Archive | January, 2012

Luxurious Chocolate Chip Brownies for Liz

30 Jan

Have you ever had a celebrity crush?  You know, the kind where you will watch (or dvr) every single episode, movie, or interview?  While this will surprise none of you, I find that most of my “crushes” tend to involve food personalities.  And right now I cannot get enough of Nigella Lawson.  She is effortlessly witty, and manages to create sumptuous and stress-free recipes. 

The inspiration for this recipe starts with premium grey sea salt and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I was dying to use both of these in a birthday treat for my co-worker Liz, and knew Nigella would steer me in the right direction.  The following recipe is tasty and muss-free.

Chocolate Chip Brownies with Grey Sea Salt (based on a recipe by Nigella Lawson)

  • 1 1/4 sticks of butter
  • 1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cups Godiva Dark Hot Chocolate mix
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of grey sea salt, plus 1 tsp
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chips
  • 1 tbs powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium-sized pot, gradually melt butter over low heat.  Once the butter is melted, add in the brown sugar and gently stir until both ingredients are combined.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and hot chocolate mix.  Add a pinch of the grey sea salt, and gradually add the dry ingredients to the pot of butter and sugar. 

Once all of the dry ingredients are combined with the wet mixture remove pot from the heat.  At this point your mixture will look a bit grainy and dry. 

In a another small bowl, whisk together the four eggs and the vanilla extract.  I’ll tell you one more time to take your pot off the heat and switch to a cool burner.  Now, pour your egg mixture into the pot and incorporate all of the ingredients.  If you did not remove the pot from the burner you may end up with an unappealing scramble at this point.  Add in your mini chips and stir until just mixed.

Line a 9 x 13 dish with foil, making sure to either spray or grease the foil with butter.  This will prevent the brownies from sticking to your dish (good one Nigella!).  Pour your chocolatey goodness into the dish and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.  It’s ok if these brownies are a bit gooey since we all know they taste best this way.  If you like yours minus the gu, just cook them a few minutes longer until a toothpick comes out clean.  Sprinkle with remaining sea salt and powdered sugar.  You can leave this step off, but why not go for gold and enjoy the extra flavor?  Liz is worth it and so are you!

Happy early birthday Liz!   Also, don’t hate me for keeping a few “reserve” brownies.  I simply couldn’t wait an entire day to sample them!  Picture me sneaking samples from the fridge Nigella-style ;).

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Basic Banana Bread

18 Jan

I love bananas don’t you?  Kinda sweet, filling and healthy.  Unfortunately, I rarely get through an entire bunch before they start to look like this.

Basic Banana Bread

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg beaten with a fork
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mash the melted butter and bananas together.  It’s ok to still have a few lumps but keep em small!  Afterwards beat one egg (I just used a fork to scramble) in a small bowl.  Add sugar, egg and vanilla to your banana mixture.  Sprinkle the baking powder and salt over the mixture and stir.  Add in your flour and incorporate it into the rest of the batter.  Now butter a 4×8 loaf pan and pour batter into it.  Bake the batter at 350 degrees for one hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of your bread. 

Waste not, want bread!  Plus it just happens to look absolutely adorable in my new cake pedestal.

Volt Review

16 Jan

Are you all enjoying this lovely three-day weekend?  I know I am!  It’s been so nice to have an extra day to relax after several days of events and errands.  It also gave me time to catch up on my blogging for Imperfectly Delicious and Pamela’s PunchAnd boys and girls, I have a rave review for you! 

First let me preface this review by saying I grew up in a family of foodies.  My parents always used fresh ingredients in the kitchen and on the grill.  Which makes me appreciate restaurants like Volt, who really focus on using seasonal produce and local farmers.  That might make me sound snobby (my nose is in the air as I type), but I think you’ll all agree that at least 90% of the time fresh food just tastes better.  All of this is to say that my family was pre-disposed to like Volt for this reason, oh and because of the unbelievably positive press surrounding the restaurant. 

My family arrived about 30 minutes early to the restaurant, shocking given DC traffic on a holiday weekend.  The friendly hostess team took our coats and seated us immediately in a simple and chic dining room.  The dining room had cream-colored artistic lights, bright white table cloths, and vivid orange menus.  The multiple servers brought us drink and wine menus and enthusiastically described the artisanal cocktails.    I was freezing, so ordered a Hot Buttered Rum and my parents both settled on the EnclaveBoth drinks packed a punch and warmed us up quickly!

We stalled and snacked on house-made bread sticks dusted with fennel pollen, as we waited for my sister to arrive.  The servers were pleasantly patient and didn’t rush us in the slightest.  Once she arrived one of our servers (we had many) described the menu ordering options in detail.  At Volt you can either order a seven course protein-based tasting menu, a seven course produce-based tasting menu, or a four course menu that combines the two.  Our table opted for the four course tasting menu.

My first dish was the Oyster, Smoked Potato, Truffle and Bacon chowder.  This deconstructed soup was creatively displayed, and once combined, all of the ingredients formed the best chowder you ever ate.  Light and creamy with pleasant bite from the potatoes.

My second course was a recommendation from a friend.  I ordered the tangy Goat Cheese Ravioli with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Parsley Root Ash, and Sage Foam The pasta was spectacular!  I would have probably left the restaurant happy just by ordering this one dish.  The goat cheese was tart and creamy, and the mushrooms and sage gave the dish a deliciously woodsy flavor.  If you go to Volt this dish is a must-order item.

At this point the restaurant sent over their Wine Director to assist us with the expansive list.  Jill enthusiastically guided us through the menu, and helped us to select the perfect bottle for our tastes.  I loved talking to her and listening to all of the stories behind the different wines. 

For my third course I went against the table and ordered the Pork Shoulder, Sunchoke, Onion, and Cabbage.  As you can see from the image above, this dish way exceeded my expectations in terms of types of pork on the plate.  I not only had a nice portion of the pork shoulder, but also some pork belly and a sparerib.  The onions were the perfect complement and added a bit of sweetness to the dish.  The rest of the table ordered the Lobster, which was also outstanding.  I sampled a bite because it looked so pretty!  The lobster was perfectly cooked with just a touch of sweetness

My fourth course was dessert (yay), and I selected the Chocolate Marshmallow with Caramel and Peanut Ice Cream.  Oh heavens, my mouth is watering just thinking of it now.  I loved the rustic look of the dish and the playful touch with the gourmet marshmallow fluff.  I wanted to lick the plate. 

I would have too if I wasn’t so busy staring at the gorgeous plates around me.  Check out my dad’s striking dessert of the Peppermint White Chocolate and Eggnog Gingerbread.  How clever to take traditional flavors from the Holidays and reinterpret the presentation to invoke thoughts of Spring.

Oh but we weren’t finished yet!  Our four-course meal also included Volt’s complimentary tray of sweet bites to round out the meal.  These included chocolate and coffee macarons, house-made gelee, a fennel marshmallow, and hazelnut espresso truffles.  Two trays were delivered for our table of four!

This meal was absolutely divine.  In fact, it doesn’t even seem fair to call it a meal, it was more of a dining experience.  This dinner ranked up with the top five meals of my life.  The food was superb, and Chef Bryan Voltaggio elevated classic flavors with his witty, artistic presentation.  I would also like to say the entire staff at Volt were knowledgeable and welcoming.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been rushed through a dinner, but they let us truly enjoy our meal at a relaxed pace.  Hands down the best service I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant.  Finally, I know that $80 can seem like a lot to spend on a four-course dinner.  Our dinner was actually more like a seven-course dinner, and included the four courses described above with the bread course (bacon brioche!), complimentary dessert bites, and house-made granola togo delivered with our check. 

My overall rating is an A+ for Volt. Truly inventive and delightful food and worth every bit of traffic.   Thanks to my fabulous family for the reservation, meal and company!

Perfect Birthday Meal

12 Jan

One of the most interesting books I’ve ever read was called My Last Supper, and it described some of the world’s most influential chefs and their final meal.   I’m fairly confident that today isn’t my last meal seeing as how it’s 8:15 pm, but thought it would be fun to apply the concept to my ideal birthday feast.

I was able to narrow it down to two dishes for each course based on local restaurants.  Feast your eyes on my ideal meal!

Appetizer Option One:  Duck Salad from Rustico

Appetizer Option Two:  Five Onion Soup from Brabo Tasting Room

Entrée Option One:  Lobster Mac & Cheese at Founding Farmers (ordered this for lunch today!)

Entrée Option Two:  Crab Cakes from Oceanaire

Dessert Option One:  Dessert Sampler at Birch & Barley

Dessert Option Two:  Pumpkin & Chocolate Cheesecake from Brabo

So there you have it!  Any of those items is an excellent start to my final feast, or in this case birthday festivities.  And you know what’s the best gift of all?!  I get to try Volt Restaurant tomorrow ;).

Zippy Orange Pound Cake with Orange Zest Glaze

11 Jan

Does anyone know what this week is?!  No guesses?  It’s my birthday week!  And last week was the one year birthday of Imperfectly Delicious.  Hooray!

I’ll spare you the song, but just know I’m humming it as I type.  To celebrate I decided to bake a cake.  I wanted something simple, but full of flavor to match the philosophy of this blog.  Easy and fun!  I found this fantastic recipe and, as usual, put my own stamp on it.

Orange Pound Cake with Orange Zest Glaze (based on a Gale Gand recipe)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup (for glaze later on)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, plus 1/3 cup (for glaze later on)
  • 1 tsp orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 6-cup loaf pan and line it with parchment or waxed paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.  This helps to break up any lumps and ensure  your ingredients are well incorporated.

Using a mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter. Afterwards add 1 cup of the sugar and blend. With the mixer running at low-speed, add the eggs one at a time.   The batter will be a very pale shade and be fluffy and light in texture.  Add in the vanilla and mix.

Gradually mix in small batches of the dry ingredients and the orange juice to the creamy butter mixture.  Mix over the lowest speed until just smooth.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out dry.  I baked mine for 50 minutes at 350 degrees and 15 more at 325 because the top of my loaf was dark in color.  

In the last few minutes of baking start to assemble your glaze.  Combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, orange zest and the remaining 1/3 cup orange juice until the sugar is dissolved.

When the cake is done, let cool in the pan 15 minutes (it will still be warm).  Run a knife around the sides of the pan.  Put a wire rack or silpat over a sheet pan with sides (to catch the glaze), and turn the cake out onto the rack.  Peel off the waxed paper.  It’s ok if a bit of the cake comes off on the paper, this will help the glaze soak into the cake.

Using a pastry brush or a spoon, spread glaze all over the top and sides of the cake and let soak in.  Make sure to use all of the glaze, including any glaze that dripped onto the sheet pan.  I put plastic wrap under mine to catch the spills (oops).

Let cake cool at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.  Serve at room temperature, in thin slices.

This cake is downright tasty!  It didn’t actually end up tasting much like orange, but in a pleasant turn of events, much more like a glazed doughnut.  The recipe just calls for sugar in the glaze, in the future I would use confectioner’s sugar/powdered sugar in place of the granulated.  This type of sugar made the cake a bit sticky.  Oh well, as we know no recipe is perfect every time.  Don’t let that intimidate you!  Keep working in the kitchen and let me know next time you make delicious treats!

Charming Charleston Part Deux

6 Jan

A belated Happy New Year!  As some of you may recall, I celebrated the New Year in style in Charleston with my best friends.  It was an impulse trip, because to me, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy a plane ticket on my friend’s iPhone.  Let’s just say I’m very susceptible to peer-pressure, and had too much fun last time I was in town to turn down a repeat trip.  Here’s a look at my meals last weekend. 

Saturday morning at Lost Dog Cafe:  Biscuits & Sausage Gravy, Cheese Grits , a Cinnamon Roll and a Pimosa.

I’m linking you back to my last post of the creamy sausage gravy and gritsThe pimosa was a pomegranate mimosa and perfectly tart.  The cinnamon roll, which we split, was awesome.  Not your traditional ooey gooey cinnamon syrup but still sweet and with lick the plate good frosting.

Great motto, great food, lots of cute puppies.  Solid winner in my book!

Most of Saturday was spent driving around and hanging out in the gorgeous 73 degree weather.  I was beat for my early morning flight and squeezed in a nap right before dinner and our New Year’s festivities.

Saturday dinner:  NY Style Pepperoni and Supreme Pizza from Andolini’s Pizza.  

Ohhhh yeah!  Think jumbo slice sizes but with the good greasy taste you’d expect from a NYC joint.  I put away a piece-and-a-half, and managed to stay full all night while we played at Roost.  I was also very glad to have my half piece leftover when we got home.  First bite of 2012!

Sunday brunch:  Fleet Landing with Peel & Eat Shrimp, Fried Green Tomato & Crab Salad Appetizer, and Poached Eggs with a Crab Cake over Grits and topped with Red Pepper Hollandaise.

Brunch was a delight!  Great food, good company and beautiful scenery.  My friends really talked to me, I swear. 

After brunch we spent the day at Red’s and then back for another nap!  We’re not old, we just really enjoyed ourselves on New Year’s Eve. 😉

Dinner:  Triangle with Avocado Spring Rolls and a Pork Belly topped Cheese Burger with Sweet Potato Fries and Apple Butter.

Mmm delicious fried and gloriously greasy food!  If you think my burger looks insane, check out my friend Mike’s meal.  He ordered a burger sandwiched between two grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches.

Another successful culinary journey through Charleston!  I think my friends and I did a great job of making the most of our meals (read over-indulging) considering the trip was just two days.

I’ll finally be back this week with some recipes.   Also here’s your reminder to book your reservations for Restaurant Week Jan. 9-15th.  I’ll be checking out the new Italian place Elisir.  Check out my post at http://www.pamelaspunch.com/elisir-ristorante-cocktail-primary/ for more info on their specialty cocktails and creative menu!