Sunday, May 15, 2011

BBQ Kale Chips

I'm not very proud of my special ability of downing a whole (large) bag of potato chips. I've mentioned before that my weakness is salt. I get a pretty strong craving for salt daily, hence my love for chips. However, I have tried to cut back for 2011. No more large bag of chips for me! So I was really excited to try this kale chip recipe from one of my favourite lifestyle blog Sterling Style.

Bowl of kale chips

BBQ Kale Chips
Adapted from My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow, via Sterling Style.
I first tried this with salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. I then went looking for Cajun seasoning but could only found a spicy mesquite. I very much prefer the mesquite to salt.

* a bunch of kale
* olive oil
* spicy mesquite seasoning, seasoning of your choice or simply just salt

Thoroughly clean the kale leaves.
Dry the leaves - I used a salad spinner.
Cut the leaves off from the thick stem.
Tear the leaves in small 1-2" pieces.
Place the kale pieces in a large bowl.
Drizzle with olive oil, while mixing the leaves so they get coated evenly.
Season lightly with your choice of seasoning or salt. (Do this carefully. I over-salted my first two attempts. It may seem like a lot of kale but they shrink down to nothing.)
Spread on two parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes or so at 375F (I switch the baking sheets halfway through), or until the leaves are dried out and crunchy - if you leave them too long, they become brown and slightly bitter.

Kale Pieces of kale

The kale chips did a great job of satisfying my craving for salt. The kale gets a really crunchy texture too. Kale has a pretty distinctive taste and I wasn't sure I was going to get past it. These kale chips have really grown on me and are addictive! I now have a new ability: eating a whole bag of kale chips!

Crunch and saltiness without the guilt!

Another healthy snack:
* Roasted Chickpeas

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nigella's Nutella Cake

A while back, I read Sweet Artichoke's take on Nigella Lawson's Nutella Cake. First of all, I have mixed feelings about Nigella. I started out really liking Nigella, a beautiful woman making simple recipes. Then, with Nigella Express, encouraging the use scissors instead of chopping with a knife, it seemed she was bringing oversimplification to a ridiculous level. Having said all of this, this recipe really appealed to me because 1) it involves Nutella (I'm a sucker for Nutella and I always look forward to spending time with the empty container making sure it's really clean...) and 2) it's simple! Not only that, but it was a big hit with my friends!

Nutella Cake

Nigella's Nutella Cake - Serves 8

Adapted from Nigella Lawson.
Since I made the recipe a while ago, I'm not sure changes I made were deliberate or not, such as dipping the hazelnuts in the ganache first (I think deliberate) and using 10% cream instead of whipping cream (that was definitely not deliberate and caused my icing not to be as thick as it should have been).

For the cake:
* 6 large eggs, separated (at room temperature)
* pinch of salt
* 125g (½ cup or 1 stick) soft unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
* 400g Nutella (1 jar)
* 1 Tbsp Frangelico, rum or water
* 100g ground hazelnuts (I ground them myself, skin on because I couldn't find them skinless)
* 100g dark chocolate, melted (microwaved or over simmering water)

Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter and Nutella together, and then add the Frangelico, egg yolks and ground hazelnuts.
Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of egg white, which you can beat in as roughly as you want, before gently folding the rest of them in a third at a time.
Line a 9" springform pan with parchment paper.
Pour into the prepared tin and cook for 40 minutes or until the cake's beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on a rack.

Nutella and butter Making the batter Adding the egg whites Ready to bake
Making the batter: (1) mixing the Nutella and butter, (2) adding the egg yolks and ground nuts, (3) adding the egg whites and (4) in the springform pan, ready to bake.

For the icing:
* 100g hazelnuts (I couldn't find skinless ones and it was too much effort to peel)
* ½ cup 35% cream
* 1 Tbsp Frangelico, rum or water
* 125g dark chocolate

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until the nuts are golden-brown in parts: keep shaking the pan so that they don't burn on one side and stay too pallid on others.
Transfer to a plate and let cool. (This is imperative: if they go on the ganache while hot, it'll turn oily.)
Over a simmering pot of water, add the cream, liqueur and chopped chocolate in a bowl, and heat gently.
Once the chocolate's melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency to ice the top of the cake.
Unmould the cooled cake carefully, leaving it on the base as it will be too difficult to get such a damp cake off in one piece.
Ice the top with the chocolate icing, and dot thickly with the whole, toasted hazelnuts (I dipped them in the ganache first and also iced the sides).

If you love hazelnuts or Nutella (they go hand in hand, don't they?), this is the cake for you. I liked the added texture of the ground hazelnuts. It is a flourless cake, so it is dense and very moist. It's definitely a recipe I will repeat (maybe with shortening for my mom).

Cake before icing Slice of cake
Before icing the cake and a slice of cake (I didn't take pics when we cut the cake so that's a leftover piece...).

For other hazelnut related recipes:
* Lemon Hazelnut Tiramisu
* Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fried Polenta and Mushrooms

I know I wrote that I would be better at updating my blog. Unfortunately, my laptop got a virus and was down for a few weeks. Waah-waah! But I hope May will be my more successful month in an unsuccessful 2011. So a few weeks (months?) back, I invited a couple of friends over for lunch before we headed to the home show to see Sarah Richardson (I'm a big fan of all of Sarah's HGTV shows and her design style). I decided to attempt making fried polenta and served with mushrooms. It was easy and quite successful!

Fried Polenta and Mushrooms

Fried Polenta and Mushrooms - Makes 8 triangles

Adapted from Honest Fare.
While I liked that the original recipe has mushrooms in the polenta, I wanted to serve a mushroom sauce over the polenta triangles.

For the polenta:
* ½ cup cornmeal
* 2 cups water
* salt to taste
* pepper to taste
* ¼ cup Parmesan

Bring 2 cups of water to an almost boil in a large pot.
Lower heat and slowly add ½ cup of polenta while stirring so it doesn’t clump (this is an important step and caused me to throw out my first batch because I felt there were lumps).
Stir until polenta is creamy and begins to thicken.
Add salt (start with a ¼ teaspoon and add more to taste) and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Continue cooking and stirring for about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Line 9" x 9" pan with parchment paper.
Spread polenta evenly across using back of a spoon or spatula.
Cover with another sheet of parchment paper.
Flatten, smooth and form nice edges by gliding your hands across top of parchment paper. Put in fridge to cool for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
Once a solid polenta slab has formed, cut out the cakes into squares, triangles, circles or whatever shape desired.

adding cheese to the cornmeal
polenta Polenta triangles
Preparing the polenta.

For the mushrooms:
* oil
* 1 shallot, diced small (or ½ onion)
* 2 handfuls of your favourite mushrooms, sliced
* 2 thyme sprigs
* Marsala wine (optional)
* salt and pepper
* cream

In a large saucepan, heat up the oil on medium heat.
Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and thyme leaves.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add marsala wine if using.
Add a bit (or more to make it saucier) of cream.
Once the mushrooms are cooked, set aside.

Putting everything together:
Coat bottom of pan in olive oil and heat to medium high heat (it has to be high enough or it will stick).
Place a cake on the pan and DON’T move it.
Let it fry for 2-3 minutes per side untouched.
Flip and repeat.
Drain on paper towels.
Top with mushrooms.

Frying polenta
Frying the polenta.

I would definitely make this recipe again and would consider making small dainty portions to serve as an appetizer. I still really like the idea of mushrooms in the polenta and would try that next time. While mushrooms is often served on polenta, so many other vegetables, such as asparagus could also be served on top.

Fried Polenta and Mushrooms
A delicious vegetarian dish!