Hot Fudge Sauce

How much do I love chocolate? To borrow from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet Number 43: “Let me count the ways. I love it to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.”

No jar of hot fudge from the supermarket is enough to fill that space. That’s why I make the sauce for my ice cream sundaes about a quart at a time.

It is easy to warm and drizzle over ice cream or put into milkshakes or pour over bananas or just eat off the spoon. Yummy!

Hot Fudge Sauce

2 cups heavy cream
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon fine salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken in small pieces
1 cup sifted high-fat Dutch-process cocoa like Droste (sift, then measure)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In medium saucepan, combine cream, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and let sit 1 minute. Whisk to completely incorporate. Add cocoa and whisk until no lumps remain.

Return pan to low heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, about 20 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Serve warm.

Store in a mason jar in the refrigerator. To reheat sauce, microwave a small portion, about 30 seconds until warm.


Blueberry Sourdough Pancakes

Both Michelle and I love pancakes and I found a good recipe for using sourdough discard in the NY Times that just needed a little tinkering to make it perfect. I added blueberries to hers and chocolate chips to mine. As I liked hers better, that’s what I’m posting here.

The sourdough sponge creates light pancakes with good flavor. What a lovely way to start the day!

Blueberry Sourdough Pancakes

For the overnight sponge:
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

For the batter:
1 large egg
¼ cup melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup blueberries

Place the unfed sourdough starter in a large bowl and add the buttermilk, flour and sugar. Stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rest overnight at room temperature.

When you are ready to cook, whisk the egg, melted butter and vanilla extract together in a small bowl, then add to the rested sponge. Whisk the salt and the baking soda into the batter and mix to combine.

Pour ⅓ cup batter onto a preheated, buttered griddle. Sprinkle on five or six blueberries. Flip the pancakes when the edges look dry and they are golden on the bottom. Brown the other side.

Serve immediately or hold in a 200 degree F oven until all the pancakes are made.

Lemon and Caper Lentils

We are having salmon for dinner tonight and I decided we’d have lentils with the filets. My recipe for salmon is HERE – don’t worry if you don’t grill, the recipe works just as well when baked for 15 – 20 minutes in a 375 degree F oven instead.

This side dish is easy to make while you prepare the rest of the meal and, since lentils pack a punch of protein, fiber and minerals like iron and folate, you’re getting a terrific health benefit from adding them to your diet. Perfect for when you’re feeling tired and run down from a busy Mardi Gras season or the latest political news!

The lentils are full of earthy goodness with a fresh taste from the lemon and capers and offer a lovely bed for the fish.

I hope you make some for dinner soon!

Lemon and Caper Lentils

2 ½  cups water
1 cup lentils
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In 2-quart saucepan, combine water, lentils, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain lentils and return to pan; cover to keep warm.

In a skillet, add onion and the rest of the salt and cook 10 minutes or until golden. Add broth and capers; heat to boiling. Boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add lentils to skillet and heat through. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice.

Chocolate Praline Cream Cheese Frosting

I had a craving for carrot cake cupcakes (the only way I like carrots!) but I also really wanted a hit of chocolate, so I’ve updated my earlier recipe with a tasty alteration. This praline cream cheese frosting will go on more baked goods, too.

Check out the original recipe for the cupcakes here HERE.

I replace 2 teaspoons of the vanilla extract with 2 teaspoons of Praline Liquor. It really raises the frosting to the next level, with a heady perfume of pecans.

These updated carrot cake cupcakes are very, very good.

Chocolate Praline Cream CheeseFrosting

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
½ cup good quality cocoa (I used Droste)
4 teaspoons vanilla extract (or substitute 2 teaspoons Praline liquor)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Add all ingredients, except nuts, into a medium bowl and beat until fluffy. Stir in the nuts. Spread frosting on top of each cupcake after it has cooled.

Ham Bone Lentil Soup

Making soup with a ham bone is like winning the frugal lottery. Once you’ve had a lovely meal with the ham, now you get an awesome soup with the leftovers. I got this ham bone courtesy of Michelle’s family. There was lots of meat left on, so the soup was extra meaty and delicious.

I make this soup the stock way, meaning I cook the lentils until tender in lots of water with a carrot, some onion and celery. After an hour of simmering, I discard the veggies that have given up their flavor and add in freshly sautéed vegetables and some seasonings to finish the soup for the last 30 minutes of cooking. This way the final dish doesn’t have tired, mushy vegetables and the soup liquid is rich and delicious.

Adding a splash or two of vinegar at the end brightens the dish immensely. I used Steen’s cane vinegar but red wine vinegar is a very good replacement.

The house smells wonderful after the soup has been simmering for a while and the soup itself tastes even better than it smells. Very much the perfect dish after a damp, cold wintery day of Carnival parades (for a complete schedule of Mardi Gras parades, click HERE).

Throw me something, Mister!

Ham Bone Lentil Soup

3 slices streaky bacon, chopped fine
1 ham bone or ham hock – the meatier, the better
1 lb dried lentils, rinsed
8 cups water
small onion, quartered
1 carrot
2 stalks celery
1 large bay leaf

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons good quality vinegar either cane or red wine
salt, to taste

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp.  Place the ham bone in the pot and brown slightly. Pour in 2 quarts water and the rinsed lentils. Place in the pot the quartered onion and a carrot and two celery stalks broken in half. Add in the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes or an hour until the lentils are starting to be tender.

Remove the ham bone and let cool slightly before cutting off the meat. Fish out the onion quarters, carrot and celery and discard.

In a skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onions until they are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Toss in the carrots and celery and sweat for just a minute or two. Stir in the black pepper and thyme. Scrape the contents into the pot with the lentils along with the meat from off the bone. Bring the pot back to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are fully cooked. Stir in the vinegar. Taste for seasoning and add salt as necessary.

Serve with bread (I made cornbread – recipe HERE).

Mediterranean Chicken with Couscous

I had been craving tzatziki and decided to do a Mediterranean style chicken dinner. I’m calling it that instead of Greek as I don’t recall ever having couscous in Greece. This is a pretty quick cooking recipe (although the tzatziki and marinade will take a few hours). Actual cook time is around 20 minutes.

My recipe for tzatziki can be found HERE and you only need to make it a couple hours in advance for the flavors to come together. It will be stronger the next day, so don’t go too crazy on the garlic (unless you really hate vampires).

A few crumbles of feta cheese would have gone nicely with this dish, too.

Stuff any leftover meat in a pita with some more tomatoes, a little lettuce and another dollop of tzatziki. Definitely food for the gods!

Mediterranean Chicken with Couscous

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Mediterranean Marinade:
1 tablespoon lemon zest
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ cup olive oil

1 cup couscous
½ cup of Kalamata olives
1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 recipe tzatziki

Slice the chicken into strips. Mix all of the marinade ingredients together and place the marinade and chicken in a zip top bag. Remove as much air as possible when sealing the bag and massage the marinade into the chicken. Set in the fridge for up to 4 hours.

Heat 2 cups of water to boiling. Place the couscous in a medium boil and pour the water over. You can use broth here for more flavor but water is fine. Cover and let stand for at least 5 minutes.

Heat a skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir fry the chicken until done, about 5 minutes per side.

Pit the olives and slice into quarters. Slice the cherry tomatoes into halves. Fluff the couscous and stir in the olives and tomatoes.

Place a couple of spoonfuls of the couscous on each plate. Add four strips of chicken and a healthy dollop of tzatziki and serve.

Eggs Poached in Grits

I’ve been craving creamy grits and runny yellow eggs and have hit on the perfect way to get them – poach the eggs in the grits as they finish cooking.

Don’t they just look delicious?

I think this would be the perfect hangover cure but, even without overindulging, they are very, very good.

Eggs Poached in Grits

1 ½ cups milk
½ cup water
dash salt
1 tablespoon butter
6 tablespoons grits (NOT Instant)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 eggs

Bring the milk, water, salt and butter to a boil. Whisk in the grits and continue to stir to get rid of any lumps. Cover and cook on low for 10 minutes. Stir well before adding in the cheddar cheese. Continue to stir until the cheese is melted and fully incorporated.

Crack the 4 eggs into the grits and replace the cover. Poach for 6-10 minutes depending on how well done you want the yolks.

Gently remove grits and eggs to serve.

Cast Iron Skillet Sourdough Pizza

It’s the new year and I’ve started it off by building a new starter. I’m using the King Arthur Flour method and it is good and healthy so I decided to use some of the discard for pizza.

Sourdough starter alone requires a long, slow proof but with a little boost from some active yeast, you can have lots of flavor in only about 4 hours. It can go longer so, if you want pizza for dinner, start the dough before you leave for work and it will be ready to go when you get home.

For home cooks without pizza ovens, I really like the cooking method from Bon Appetit that uses a cast iron skillet and a stove top step to make sure the crust comes out browned and crunchy. Of course, Michelle and I have modified it a bit.

The sourdough crust gave very good flavor and texture to a quite delicious pizza.

Cast Iron Skillet Sourdough Pizza

Sourdough Pizza Dough
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon active yeast
1 teaspoon cornmeal

Pizza sauce – dashes of basil, thyme and oregano plus a sprinkle of salt in a cup of tomato sauce heated in a saucepan over low heat. Taste after it is warmed and add more of whatever it is missing. If using a can of sauce, consider adding in a pinch of sugar to combat any metallic taste.

Toppings of choice – pepperoni, sautéed mushrooms and grated mozzarella cheese.

Stir sourdough starter before removing one cup. To it add 1/2 water, oil, salt, flour and yeast in a stand mixer and mix together until it forms a shaggy but sticky dough. Place in a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 2 to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F with a cast iron skillet inside.

Use a 9 inch pan for a thicker crusted pizza and and 10 inch for a thinner crust. Using your fingertips, press the risen dough into a rough circle to fit in the skillet.

When the oven is at temperature, remove skillet and drizzle olive oil over the bottom. Use a basting brush to coat the bottom and sides with oil. Sprinkle the corn meal in the bottom for an additional crunch. Carefully set the dough into the skillet, letting it slump around the sides. Beware of touching any of your skin to the sides as the skillet is very, very hot.

Place the skillet over an element on the stovetop set at medium high heat. Prick the bottom with a fork a few times. Once it starts to bubble, add a little olive oil and use the basting brush to coat the base of the pizza and the crust. Add a light sprinkling of kosher salt.

It is time now to build your pizza. We start with a light layer of tomato sauce. Then a generous amount of mushrooms, a generous amount of mozzarella cheese and sliced pepperoni. Placing the pepperoni on top of the cheese keeps the cheese from over browning in the oven, although you will need to blot the grease before serving.

Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Check the cheese. When it starts to go dark, the pizza is ready. Tap the crust edges to be sure – they will sound hollow. It may take 10 minutes more but watch it carefully.

Let stand for 5 minutes in the skillet before easing it out onto a cutting board. Wait another 5 minutes before slicing and serving.