Search This Blog

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake


Most flourless cakes are heavy and dense, but this one is light and airy. Like a mousse, its fluffy texture comes from whipping the eggs and cream before folding them into the batter. There are some extra steps involved, but the results are truly worth the effort. It may be the best chocolate cake I've ever made.

And as far as desserts go, because it contains antioxidants and protein, it's free of grains, and it's sweetened with just a little bit of honey, this cake is one of the healthier choices. I served it with a simple and healthy raspberry sauce but it would also be good with freshly whipped cream.

This cake calls for a whole pound of dark chocolate. Be sure to use a good one, because the finished product will only be as good as its ingredients.

1 lb (16 oz) dark chocolate, 70% or darker
Butter to coat the baking dish
6 eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup espresso
1/4 cup rum
1 cup heavy cream

Place a medium glass or stainless steel mixing bowl and the whisk you'll use to whip the cream in the freezer to chill.

Warm the chocolate slowly in a covered double boiler over low heat.

While the chocolate melts, preheat the oven to 350F and prepare a 9" by 7" glass baking dish. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom, then coat the inside of the dish and both sides of the parchment paper with butter. Place the prepared baking dish inside a larger baking dish that you will use for a water bath. Set it aside and put some water on to boil.

Add the eggs, honey and sea salt to a large mixing bowl. Whip them for several minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally, until the mixture increases in volume and becomes silky, foamy, and thick enough to form ribbons when drizzled from a spoon. Take your time with this step, but don't over-beat the eggs either.

Once the chocolate has melted, whisk in the espresso and rum. Once smooth, pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and fold them together until almost combined.

In the chilled bowl from the freezer, using the chilled whisk, beat the cream until it increases in volume and forms soft peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the chocolate and egg mixture, until it is just combined. Do not fold the batter more than you need to.

Pour the cake batter into the buttered baking dish. Pour boiling hot water in the larger baking dish to create a water bath around the cake, but take care not to add any water to the batter. Transfer the ensemble to the oven.

Bake it for about 1 hour, until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and allow the chocolate cake to cool to room temperature inside the water bath.

Once cool, or still a little bit warm, use a knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the sides of the baking dish. Invert the baking dish onto a serving platter and remove the parchment paper. Cut the cake and serve it with a Simple Raspberry Sauce or freshly whipped cream.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wild Rice Pilaf with Spinach and Shiitake


This simple side dish can accompany a wide variety of other courses. I served it with grilled wild salmon, but it would also pair well with grass-fed beef, venison, duck, turkey or chicken. Or make it part of a vegetarian feast.

1 cup dry wild rice, cooked*
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
6 large shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced (reserve the stems for stock)
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt
1 cup thawed and drained frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup pine nuts, raw or toasted in a dry skillet over low heat
Ground peppercorn

* To cook the wild rice, pre-soak it if you have time then simmer it in a generous amount of water with a pinch of sea salt until tender but not mushy, and drain. The individual grains of rice should not have all split open and they should have a tender but still-chewy texture.

Warm the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté the onion until starting to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook until they become tender.

Grate in the garlic and stir until it becomes aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in a pinch of sea salt, then add the pine nuts and spinach, breaking apart the clumps of leaves as you drop them in. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking until the mixture is hot.

Serve immediately or cover and set aside for up to 2 hours. If you are making it further in advance, transfer it to the fridge once it cools to room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Urfa Biber and a Stunning Spice Blend

Aged Balsamic Salt, Hiwa Kai Lava Salt, Harissa, Vintage Merlot Salt, Tea Malsala, Urfa Biber

On her recent visit, my good friend and colleague Dr. Patti Kim brought me some stunning spices. One was completely new to me and now it's a favorite:  urfa biber.

"Biber" is the Turkish word for pepper and this one is cultivated in the Urfa region of Turkey. The chili is sun-dried by day and wrapped tightly by night, so it retains natural oils and stays soft and moist. It has a beautiful deep red-purple color (almost black) and tastes fruity and slightly sweet, like a raisin. It's also smokey and mildly spicy, with a hint of chocolate.

Now that's a winning combination.

Urfa biber is the star ingredient in this unique seasoning blend. I used it as a dry rub to season grass-fed beef, but it would also be good with lamb, venison or wild salmon. Vegetarians can use it to season grilled tofu triangles and it can also be incorporated into marinades, sauces, soups and stews (like Three Alarm Chili).

Urfa biber is available at Kalustyan's in New York City and Spice Station in Los Angeles.

Urfa Biber Seasoning Blend

1 part urfa biber, crushed or ground
1 part mixed peppercorns, or substitute black peppercorns
1 part sea salt
1/2 part cumin seeds (or 1/2 part ground cumin)
1/2 part freshly ground dried rosemary leaves

Grind all ingredients in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle until sufficiently fine.

Use immediately or store in a labeled, air-tight container for future use.

Grass-Fed Fillet Steak with Urfa Biber Seasoning

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tempeh Burgers with Coconut and Cilantro


Coconut, cilantro, ginger and garlic work so well together.
You may not expect to find these flavors in a veggie burger,
but here they taste just right.

I based this burger on tempeh because I wanted a patty high in protein. I love the chewy texture of tempeh and because it's a fermented food, it promotes good digestive health.

This recipe may appear aggressively seasoned, but because the base ingredients - tempeh and raw sunflower seeds - don't have a lot of flavor on their own, they are best paired with a good amount of aromatic ingredients. I love cilantro and used a whole bunch (it was on the small side) but if you don't love cilantro, you can use less. Or substitute parsley or basil or fresh jalapeno.

Some home-made veggie burgers can crumble and fall apart, but these patties hold together well. Ground coconut is not only a great binder but also a good source of healthy fat.

The uncooked mixture will be stiff, but it will be easy to work with. Sautéed in a little extra virgin olive oil, the patties become crispy on the outside, tender and chewy on the inside.

Which is exactly what I want from a veggie burger.

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup roughly chopped red onion
1 bunch roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems
4 garlic cloves or more, smashed
8 oz tempeh (cultured soybeans and brown rice), chopped or crumbled
1 tsp freshly grated ginger, or more 
1/4 to 1/2 tsp sea salt
Ground peppercorn
2 eggs
2 tbsp raw, cold-pressed sesame oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut flour
1 to 2 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil  or coconut oil
1 lime

Add the sunflower seeds, onion, cilantro and garlic to a food processor. Pulse and purée until finely chopped.

Add the tempeh, ginger, sea salt and peppercorn and pulse until finely chopped.

Add the eggs, sesame oil and 1/4 cup of coconut flour. Pulse to combine and then evaluate the texture. If it's too wet, add more coconut flour. Purée until well mixed and homogenous, or if you prefer more texture in your burger, pulse until just combined.

Form the mixture into balls, then flatten the balls into patties.

To cook, warm the olive or coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the tempeh burgers and sauté until golden brown on one side. Flip the burgers and cover the skillet. Cook until they have browned on the other side. Squeeze half the lime over the burgers and cut the other half into wedges. Serve the tempeh burgers  immediately, with the lime wedges on the side.

I placed my patty atop a salad with plenty of vinaigrette, so sauce wasn't necessary. If you are going to put yours in a sandwich, add a dollop of real mayonnaise or whole milk plain yogurt, or a drizzle of sesame oil.

These patties can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for future use.

Makes 6 to 8 patties

Vegan Variation:

Omit the eggs. Leave out the coconut flour initially, until you assess the moisture of the mixture. Add the coconut flour accordingly. Garnish with sesame oil instead of mayonnaise or yogurt.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Grass-Fed Ribeye with Peppercorn Sauce


Thinly sliced, this 1-pound ribeye could easily feed four people when served with an appetizer and a generous portion of broiled asparagus on the side.

Steak au Poivre sounds complicated, but it's surprisingly easy. Just season your steak, sautè it to perfection, and then, while it rests, make a quick pan sauce. The sauce should be minimal and only used as a condiment. It will be rich and highly seasoned, so you'll only need enough to drizzle over the top.

The secret to a good steak is seasoning it in advance (24 to 48 hours if you can) and allowing it to come to room temperature before you cook it. I love a good ribeye, but you can use another cut if you wish. If you don't have cognac, you can substitute white vermouth.

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 grass-fed ribeye steak, seasoned with sea salt and plenty of freshly ground peppercorn, at room temperature
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup cognac
1 tbsp cream

Warm the olive oil in a medium sautè pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the steak and cook until browned on one side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip it over to brown on the other side and cook it to your desired doneness (about 5 minutes more for medium rare, depending on the thickness of the cut).

Transfer the perfectly-cooked steak to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Reduce the heat  to low. Add the garlic to the sautè pan, stir and cook until it becomes aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the cognac and stir to incorporate any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced by about half, then add the cream. Continue cooking until the cream warms up, but don't allow it to boil. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Slice the steak and serve it immediately, with the peppercorn sauce drizzled over the top or served on the side.