272
1131
469
N
ovember
30
Great Aunt Margaret’s Chocolate Frosting


Aunt Margaret (right) and my great grandmother, on my mother's graduation day from kindergarten. Their three vastly different expressions are curious, and priceless.


My son just celebrated his very first birthday.  I was naturally flooded with an enormous range of huge emotions.  But, instead of being very weepy and nostalgic for the entire month prior, staring at him constantly, willing time to stop, I instead funneled all of my sentimentalism into obsessing about his very first birthday cake.


This process was not unlike trying to make each precious decision about our wedding.  Would this be the best choice, that I will then look back on in a decade and remember with zero regrets and nothing but fondness?  Or even more, is this the best choice of all of the options I have entertained in my mind imagining this day for the last 3+ decades?


Of course, an impossible assignment.


But wanting it to be a perfect day and first cake experience for him, I pored over old family recipes scribbled in pencil on cocoa-powdered index cards.  My  first thought was my dad's carrot cake recipe.  It is spectacular.  But I kept looking, and came across again Aunt Margaret's Chocolate Frosting.  It is the perfect, dark, rich, everything your yellow birthday cake screams for recipe.  It is one of the top three recipes in our family's repertoire.  Certainly worthy of a first birthday party.


I then pictured him smashing his first piece of his first birthday cake into his face with his chubby hands, and pictured dark brown Jackson Pollock's covering the walls of my grandparents' condo.  (I also then remembered a first birthday I attended where the cake was red velvet, leaving the kid and high chair looking like something out of a slasher film.)


So opting for a more neutral hued confection, I finally settled on the dense-banana-cream cheese-miracle that is Amy's Bread's Monkey Cake, a cake so good a dear friend recently had it for her wedding cake.  Also, twelve years ago I lived right around the corner from the original Amy's Bread in Manhattan with my brother for a year, and it is a super special part of that neighborhood.


Ok, so what's the point?


The point is that he's one, and loved the cake, and mostly likely would have loved any cake.  I loved obsessing over what to make, baking it for him, whipping the frosting, and seeing him literally lick the plate.  I also loved that it was an opportunity to really go back to my cookbooks, my notes and my recipe cards and rediscover old favorites.


And work on something that I was excited to share with the people I love.  That, after all, is exactly why I cook.





Old Fashioned Dark Chocolate Frosting
By Catie Baumer Schwalb

This is my version of a classic homemade deep chocolate frosting recipe that has been handed down in my family for generations. Among other things, I have added a bit more salt to really give it a salted dark chocolate flavor.  Feel free to cut back on the salt, and adjust it to taste if that's not what you're looking for.  Either way, it is rich, moist, and wonderfully glossy.

3 ounces (3 squares) of unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 cup of sugar
4 ounces of unsalted butter
1 ½ cups whole milk
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla

In a heavy bottomed pot, gently melt the chocolate, stirring frequently.

When smooth, add all remaining ingredients, whisking vigorously to combine.

Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, continuing to whisk, to combine evenly. The mixture will thicken considerably once it reaches a boil.

Remove the pot from the heat, scrape the frosting into a bowl or container and allow to cool. Stirring from time to time will help it cool more quickly and evenly. The frosting will continue to thicken as it cools.

Frost or pipe as desired.

Note: Instead of vanilla, you can add other extracts or liqueur for a subtly different flavored frosting. Orange, hazelnut, almond and mint all work very nicely.





 


277
1048
537
N
ovember
19
Put it on Toast. 25 ways to start Thanksgiving.
Help!   Thanksgiving is 72 hours away and while you have been dog-earing cookbooks for weeks, shopped the weekend before, and even managed to avoid the elbow to your shoulder by the feisty octogenarian who was going to in NO WAY let you have the store's last quart of whipping cream (this actually happened to me in graduate school), you just realized that you totally forgot to plan for something to occupy your relatives while you get the food ready for the table.  And so inevitably they will end up equally split between hovering directly in your path in your tiny overheated kitchen or rehashing the recent election and whatswrongwiththiscountry requiring a last-minute rearrangement of the pilgrim place cards.  Again.

Oh, right, and you have overzealously planned an almost too complicated multi-course meal culled from your favorite food blogs, and have no time left in the schedule or room in the oven to make another darn thing.

So, put it on toast.  Or bread, or thick oat-y crackers or toasted wedges of pita.

Here are a bunch of ideas, some quicker than others, for holiday-worthy crostini.  If you have the time, or children with idle hands, these all look pretty assembled and arranged on a platter, particularly the repetition of the shape and colors.  However, if you are pressed for time, just put all of the elements on a platter in small bowls with a heap of sliced bread rounds and your guests will love getting all interactive.

If you can manage, you can slice say a baguette on a deep angle to make long elegant oval slices, maybe brush it with olive oil or rub it with garlic and toast it in a low oven on a cookie sheet.  Or grill it quickly to get nice grill marks.  But again, fresh sliced good crusty bread is great just as is.  Also check with local food markets to see if any have frozen par-baked baguettes that you can finish in the oven yourself.

Here are several ideas, but definitely come up with your own with what you have on hand.  Just try to mix tastes and textures.  Layer something creamy/mushy on the bottom so it all sticks to the bread, and maybe top with something crunchy or colorful, or fresh herbs.

Gobble gobble.

 




Good fresh ricotta (make your own!) + lemon zest + chopped parsley + pepper + olive oil

Ricotta + fresh sliced fig + honey

Ricotta + roasted red peppers + a basil leaf

Ricotta + Parsley Pesto (parsley, garlic, olive oil, salt)

Creamy gorgonzola + sliced green apple + honey + chopped pecans

Brie + apricot jam + a basil leaf

Goat cheese + mushroom duxelles (finely chopped mushrooms + shallots sauteed with butter, thyme and wine)

Goat cheese + kalamata olive tapenade (pitted olives, parsley, lemon zest & juice, 1 anchovy fillet and olive oil in a food processor)

Goat cheese + diced roasted beets + chopped toasted hazelnuts + parsley

Cream cheese + smoked salmon + thinly sliced cucumber + sliver of red onion + lemon zest

cream cheese + smoked trout + thinly sliced cucumber + sprig of fresh dill

warm lobster or crab meat + melted butter (particularly good on brioche or soft mini rolls)

crab meat + diced avocado + diced cucumber + diced fresh red pepper + lime juice + cilantro

olive oil drizzled on the bread + Avocado mashed with lemon juice + a few hot red pepper flakes

Avocado + shrimp-cilantro salad (chopped shrimp with cilantro pesto)

Edamame humus (shelled cooked edamame pureed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt)

Chickpea humus + thinly sliced marinated carrots or roasted cherry tomatoes (Ruth Reichl's hummus recipe is etherial.)

White bean humus (pureed white beans with olive oil, lemon, parsley + salt) + chard sauteed with garlic

Baba Ganoush + crumbed feta cheese + sliced roasted red peppers

spinach or chard sauteed with diced onions, when cool, mixed with crumbed feta and fresh dill

Generous spread of great butter + thinly sliced radish + sprinkle of sea salt (trust me!)

Rub toast with a halved fresh tomato top with thinly sliced jamon imberico or prosciutto

Romesco sauce + chopped grilled scallions

Thinly sliced rare roast beef + horseradish cream + watercress



And this roasted squash on toast recipe from Jean-Georges Vongerichten is next on my list to try.

 


237
975
156
J
une
20
Rhubarb and White Cherry Ice Pop


I'm back.

My hands have been very, delightfully full these last many months, but I feel like we are all finally starting to figure out a good rhythm together.  And being a mom is, well, utterly remarkable, and it is hard to not devour every minute.

Even with our full hands, we did manage to get our gardens in this year.  Even more square footage than last year, as I am more able bodied this summer and can actually do something.  More plants, more varieties, more of everything.  And so far it is all looking strong and healthy.  I cannot wait to cook with all of it.  I walk through the rows and see recipes everywhere.

I have also had my first food pieces and photographs in print, in the months since the baby has been born.  There is a beautiful one year old magazine in our area called Green Door, and I have been so honored to do pieces for their last three issues.

In the latest issue I have a piece on gourmet farmers' market popsicles.  Three great recipes, which we have been enjoying ourselves, very frequently, since the weather turned warm. (The magazine is on sale throughout the Hudson valley, in New York City, for download, as well as subscriptions.)

There was one other ice pop recipe that was gnawing at me as I was developing the recipes for the article: Rhubarb.  However, there was no rhubarb to be found to recipe test with in the spring when the piece was due.  So at last, with piles of ruby stalks covering market tables, I was able to give it a try.

Rhubarb is indeed sour, yet in a perfect, summer way.  It is almost always paired with strawberries to balance its tartness.  I opted instead for beautiful white cherries that were on the next market stand over.  The fresh in-season cherries gave the whole mixture a really mellow sweetness, and the combination with the very tart rhubarb results in a overall sour cherry flavor, which is one of my favorites.

The sugar amount below is just a guideline.  Certainly your cherries' sweetness will vary.  Taste the mixture and adjust to  your liking.  However, keep in mind that when frozen a good portion of the perception of sweetness will be deadened by the cold, so the mixture should taste a bit more sweet at room temperature than you are shooting for.

Happy summer.




RHUBARB AND WHITE CHERRY ICE POP

makes four three-ounce pops.

2 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced thin
1 cup white cherries, pitted and halved
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water

Wash the rhubarb and gently peel off some of the tough outer strands, much like peeling celery. Cut into thin slices.

Combine rhubarb, cherries, water and sugar in a small pot.  Simmer over medium-low heat for about seven minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the rhubarb is soft.

Allow the mixture to cool.  Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse until slightly pureed, but with some pieces of fruit still remaining.

Fill ice pop molds and freeze for at least six hours to overnight.

To unmold, briefly dip the bottom of the mold in a bowl of warm water.



 

 

 


617
1064
582
O
ctober
31
Pumpkin Seed Brittle

http://www.pitchforkdiaries.com/2011/10/31/pumpkin-seed-brittle/


If you are going to rot your teeth out with sweets on this Halloween, why not do it with a sweet, savory, nutty, homemade confection, that also makes use of the often discarded remnants of jack-o-lantern carving??

There are many recipes for pumpkin seed brittle out there, but most use the raw, hulled seeds (or pepitas).  Really wanting to use the seeds from my own carved pumpkin, instead of buying additional ones at the health food store, I did track down instructions to try to hull my own.  It can be done, but was not wildly successful, or worth the effort, in my opinion.

First you rinse off the seeds and thoroughly dry them out, which I did in a 250 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Then crack and smash the outer part of the seeds with a rolling pin, or in my case, a meat tenderizer.  Then, place all of the seeds in a bowl, fill with water, swish them around vigorously, and theoretically, the inner seed kernels will sink and the outer shells will float to the top.  Which did happen in my case, for about six of the seeds.  The rest didn’t really get smashed effectively or broke in half completely, and I found myself picking each seed from its shell—not practical when I needed at least a half cup.

So then, why not make brittle using the entire seed, which we eat anyway when making roasted pumpkin seeds?  Success!  And still getting to use our own seeds.  And much easier.  And the added bonus of ending up with a flavor almost identical to caramel corn, with some nutty seeds thrown in.  Cracker Jack!

So wishing you a very happy Halloween, and treat yourself to this treat very soon.  (and all winter long with any winter squash seeds.) (more…)


458
1069
415
O
ctober
20
Leek Bacon and Gruyere Tart


This frenchy-french-french tart has the lusciousness of fall written all over it.  Spectacular for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, it is also glorious with a crisp green salad.  And it freezes really well.  So with it almost taking as much work to make one as to make two, do just that and stock yourself with a fast food gift in your freezer for some bleak mid-winter eve.

This can of course be made vegetarian, and equally good, by omitting the bacon, and substituting two tablespoons of butter, for the bacon fat, for sauteing the leeks.



Leek Bacon and Gruyere Tart
by Catie Schwalb

makes one 9" tart.

(more…)


Older Posts >
{ welcome! }
Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

{ get in touch }


{ what's new }
September 12, 2015
August 19, 2013
August 15, 2013
August 13, 2013
August 1, 2013


{ favorites }


{ archives }


{ currently reading }