Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Middles



In my last entry, brazilian shrimp soup, I said that I was very concerned about how my dish was going to turn out. When first I saw this recipe, chocolate peanut butter middle cookies, I knew that it would take a phenomenal mistake on my part for them to not taste delicious. I found this recipe on Jane Maynard's blog This Week for Dinner. Thepioneerwoman.com and bunsinmyoven.com offer their own takes on the recipe. In addition to being a better chef than I am, Jane is also a better photographer. If you want to see some photos of how truly amazing these cookies can look, check out that link. Mine didn't turn out quite as pretty as her's, but they still tasted great.

I have to warn those of you interested in trying this recipe that it is very labor-intensive. This took me longer to prepare than any other cookie recipe I've made. That being said, the final product is well worth the effort.

Below are the original ingredients and directions recommended on other sites. My notes are included in italics.

Ingredients:

For the cookies:
1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
½ cups Cocoa Powder
½ teaspoons Baking Soda
½ cups White Sugar
½ cups Packed Brown Sugar
½ cups Butter
¼ cups Peanut Butter (I used Trader Joe's creamy unsalted peanut butter)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 whole Egg

For the peanut butter filling:
¾ cups Powdered Sugar
¾ cups Peanut Butter


Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the sugars, butter, and 1/4 cup of peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg. Slowly mix in the flour mixture. Set aside. (I found that the best way to mix this was simply to stir it a bit and then knead it together with my hands.)
4. For the peanut butter filling, combine confectioners’ sugar and 3/4 cup peanut butter. Beat together well. (Again, I found the best method for mixing was to stir a bit and then knead it by hand.)
5. Roll filling into 30 small balls. Try to keep the balls all the same size—around 1 inch.
6. For each cookie, use 1 tablespoon of chocolate dough and roll into a ball. It helps to flour your hands first. Squish the ball of chocolate dough flat and place a peanut butter ball in the center. Wrap the chocolate dough up and around the peanut butter ball to completely cover. (This was the really challenging part of the recipe. You can put in a lot of effort trying make them look perfect and making sure that absolutely no peanut butter spills out through the cracks, but it really won't affect the taste either way. I put in a lot of frustrating work making sure the first 10 or so I prepared were perfect, but eventually I decided it wasn't worth it. And in the end, the ones with peanut butter peeking out were just as tasty.)
7. Place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Dip the bottom of a glass into white sugar and use the cup to lightly flatten the cookie balls. (I had the same issues with this technique as described on Jane Maynard's blog. I found it was much easier to simply dip the cookie in the sugar and use the glass to smoosh it down.)

8. Bake for 7-9 minutes. When cookies are done, they should be set and slightly cracked. (Be careful not to overcook the cookies. I kept my first batch of cookies in the oven for 10 minutes, because they didn't seem quite set yet. They turned out a little bit dry, though still good. I only kept the second batch in for 8 minutes and they turned out much better.)


Results:
Though they were a lot of work these cookies turned out almost as well as I had hoped. They both looked and tasted delicious. Don't worry too much about making them look perfect. The creamy peanut butter filling goes great with the chocolate cookie outside. Some commenters on other blogs suggested adding a little salt with the sugar on top. I didn't try this, but I'm sure it would have added a nice extra dimension to the flavor.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

Brazilian shrimp soup is something I've never made before or even tried in a restaurant. This recipe is something that I stumbled across by accident while searching for something new to make and thought it sounded delicious.



This is the description included when the recipe was originally published in Food & Wine magazine:
          
"Coconut milk's rich flavor will keep you coming back for more of this substantial soup. A true Brazilian version would include slices of okra, but ours is already so satisfyingly thick that we left it out."

For those interested, this is the wine recommendation:

"The sweet elements here call for a somewhat assertive sweetness in the wine as well. A Vouvray demi-sec, from France's Loire Valley, ought to strike just the right balance."

The recipe I'm using is a combination of the original Food & Wine version and versions from the Annie's Eats food blog and Group Recipes. My version includes a bit more crushed red pepper than the Food & Wine version to give it a bit more kick and substitutes chicken broth for water for a richer flavor. 


Ingredients:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup long-grain rice
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 ¾ tsp. salt
1 ¾ cups canned crushed tomatoes
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 ½ lbs. medium shrimp, peeled and cut in half horizontally
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup cilantro, chopped

Directions:
1. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. 
2. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the rice, red-pepper flakes, salt, tomatoes, and water to the pot. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 10 minutes.
4. Stir the coconut milk into the soup. Bring back to a simmer and then stir in the shrimp. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are just done, 3 to 5 minutes. 
5. Stir in the black pepper, lemon juice, and cilantro.


Results:
Of all the recipes I've tried thus far this was the one I was most concerned about, but I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. The extra crushed red pepper didn't make it too hot. In fact, you could make it a little bit hotter if you wanted. The coconut milk gave it a great flavor and texture. It actually had a flavor much like a Thai panang curry. This isn't the most picturesque dish I've made, but it was very tasty. It was also extremely filling for a soup. The recipe was simple enough that anyone should be able to make it. 


And since he is the star of the blog, here's Sawyer attempting to impede my soup photo shoot. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Edition - Shrimp fra diavolo

For Valentine's Day I decided to make one of my girlfriend's favorite dishes - shrimp fra diavolo. This shrimp dish has a little bit of a kick thanks to the crushed red pepper. I've done this dish over both pasta and creamy polenta. My preference is to mix it with thin spaghetti, which is what I did this time.

The recipe I'm using for this comes from the Food Network's Giada DiLaurentiis. Of all the chef's on the food network I've had the most success using Giada's recipes, though Tyler Florence, Rachel Ray, Ina Garten, Emeril and the Neeley's have some great stuff too.
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/shrimp-fra-diavolo-recipe/index.html

The original recipe calls for fresh herbs, which because of time constraints I didn't have available. This recipe still works well with dried herbs. The rule for converting from fresh to dried is that 1 tablespoon fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried herbs. Or in this case 3 tablespoons fresh herbs = 3 teaspoons dried herbs.

Ingredients:
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons
1 medium onion, sliced
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon dried Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves



Direction:
1. Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes.
2. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside.

3. Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano.Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.

5. Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. 
6. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve.


The Results:
With a little help from Giada I have a very happy girlfriend this Valentine's Day. This is one of the most consistently successful recipes I've found since I got into cooking. Its simple but full of flavor. The spice isn't overpowering, but the crushed red pepper gives it a nice kick. I wouldn't recommend it if you don't like onions, but otherwise its a great option. Its quick, easy and relatively inexpensive to make.



Coming up next time......something without noodles!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mee Goreng (Fried Spicy Malaysian Noodles)

Mee goreng is one of my absolute favorite dishes to get at Thai restaurants, but I've never made it myself before.  There are tons of varieties of this recipe floating around on the internet. I'm going to combine a couple of them and also wing it a little bit. This recipe can be cooked with just about any protein, so feel free to substitute whatever you want. I'm going with shrimp and chicken, mostly because I happen to have them at my apartment already.

The first recipe I'm basing my version off of comes from Cooking Light magazine by way of MyRecipes.com, which is a really good resource for food ideas: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=10000001924714

The second recipe comes from myasiankitchenny.com, which I discovered purely through the magic of google, but it looks tasty. They have plenty of other recipes which I may have to explore later. http://www.myasiankitchenny.com/2009/04/mee-goreng-mamak-pedas-fried-spicy.html

This recipe calls for fresh noodles, which you should be able to find at most Asian markets. The best I've found in the DC area is Bangkok 54 market, which is attached to high quality Thai restaurant of the same name.

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh lo mein noodles
1 pound boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
6 ounces peeled shrimp
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 large eggs
3 heads bok choy
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons chili paste (this can be adjusted based on how spicy you want the dish to be)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons sweet bean sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

Directions:
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil Add noodles and let cook 30 seconds. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat large skillet at medium high heat with the sesame oil.
3. Add the two eggs and scramble for 2 minutes. Remove eggs from pan and set aside.
4. Add in garlic and fry until fragrant.
5. Add chicken and shrimp and cook for one minute.
6. Increase heat to high. Add noodles, sugar, chili paste,lime juice, bean sauce, and soy sauce. Mix well.
7. Add eggs and bok choy. Keep stirring for 5 minutes. Make sure not to let it burn.


The Results:
So the first effort of the new blog turned out to be a success. This recipe was relatively easy, but turned out to be quite tasty. My version didn't turn out to be restaurant quality, but as an amateur making this for the first time I'm pretty pleased with it. If you like spicy food you could definitely add some more chili paste. A little sriracha hot sauce on top could also kick it up a notch too. I'm not that into spice so I thought it was nicely balanced as it was. I might substitute Chinese broccoli for the bok choy when I make this again in the future.



Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment or pass the link on to your friends. 

And just for fun, here's a photo of my cat attacking the ingredient display I made.