Thursday, November 1, 2012

Martin Luther King Day of Service

In honor of the upcoming national day of service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I've compiled a list of some of my favorite nonprofits working for change in New York City and beyond. If you want to get involved but aren't sure where to turn, start here!

Yorkville Common Pantry is a truly amazing place that helps thousands of people who are homeless or living in poverty to get the nourishment they need. What's more, over 80% of their fresh produce is from NY state farms. They offer food pantry and meal distribution programs, as well as, nutritional education, basic hygiene services, homelessness support and related services to underserved communities in East Harlem and throughout New York City. They strive at all times to dignify the experience of their clientele and are a wonderful example of an emergency food program that really makes a difference.

Occupy Sandy (an offshoot of the larger Occupy movement) jumped into being and action directly following hurricane Sandy. Concerned citizens from all over the country and all walks of life came together to help in the immediate relief effort and now with long-term recovery. The energy and commitment of occupy volunteers is truly amazing to witness and the lack of bureaucracy is refreshing and motivating. I would recommend heading out to their Bay Ridge, Brooklyn kitchen to help prepare hot meals for people still struggling to get back on their feet in the Rockaways, Coney and Staten Islands, and elsewhere. 

New York Cares serves as a clearing house that connects volunteers with opportunities at over 1,300 nonprofits, city agencies and public schools in the Greater NYC area. I recently attended their required orientation for new volunteers and I left feeling inspired and so glad that this organization exists. Since then, I've volunteered helping fourth graders make environmentally focused art projects and high school juniors and seniors learn math and life skills through cooking. 

Women for Women International is a powerful organization that offers financial assistance, job training, rights education and trauma counseling to female survivors of the too oft forgotten war in the Congo. My husband and I fundraised for and ran their 5K Run for Congo Women on Roosevelt Island this past October. It was a deeply moving event and we were honored to take part.

Sustainable South Bronx helps under-served urban communities transform themselves by addressing environmental, economic and social concerns through green job training, community greening programs and environmental education. My hubby and I ran the Hunt's Point Hustle 5K to support this fantastic organization. The run was so well organized and we had a blast at the post-race festivities. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

These gluten free double chocolate cookies are to die for. They are so rich and are the perfect treat for any chocolate lover. This recipe might seem tricky because of the double boiler but it's easy and fast once you get the hang of it. I just set a metal bowl over a medium pot with less than an inch of simmering water in it (the bowl should be heated by the steam and not touch the simmering water). I hold the bowl with an oven mitt while I mix to protect my skin from heat and steam. If you aren't gluten intolerant feel free to use all purpose flour instead of the Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free mix.  Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for a Mexican chocolate vibe. Enjoy!
Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies
(Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)
3 Tablespoons salted butter
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate roughly chopped and divided
2 large eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark), packed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a double boiler (metal or glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water), melt half of the chocolate along with all of the butter. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a bit.

In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together then add the eggs and vanilla. Beat until fluffy and lightened in color. Temper the melted chocolate mixture into the wet ingredients stirring vigorously so the heat doesn't cook the eggs. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. The batter will be thick. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate (i.e. chocolate chips).Toasted nuts and dried fruit are nice optional ingredients in this recipe as well.

Portion out dough onto well greased, silt pat or parchment lined baking sheets leaving at least 2 inches between each for spreading (Tip: Use wet hands to shape the cookies). Bake for 10-14 minutes until glossy and beginning to crack. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet until slightly firmed and then move to a wire rack to cool.

Cornmeal Olive Oil Biscotti with Dates and Walnuts

These biscotti are unique, delicious and healthy. They're an excellent alternative to the floury, bland, mass-produced biscotti that have caused so many people to think they don't enjoy this Italian delicacy. The base recipe can accept any fruit/nut/etc. combination you can dream of, so have fun playing with the possibilities. Cranberry and white chocolate? Currants and pecans? Substitue orange zest and juice for the lemon? You decide!
Cornmeal Olive Oil Biscotti with Dates and Walnuts
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup olive oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (or other nut)
2/3 cup chopped pitted dates (or other dried fruit)

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, and baking powder together and set aside. Beat the olive oil and sugar until smooth, frothy and lightened in color. Beat in the salt, pepper, eggs, lemon zest and juice. Stir in the dry ingredients in and then add the chopped nuts and fruit.  

Using wet hands, shape into a long rectangle 12 inches long and 3 inches thick (you can make it shorter and thicker if you wish).  Cook for 20-25 minutes but check after 15 to gauge doneness. 

Remove from the oven and lower the temp to 325F. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Lightly pat with wet hands to moisten the outer shell a bit and place on a cutting board. Carefully slice the log into 1/2 inch biscotti, laying each flat on it’s side back in the pan. I used a chef's knife with good results but you may also try a serrated blade. Cook for another 25 (+ or -) minutes flipping each biscotti at the halfway point to ensure even browning.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes or so before transferring to a rack to finish cooling. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake

This is a super-rich, elegant, death-by-chocolate style cake. When baked in an 8 inch pan it comes out very thin, under 1/2 inch thick, but it's so rich you won't miss the height. Top it with very lightly sweetened, fresh whipped cream and raspberries to temper the richness. Yum!
Flourless Chocolate Cake
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate 
1 stick salted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder optional
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for dusting
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar for dusting
*Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Line an 8-inch round baking pan with foil and butter well. Chop the chocolate coarsely. In a double boiler (or metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water) melt the chocolate with the butter stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature  Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl then add them to the cooled chocolate while stirring vigorously so they won't cook. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter and stir until combined. 

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake in middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes until top has formed a thin crust and the center is just set. Cool the cake in it's pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then invert onto your serving plate. Dust the cake with additional cocoa powder and/or powdered sugar. Serve at any temperature with ice cream or whipped cream!

Endive with Goat Cheese Citrus and Walnuts

This elegant appetizer is both rich and light at the same time. It's also a show stopper while still being easy enough to make ahead. Just remember to wait until the last minute to drizzle on the balsamic reduction. 

Endive with Goat Cheese, Citrus and Walnuts
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons honey, divided
cooking spray
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
16-20 endive leaves (about 5-8 heads depending on their size)
Goat cheese 
16-20 orange sections (about 2 large oranges. Blood or Cara Cara varieties add nice color)
1 Tablespoon or so fresh chives, snipped or minced
fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss walnuts with 1 tablespoon honey. Spread on a baking sheet coated liberally with olive oil and bake for about 10 minutes. Check and stir after 5 minutes as they can burn quickly. 

Combine honey, vinegar and orange juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and stir until reduced to about 3 tablespoons. 

Top each endive leaf with an orange section, about a teaspoon of crumbled goat cheese (or bleu cheese) and a teaspoon or so of candied walnuts. Arrange on a plate and then drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with chives and freshly cracked pepper before serving.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spiced Cornmeal Blueberry Pancakes

These were so good my husband said they didn't need butter or maple syrup, but we used both anyway!

Spiced Cornmeal Blueberry Pancakes

(Makes about 16 pancakes)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (I prefer coarse but any consistency is fine)
1 heaping Tablespoon sugar in the raw or brown sugar (preferably organic)
1 Tablespoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Spices optional but recommended:
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
2 cups skim milk (any fat content is fine)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (don't bother to thaw)
Optional: Dried and/or fresh fruit, toasted nuts, chocolate chips, marshmallows etc...

Preheat your oven to 200°F.

Whisk together dry ingredients to incorporate and then set aside. Combine the wet ingredients separately, then add them to the dry ingredients. If the batter is too thick, add milk in small additions until you get a fluffy/molasses like viscosity. Add the melted butter quickly while stirring vigorously so it won't cook the eggs. Don't worry if there are a few lumps. Allow the batter to sit and rest for 20 minutes. Fold in the blueberries just before cooking.

Heat the griddle until water sputters when dashed on the surface. Add a pat of butter, let it bubble up and spread it over the griddle's surface. Ladle the pancake batter for the size pancake you desire. Cook until bubbles begin to appear on the uncooked side (there will only be a few because this batter is fairly thick). Flip and cook for another three minutes or so until golden. Place on a plate in a warm oven and proceed with the rest of the batter.

Easy Pork Bánh mì (Vietnamese Sandwiches)

In the US, we use the term to refer to the ridiculously delicious, traditional Vietnamese submarine sandwich, however, Bánh mì is actually just the Vietnamese term for bread or baguette. They exemplify umami flavor at it's best. I would eat three a day if I could.

Quick Caramelized Pork Banh Mi 
(Makes approximately two large subs or four sandwiches)

Slaw Topping 
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup julienned daikon radish or kohlrabi
2 Tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

Seasoned Pork (Vegetarians may substitute firm tofu, seitan or scrambled eggs)
8 oz. Pork (cut of your choice) thinly sliced
1 garlic clove minced finely, almost to paste
1 scallion thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce­
2 Tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (optional)
½ teaspoon (or more) Sriracha or hot chili sauce/oil

cucumber sliced into thin rounds
cilantro leaves
thinly sliced scallion
thinly sliced jalapeños (fresh or pickled)

Crusty Baguette or bread of your choice that can hold up to heavy ingredients.

Mayonnaise (optional but recommended)

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

To make your slaw, combine all three ingredients and set aside to marinate. Use the julienne setting on a mandolin slicer for a quick, easy julienne.

Slice the pork thinly and set aside. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic and honey to the hot pan or wok. Add Chinese five-spice powder and Sriracha or chili sauce if using. Wisk the sauce together and increase the heat to high. Once the pan is very hot and your sauce is bubbling, but not smoking, add the pork. It will sear up quickly and soak up most of the sauce. Remove to a plate.

Slice the baguette lengthwise and spread with a mayonnaise (if using). Bake for about 5 minutes until toasty and crusty.

Assemble sandwiches with cucumbers, pork, some pan sauce, slaw, and garnish with cilantro and optional ingredients as you wish!