Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chocolate Honey Snacking Cake

I can't let the advent of Valentine's Day go by without some kind of chocolate honey concoction!  This is not a strongly flavored chocolate cake, so the taste of the honey in the batter really comes through.  I used our summer (clover) honey in this recipe.  More richly flavored fall honey would also be a good choice. We plowed right into the cake after it came out of the oven, but if you want a more strongly chocolate flavored cake--and a prettier presentation to impress your valentine--you can add a chocolate honey glaze once you take the cake from the pan. I'm including a glaze recipe below.

1 10-inch spring form tube pan at least three inches deep; you could also use a 9-inch regular round cake pan if you'd like.Oil and flour the pan.  If you're using a regular cake pan, it'd be wise to line the bottom with parchment paper.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt.
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup summer or fall honey
2 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 1/2 cup milk soured by adding 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice. (You could also use butter milk.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.  Using a standing or hand-held mixer, blend the sugar and honey for about 2 minutes, beating really well.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix for another minute to blend well.  Add oil and mix again for about 30 seconds to a minute until the ingredients are fully combined.  Add one half of the flour mixture and mix until there are no pockets of flour left (there may be some lumps).  Add the milk and mix carefully, as the batter will be very soupy at this point.  Add the rest of the flour and combine well.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake about 50 to 55 minutes.  The top should be highly domed and spring back when lightly touched with your finger.  Alternatively, insert a toothpick in the center and remove.  If it's dry, the cake is done.  Take care not to over-bake.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  If serving plain, serve warm!  You can glaze the cake when it's still warm if you'd like.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup summer or fall honey
10 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate,(NOT baking chocolate), chopped or broken into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
toasted pecans, almonds or walnuts--about 1/2 cup (optional)

Bring whipping cream and honey just to a boil in a sauce pan, stirring to blend and watching carefully so that it doesn't boil over.  Place the chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream and honey over it, stirring to melt the chocolate until all is smooth.  Add the vanilla and a pinch of salt and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Place a cooling rack on some waxed paper on the counter and put the cake on the rack.  Pour the glaze evenly over the cake, spreading if necessary so that the glaze drips down the sides.  Sprinkle the toasted nuts on top if using.  Place the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour to set the glaze.

This cake keeps well, so you could bake it a day ahead if you'd like.  Just tightly cover it overnight.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Couscous Citrus Salad

Oranges get me through the winter.  I made this salad with Israeli couscous, but you could use regular couscous or another kind of grain--brown rice, farro, quinoa.  This made a great mid-week lunch.

3 cups broth (or water)
1 cup Israeli couscous (but see above)
salt to taste (especially if you're using water)
2 oranges, cut into sections. (Then cut each section in thirds.)
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or raisins, or currants)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the broth or salted water and add couscous.  Lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes.  Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain well again.  Place the drained couscous in a large bowl and section the oranges over the bowl to catch all of the juices.  Put the cut oranges in the bowl along with the sliced celery, dried cranberries, olive oil and ginger.  Mix well.  Refrigerate for at least two hours (or over night).  Toss again and check seasoning before serving.  Makes four servings

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Halibut Cheeks Stir Fry

Robert's brother, Dan, who lives in Alaska, sent us the most amazing fish--fillets of salmon, halibut, and these halibut fish cheeks that we used in a stir fry.  We're lucky to have a sustainable source of fish.  Julie Auth of Wild Alaskan Salmon Company sells sustainable fish at the Sewickley Farmers' Market  during the summer and also does local deliveries. If wild Alaskan halibut isn't available, you could substitute farmed catfish or U.S. farmed talapia.  In that case, I'd just place the fish on top of vegetables rather than mixing it in the stir fry because the fish will be very flaky.  For more information on sustainable fish, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium website, which includes down-loadable pocket guides for the best sustainable fish to choose.

peanut (or other oil) for frying
1/2 to 1 pound white fish (see above), cut in 1/2 inch cubes.
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, sliced in rings
1 bunch broccoli, cut into flowerettes (about 3 cups)
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 red pepper, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup vegetable or fish broth
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Cooked rice for serving

Heat a large skillet or wok. Add oil so that it generously coats the bottom of the pan.  Heat until the oil sizzles when you place a drop of water in it.  Dredge fish in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.  Shake off excess flour and add to hot oil. Add as much fish as you can without crowding (you may need to do this in batches).  Fry the fish until it's golden and easily releases from the pan.  Turn and fry the pieces on both sides.  Place the fish on a plate lined with paper towels and drain all but about two tablespoons of the oil.
Add the garlic and onions and stir fry for about a minute.  Add the vegetables and stir fry until the color brightens, about five minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the broth, corn starch, hoisin sauce, honey and sesame oil.  Pour onto the vegetables and cook until the sauce thickens. Turn off heat, add the fish, and cover with a lid and let sit for about five minutes (or more--depending on how soft you want the vegetables).  Serve with rice and some hot sauce if you want a spicier dish.  Makes four generous servings.