Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chocolate chip banana bread

While I am a big fan of banana bread, the primary reason I decided to make this recipe is that I'd forgotten I'd bought some bananas and they had gotten a bit overripe. Fortunately, being a bit too old to be eaten raw made them perfect for baking. This recipe, which I love, comes from simplyrecipes.com. Appropriately, it is a very simple recipe. I added some chocolate chips and you could just as easily add chopped nuts if you wanted. The bread turned out gooey and delicious. It wasn't one of my more challenging entries, but still one that I was very happy with.

Ingredients:
3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
Chocolate chips (However many you feel like)

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
2. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
3. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour next, mix. Mix in the chocolate chips last.
4. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve. (I have a slightly wider bread pan, so I only cooked it for about 45 minutes instead of an hour.)

The Results:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tilapia fingers

Recently, I realized that I've been spending a bit more than I intended to put together these food blog entries. So I decided to go to Eastern Market, a farmers market/flea market in Southeast Washington DC, and shop  for a cost effective dinner option. After looking around I decided to go with some tilapia fillets, which were $7.50 per pound. I'd previously found a recipe for tilapia fingers on onceuponachef.com, which I'd been wanting try, so this all worked out well. This was a really simple recipe and aside from the tilapia I had all of the ingredients ready at home.

I was very happy with how this recipe turned out. The fish turned out very crispy and flavorful without tasting too heavy and fried. I cooked it in three batches and realized after the first batch that it's important to make sure to add enough oil so the breading gets nice and crispy. This wound up being three meals worth of food for a very reasonable price.

The original recipe suggests making a lemon garlic mayo on the side. I decided to mix it up a bit and make a sriracha mayo dipping sauce. This was a simple blend of mayo and sriracha hot sauce, but it was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend it.

Ingredients
For the tilapia:
2 pounds tilapia fillets (I cut the recipe in half since I was only cooking for one.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges

For the sriracha mayo:
Three tablepoons mayonnaise
One tablespoon sriracha

Directions
1. Cut the tilapia into "fingers" by first cutting the fillets in half. Leave the thin sides long, then cut the thicker sides in half on a diagonal so they appear longer.
2. Set up three large, shallow bowls in an assembly line. Put flour in the first bowl; beaten eggs in the second; and panko in the third.
3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Dredge fish fingers in flour mixture, shaking excess into bowl so just a light coating remains; dip in eggs and turn to coat evenly; then dredge in panko, turning several times to coat evenly.  (This can be a messy job...it's best to use one hand for the flour and eggs and the other for the panko.) Set breaded tilapia fingers on baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook (this can be done several hours ahead of time).
4. Line a plate with 3 paper towels and set by the stove. Heat olive oil in large, non-stick saute pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, place first batch of tilapia fingers in pan (do not crowd) and cook until first side is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until done, about 2 minutes more. Transfer fish fingers to plate with paper towels and let sit for a minute to drain any excess oil. Remove any brown bits out of pan, add more oil if necessary and continue to cook in batches until done. Season cooked tilapia fingers with more salt if desired. Serve with lemon wedges and Sriracha mayonnaise.

The Results

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chocolate decadence cake


I was recently searching for dessert to make my girlfriend for our second anniversary and stumbled across the website eatingwell.com. This site has a lot of good recipes. Their slogan is "where good taste meets good health," but I can't really say that this recipe is healthy in any way. It's a very rich, mousse-like chocolate cake. Mine turned out slightly overcooked. It was still rich and delicious, but probably should have been a bit softer and gooier. The recipe says to bake it for 20-25 minutes and my oven managed to overcook it in 17. I hate my oven. A lot.

I picked this recipe for two reasons. The first is that it looked delicious. The second its that it had a very unusual cooking method that I'd never tried before. Rather than simply placing the cake pan in the oven, the cake pan is placed in a larger baking pan partially filled with boiling water and then baked. This method worked out pretty well for me, but it is kind of a death trap. Transporting boiling water in and out of an oven is not the best idea for someone as clumsy as I am, but I did manage to escape unscathed.

Ingredients:
7 ounces 60-70% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (about 1 1/3 cups)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably natural
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup nonfat or low-fat milk
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:
1. Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch cake pan (1 1/2 to 2 inches deep) with parchment paper and coat the sides of the pan with cooking spray. Put a kettle of water on to boil for Step 6.
2. Place chocolate and cocoa powder in a large bowl.
3. Combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar and salt in a small heavy saucepan. Whisk in just enough of the milk to form a smooth paste. Mix in the remaining milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent burning (especially around the sides and bottom edges of the pot), until the mixture begins to bubble. Boil gently, stirring constantly, for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes (the mixture will get very thick and then you may notice that it thins ever so slightly as the starch cooks).
4. Scrape the hot mixture immediately over the chocolate and cocoa. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. The batter will be very thick. Stir in egg yolks and vanilla.
5. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating on high speed until the egg whites are stiff but not dry.
6. Gently fold about one-fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate batter to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the cake pan, smoothing the top.
Set the cake pan in a larger baking pan and place on the oven rack. Pour enough boiling water into the baking pan to come a third to halfway up the side of the cake pan.
7. Bake until the surface of the cake is slightly crusted and springs back when gently pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. (The cake will still be quite gooey inside.)
8. Remove the pans from the oven. Transfer the cake pan to a wire rack and cool completely, about 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before serving.
9. To serve: Soak the blade of a thin knife in a cup of very hot water until warm. Slide the knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake. Place a piece of wax paper on top of the cake. Invert a plate over the wax paper and invert the pan onto the plate. Remove the pan and peel away the paper liner. Place a serving plate over the cake and turn the cake right-side up again; remove the wax paper. Dip a sharp knife in hot water and wipe it dry before cutting each slice.

The Results
I kind of went crazy icing this cake, because I had a bunch of random icing piping tools and wanted to use all of them. This is the finished version.