This is one of those recipes that is so well-loved I have a hard time putting it into words. Except to say I’m sorry for keeping it from you for so long. It’s one of the first successful cakes I ever made when I started cooking, using my Granny’s old springform pan (which is still in use, by the way).
Many flourless chocolate cakes contain ground nuts, but this cake gets its structure from cocoa powder and lots of eggs. So if you happen to be entertaining dinner guests who are allergic to nuts AND on the gluten-free bandwagon, look no further. And also, you might want to steer clear of these crackers.
The flourless chocolate cake is amazing all on its own or just dusted with cocoa powder, but I like it best with a tart raspberry sauce drizzled across the top. It creates a beautiful pop of color and flavor that is perfect for Valentine’s day, or any day.
It’s also ridiculously easy to make, but you don’t have to share that with your guests.
During the coldest days of the year, I make frequent trips out to the chicken coop. The hens are fine of course, they’re rated to about -20F (-30 if you speak Celsius), and a few of them will happily wade around in snow up to their egg-holes as long as the sun is shining — but the eggs freeze solid and explode if left in the nests for too long.
I’m nowhere near as cold-hardy as the chickens, but once I’m outside I marvel at the stark beauty of the icy yard and almost manage to forget about the cold.
In the end I’m always glad to be forced out into the elements, because it makes the house seem that much warmer when I come in.
Especially when I have a batch of these toasted anise cake slices fresh out of the oven. They make the house smell heavenly, and the crunchy texture (similar to biscotti) is perfect alongside a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea. Or a bowl of sorbet, when the days get warmer again.
These toasty cake slices are similar to biscotti, and are delicious with a hot cup of coffee or a bowl of lemon sorbet.
1 3/4 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds, finely crushed
mortar & pestle
8 1/2 by 4 1/2" loaf pan
Put rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350F. Lightly butter and flour loaf pan.
Crush anise seeds using mortar and pestle.
Sift together flour, baking powder, anise, and salt in a small bowl.
Beat eggs and sugar in a mixer bowl at high speed until tripled in volume, and thick enough to form a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to fall apart when beater is lifted (about 12-18 minutes)
Sift flour mixture over egg mixture in 3 batches, folding in each batch.
Gently stir in butter, and immediately pour batter into loaf pan and smooth top.
Bake until loaf is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto a cutting board (right side up) and cool for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Trim ends and cut loaf into 1/2-inch-thick slides. Arrange slices on a baking sheet and bake until undersides are golden brown, about 7 minutes. Flip and bake until the other side browns, about 5 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I don’t think I ever saw brussels sprouts on the dinner menu growing up, but I feared them nonetheless. Hearing my elementary school classmates describe being forced to eat them was enough.
So maybe it’s a good thing that my first memorable experience with brussels sprouts was a few years ago, when I was part of a CSA and one week found myself with a bunch of them still on the stalk. Fridge space was limited, so I cooked them immediately. And as it turns out, brussels sprouts are delicious! Especially when given a good dose of butter and garlic and a sprinkling of pine nuts to bring out their sweet, nutty flavor.
I’ve tried to grow them every year since, and always end up with big beautiful stalks but no sprouts (they’re hard to grow in Colorado but I’ll get the timing right, someday.) So I get them from the farmer’s market once in a blue moon, but usually I can only find sprouts that are flown in from California or Mexico. Friends on the West Coast, I envy you.
But if you find yourself in possession of some sprouts, these crunchy, buttery little bites are perfect as an appetizer with a cold beer. They rarely make it to the dinner table in my house (although they make a great side dish, when they do.) I’ve won over a number of sprout-haters with this recipe, and I like to think it’ll work the same magic on any picky eaters you happen to be feeding.
Good neighbors are a wonderful thing to have, and we’re lucky to have quite a few of them. But our friends across the street are the absolute best. They care for our animals when we’re away, they let us borrow their hatchet, and they even drop by with surprise deliveries of spring flowers and little custard tarts. And did I mention the rhubarb?
Today, I bring you a post about my very favorite vegetable: The humble artichoke.
I’ve loved artichokes for as long as I can remember. They’re a family favorite, and I suspect I got a taste for them before I even learned to walk.
So I’ve never not known how to eat an artichoke. Pulling the meat off the leaves with my teeth and scraping out the fuzzy choke is second nature to me. But to the uninitiated, the artichoke can be a confusing vegetable.
According to family legend, my grandpa was visiting my parents in the Bay Area, and dinner that night included his first artichoke. Amid the lively dinner conversation, he didn’t notice that everyone else was discarding the choke before they started eating the heart. Someone asked him how he was enjoying the artichoke, and through a mouthful of fluff he said “it’s a little hairy.”
So if you’re among the uninitiated, fear not. This handy guide will help you figure out which parts are delicious, and which are not. And hurry; artichoke season won’t be with us much longer.
While I generally like anything containing artichokes, I’m a purist when it comes to cooking them. I’ve never stuffed them, or deep fried them, or braised them. I always make them exactly the way my mom does: steamed, with lemon butter for dipping.
This is my tried-and-true method for cooking a perfect artichoke, every time. For me, nothing but lemon butter will do. But I know people who feel just as passionately about mayonnaise (blech) — so feel free to use whatever dipping sauce you like, I guess. Just don’t tell me about it.
2 large artichokes (look for artichokes that are heavy and without much browning on the stem)
2 tbsp salted butter
Fill a large pot with about 2" of water and set it to boil (Ideally, use one with a built in steamer/colander basket to keep the artichokes up off the burner.)
Rinse artichokes with warm water, turning over several times to flush out any dirt between the leaves.
Cut stems to about 1-1/2 inches in length. Some people also cut the thorns off the ends of the leaves; I don't.
When water boils, reduce heat to low and add artichokes along with a squeeze of lemon. Cover and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
Turn artichokes over using tongs, and try to pull out one of the outer leaves. If it holds firm, check it again in 8-10 minutes.
As the artichoke gets close to being done you'll be able to pull out a leaf with a little pressure, test it by using your teeth to scrape the meat off the bottom of the leaf. Initially it will be a little chewy, at this point start checking every 2-3 minutes. Be warned: Artichokes can go from done to overcooked very quickly, and there's nothing sadder than a mushy artichoke. Set a timer.
The artichoke is perfectly cooked when a leaf comes out easily, and the meat on the end of the leaves is al dente.
Remove artichokes immediately using tongs, carefully turning each upside down over the pot first to drain it.
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine butter the juice of 1/2 lemon, and a few dashes of salt. Melt in the microwave (~25 seconds) and stir, you'll want to taste it on a leaf and then add more lemon and salt until it's just right. (Since "just right" is different for everyone, I divide the butter into individual bowls and put lemons and salt on the table.)
Place a big bowl in the middle of the table for discards. Everyone will need a knife, a fork, and a spoon.
Discard the small outer leaves at the base of the artichoke, these will be stringy and not very tasty. Cut off the stem, for the same reason.
As you work your way up the outer leaves, dip these in lemon butter and use your teeth to scrape off the little piece of heart at the base. Toss the rest of the leaf, hopefully into the discard bowl and not the laps of your dinner companions (it happens.)
Keep eating until you get to the small purplish leaves, then use a spoon to carefully scrape those out and discard them (they will be very hot.)
Underneath, you'll see the fuzzy choke, use your spoon to scrape this out and discard it.
Now you're left with the heart -- the best part. Cut it into pieces and devour.