop of batter per cookie.  I’ve been more economical with the portions this year, but what the hell.  O reports that they’re watching videos every day in at least a couple of classes, so if teachers are calling it a year, I say add sugar-and-carb madness to the soup of spring-driven tween hormones.  A full quarter cup it is.  “When I opened my lunchbox,” O said, “I thought it was a hamburger patty.”  Total win, and soooper tasty.  They’d better eat all of them before they go to their mom’s place.

Not sure how we’ll top those, dessert-wise, but I’m thinking an almond cake would be appropriate given the looming departure for Italy…


decaf mocha

March 23, 2011 Comments Off on decaf mocha

Now that O has discovered decaf mochas, she can’t drink them fast enough.  We did homework at the local cafe yesterday afternoon, and our usual waitress came over and had her chat with the kids–how was spring break, what do you have for homework, etc.  Then she took out her order pad, and O casually threw the decaf mocha bit at her.  The waitress looked right at me and I shrugged.  “Just make sure it’s actually decaf,” I said.  Or I’m leaving her here for the afternoon.

K expressed mild concern at this new habit.  “It’s like a gateway drug,” she said last night.

“Yeah, but it’s a gateway drug to coffee,” I said.  “Which isn’t so much a drug as a religious sacrament for us.  So it’s kind of sharing a family tradition.”

O doesn’t seem any more wired than usual.  And track season starts Thursday, so she’ll have someplace to burn the extra calories and energy.  But I do have visions of her ordering doppio espressos next spring in Rome and the Polizia hauling me away on child endangerment charges…

brush up your shakespeare

January 31, 2011 Comments Off on brush up your shakespeare

The girl texted me this afternoon while I was picking up C to say that she was fine, but tired, and could we cancel her riding lesson today?  I said sure, particularly since there’s a fresh inch of snow on the ground, with a layer of ice underneath, and even I wasn’t keen to drive up north of town, terribly.

So we get home, and here she is, sitting in the Eames chair, reading.  What, you might ask?  Her latest project.  My folks gave us their Yale Shakespeare collection last year, and we have it prominently displayed in the living room.  Yesterday I saw Midsummer Night’s Dream sitting on the coffee table and was all ready to tell the kids not to mess around with it–valuable family heirloom, old books, yadda yadda.  Then I noticed the bookmark.  Oh.  My.  God.  The girl is reading Shakespeare with no prodding from parents or teachers.

“I like Puck,” she said.

“Of course,” I told her.  “Everyone likes Puck.  Shakespeare’s a little tough to understand, but he’s worth the effort.”

“That’s what the footnotes are for, Dad.”

Righty-ho.  But then, just as I’m getting set to download Stanford’s application for their Comp. Lit. program, she says, “Oh, by the way.  My eye isn’t red because I’ve been crying.  It’s red because I poked it with a Kleenex lotion tissue.”

The boy, meanwhile, weighed his backpack when he got home.  “I have ELEVEN POUNDS of homework tonight.”

Even without riding, we’re saying the hell with it and going out tonight.  Olde Main, where I can get a good slab of salmon.  We’ll give the stove a rest.

amatriciana and movie night

January 30, 2011 Comments Off on amatriciana and movie night

We kept dinner simple tonight.  O, having missed out on french toast for breakfast, demanded equal time.  I had anticipated precisely such score-keeping behavior, and held back exactly half of the batter for just this request (I’m getting kind of good at this part of things).  The boy and I did an amatriciana sauce with some whole wheat pasta.  I had thought the change in noodles would be an issue, but he seemed fine with them, and we’ll probably do them again as they were tasty and marginally healthier.

Amatriciana is a really Roman sauce–simple, very quick, big flava.  Fry up some pancetta, throw some onions into the fat, dump in some tomatoes and cook them down until everything is saucy.  Twenty minutes if you do it right, and the result is onions, bacon, and tomatoes–and nothing else.  Easy to make after spending an hour getting home on the notorious Roman bus system, and something we ate and made while over there.

The problem, of course, is that the boy doesn’t like bacon.  I thought I could sneak it in, but as soon as I started frying it the gig was up and he was standing by the stove begging me to let him off the hook.  It’s OK, I told him.  You take the bacon out, fry up everything else, and then put the bacon back in.  I’ll leave yours out, and put it on my plate instead.  Everyone wins–no bacon for C, twice as much bacon for Dad.  He was cool with that.

I made half a batch, a bit chagrined that we had a refrigerator full of pudding from this afternoon’s adventures.  The problem with doing this, I’ve discovered, is that you forget you’re making half a batch at least once when you’re assembling the ingredients.  In this case?  Hot pepper flakes.  The boy took a bite and said it was good but salty.  I dove in and suggested maybe “spicy” was the word he was after.  “Yeah,” he said.  “This is more like Mexican pasta.”

“Oh,” said O, “speaking of that, can we have spaghetti tacos one night?”

“Spaghetti tacos,” I said, “where did you come up with that?”

“A Disney show we watch,” she said.  “Doesn’t it sound good?”

“No,” I said, “but we’ll make them sometime.”

Calvin thought I should keep the spice level up the next time we make this, so we’ll make a note in the cookbook.

It was my night to pick for movie night tonight.  Last week I got shafted because O’s pick on Thursday ran long (Seabiscuit, which I liked more than I thought I would).  A couple of weeks ago, the kids both agreed on Osmosis Jones, which just might have been the worst movie I’d ever seen, about kids who take an accidental trip into their father’s (still living) body.  “It’s awesome, Dad!” they told me.  “We watched it in science class!” C said.

“You watched a Chris Rock movie in science?” I said.  “This is a total rip off!   It’s an old Isaac Asimov sci-fi story, and they made a really awesome film of it back in the 60s.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I’d seen it in science class back in fifth or sixth grade.  Apparently science teachers of all generations say the hell with it every so often.

Anyway, they were game, and even though the special effects were 1966-cheesy and the physics behind the miniaturization was a bit questionable for C’s taste, the kids were both totally into it.  It was longer than I remembered–two hours–so bedtime was a bit late, but it was worth it.  “Our only hope is to find our way out along the optic nerve!” is going to become one of our trademark lines, we’ve decided.  And the boy thought Raquel Welch was stunning, which was not entirely wrong.

glop on glop on glop

January 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Mom is an outstanding cook, and we were well fed as kids.  She managed to keep two varsity track runners alive and heavily carbed through high school, and I’m not sure we ever had a box of storebought cookies in the house–they were always homemade.  Not to mention fresh-baked bread and muffins.  She also taught us enough kitchen skills to get through college in style, a lot of which are coming back.

So she sent me the recipe the other day for a dish my brother and I remember–fondly, believe it or not–as “glop on glop on glop.”  It is as follows:

“rice on the bottom, then canned corn, then ground beef, then tomato sauce, then cheese on top.”

I’m not going to try this one on the kiddos just yet.  But since I’m feeling slightly guilty about last night’s takeout dinner it’s comforting to know that apparently even Mom had evenings where she just said the hell with it.

(Hi, Mom…and thanks for the recipe!)

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