Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Blender Pudding

Vanessa and I were thrust together our freshman year of high school by way of the alphabet. She (Rubio) and I (Ramos) were seated next to each other in 6 of our 8 classes that first quarter; a fact that we found very annoying as we Did. Not. Like. Each. Other. 

Forced to spend our days together, we eventually started talking, first out of necessity ("Do you know what page the Spanish assignment is on?"), then familiarity ("You cut your hair--it looks great!"), and finally, friendship ("Want to go to the mall after school?").

Soon we began to realize that we were a lot more alike than we'd wanted to admit--we both were smart and pretty, but confidently nerdy in a way that made us seem a bit odd in an environment where most kids went with the crowd. We both had artistic inclinations and loved to daydream and play; when the other kids were going to football games and parties, we spent most of our evenings and weekends holed up in my bedroom memorizing scenes from movies, listening to jazz, and occasionally even dressing up in costumes (I have photographic evidence of this nonsense).

Looking back, it seems like we were always playing, so much so that we occasionally forgot where we were--much to the befuddlement of our classmates.

Since we shared a lunch period, the two of us would typically buy our food and then eat together. One of our favorite snacks was the chocolate pudding they sold in the cafeteria. It was 50 cents for a small white Styrofoam bowl, piled high with silky, dark pudding that quivered ever so slightly when shook. It wasn't always available, but on days that it was, we'd each get a bowl and eat it with a plastic spoon, scraping up the last bits before returning to class.

Somehow along the way, we decided to see who could finish her bowl of pudding first. While the other girls picked at their salads and whole wheat sandwiches, Vanessa and I--oblivious to the stares--challenged each other to pudding eating competitions, which we excitedly called "Pudding Races!".

We soon found that racing through a bowl of simple pudding was too easy, so we upped the stakes, adding what we called "obstacles"--aka peanut m&m's--to slow us down. We'd buy one yellow bag from the vending machine and carefully count out the candies to make sure we each got an exact amount. Then we stirred them into the pudding, counted off loudly, and proceeded to eat as quickly as possible. Occasionally, we'd have to penalize each other (for example if one of us started eating too early) by tossing in an extra obstacle or two in the other one's bowl.

It was as delicious as it was ridiculous, and we'd usually end up laughing hysterically and wiping pudding spills off our Catholic schoolgirl uniform sweaters. Occasionally, there would be some coughing and choking. (Those obstacles were dangerous!)

[If you're wondering: Yes, we did both end up taking two gay male friends as our dates to senior prom, thank you very much.]

A few days ago, I found myself craving that same chocolate pudding and decided to recreate the combination of chocolate and peanuts by adding smooth natural peanut butter to a bittersweet chocolate pudding base. I used the same technique I use in my No Bake Pot de Creme, making the entire batch in the blender for a recipe that takes a mere 5 minutes (if that!)

The results: a thick, silky pudding redolent with peanut butter flavor. The dark chocolate keeps the pudding just this side of bitter for a distinctively adult take on that long-ago treat.

I'd suggest not racing through this bowl; it's much too good for that, but definitely share it with a friend.

Like this recipe? Share the photo and link with a friend on Facebook or Pinterest so that more folks can enjoy it! I'd also love if you'd consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes

Thanks for reading & sharing!   

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Blender Pudding Recipe
Unlike many pudding recipes, which require that you stand and stir for several minutes, this recipe is made almost entirely in a blender in a matter of minutes. The results are silky and luscious. The heat from the heavy cream cooks the eggs, but I still recommend that you start with good quality pastured eggs that you can trust.  Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (use semisweet chocolate for a sweeter pudding)
3/4 cup natural unsweetened smooth peanut butter (only ingredients should be peanuts and salt; you can use sweetened kind, but note that it will make the final pudding a little sweeter)
2 large eggs (preferably pastured eggs)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup Heavy Cream (do not substitute with milk or it won't work)

Combine chocolate chips, eggs, vanilla, and salt in a blender and blend for 2 minutes until the chocolate is finely chopped. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until bubbles start to form. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and egg mixture, and add the peanut butter. Blend again for 3 minutes, allowing the heat from the milk to melt the chocolate and peanut butter, and cook the egg. Let blend until all ingredients are completely blended and the mixture is silky and shiny (depending on your blender, you may have to occasionally use a spoon to move things along), about 3 minutes.
Divide into individual pudding cups, and let chill 30 minutes before serving (will thicken as it chills). Leftovers will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but will thicken as they chill because of the peanut butter: you can let sit at room temp for about 20 minutes or so before serving to get the silky texture back.


Kitchen Tip: Make Pesto from Wilting Greens (Basil Arugula Pesto Recipe)

Do you ever find yourself with herbs or leafy greens that are about to go? Here is an easy (and delicious) way to use up the leftovers before they die.

Turn them into pesto!

Classic pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, and a bit of Parmesan cheese. It's delicious, but the truth is that I rarely make it that way. Pesto is actually more of a technique than an actual recipe; it's the act of crushing together a variety of herbs and aromatics. The word pesto comes from the word "pestare," which means to pound or to crush.

The old fashioned way is to do this by hand, but I use my food processor. Because there is no need to complicate things.

You can use whatever you have on hand to make a great pesto. I typically like to combine an herb (like basil or parsley or cilantro or mint) + a leafy green (like arugula or kale or spinach) + a nut or seed (like almonds or pine nuts or pumpkin seeds or walnuts) + garlic (pretty much the only essential part) + grated hard cheese (like Parmesan or aged Gouda or manchego). You can add spices like toasted cumin seeds or red chile flakes, if you'd like. A little oil and water help loosen things up a bit. A sprinkle of lemon juice keeps the green greener longer. (Say that 5 times fast!)

You can really play around with the technique to create different flavor profiles. For example:

Mint + cumin + walnuts = Mediterranean flavor

cilantro + chile flakes + pumpkin seeds = Mexican/Latin flavors

The pesto you see here is made from basil, arugula, and almonds. It's fragrant and a bit peppery from the arugula. Tossed with pasta, it made for a perfect "cleaning out the fridge" kind of dinner. Eugene also ate a few scoops of the pesto with fresh mozzarella for a snack this weekend, and I used a bit of it on steak.

You can also use it as a filling for my easy homemade pesto ravioli! And here is a great way to freeze pesto for quick meals all year.

The recipe for my basil arugula pesto is below, but remember to just use it as a guideline and substitute in whatever you have on hand.

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Basil Arugula Pesto Recipe

1/3 cup unsalted almonds (use any kind--roasted, blanched, sliced--it all works!)
2 medium cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup basil leaves, rinsed, picked and dried
1 1/2 cups baby arugula
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a food processor, combine the almonds, garlic, and salt, and pulse a few times until coursely ground. Add the basil and arugula, and pulse again a few times until coursely chopped and evenly distributed. Add the cheese, then slowly pour in olive oil and lemon juice, as needed, to loosen the mix until it is creamy. Add a splash or two of water if you need additional liquid. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Store in a sealed jar or container in the fridge. Can also be frozen.
To Use: Cook pasta according to package directions. After draining, add several large spoonfuls of pesto to pasta and toss to coat, adding a bit of pasta water if necessary to make into a sauce. Add as much pesto as you'd like (I love a good thick coating).

Variation: You can also splash in a bit of heavy cream for a pesto cream sauce. 


Parmesan Roasted New Potatoes

One of my favorite items at the farmer's market are the little bags of local new potatoes, which are usually filled with a variety of tiny potatoes in many colors and shapes--red, white, fingerling, and (my fave!) purple.

They're so pretty, that I almost don't want to cook with them; I just want to leave them in a bowl to admire.


My favorite way to cook new potatoes also happens to be one of the easiest: roasting. I simply quarter the potatoes, toss them with some olive oil, and sprinkle them liberally with kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and (this is the key!) freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

These go into a hot oven to roast, and it won't be long before the sides become crackly crisp while the insides stay tender. The cheese toasts up a bit, and the salt and pepper add incredible flavor that plays nicely against the natural subtle sweetness of the potato flesh. I add a little bit more freshly grated cheese at the end before serving.

I keep these simple, but if you'd like, you can also add grated garlic along with the cheese. Or for spicy potatoes, add paprika and cracked red pepper. You can also toss in a sprig or two of rosemary or thyme on top before popping in the oven. Totally up to you!

This recipe is a perfect easy and colorful side dish on a busy weeknight. (Although Eugene will even just take the bowl and eat them as his dinner!)

That ain't no small potatoes!

(Sorry. I had to do that.)
Like this recipe? Share the photo and link with a friend on Facebook or Pinterest so that more folks can enjoy it! I'd also love if you'd consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. 

Thanks for reading & sharing! 

Parmesan Roasted New Potatoes Recipe  
2 pounds new potatoes, washed and patted very dry
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper (preferably freshly coursely ground)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 cup to add at the end 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
Quarter the potatoes and spread onto a large baking sheet (you can use 2 baking sheets if you have a lot of potatoes). Drizzle liberally with olive oil, and use your hands to toss and coat well. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle on the  1/2 cup of grated Parmesan. Toss again to evenly distribute the salt, pepper, and cheese. 
Place in oven and roast for about 15 minutes, then use a spatula or spoon to stir the potatoes (this will ensure even crisping). Return to oven for about another 15 minutes, or until potatoes are crisp and golden, and fork-tender 
Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and serve immediately. 


Watch: Extreme Chef Premieres TONIGHT on Food Network

She's tiny, but FIERCE!
So normally I don't order you to do anything (well...except to put down the freaking Bisquick and properly salt your food), but today I am SO excited because my friend Susanne is competing on the new season of Extreme Chef, a Survivor-meets-Top Chef-meets Fear Factor like competition, which premieres on the Food Network TONIGHT at 10PM EST.

I am SO excited for her!!!!

Susanne and I are actually more than just friends; we were roommates at culinary school (along with a third and equally-fabulous girl named Mariah) in Italy more than 8 years ago.

The three of us lived through a lot of craziness together in our little Italian flat--being broke culinary students scrounging for food (and wine) money, fending off the attentions of enthusiastic Italian boys, running through Florence in our chef coats, trying to walk on the cobblestone streets in heels without tripping, wine tasting class at 9AM on Thursday mornings (particularly rough after late Wednesday nights), arguing over who got to take a hot shower (there was usually only enough hot water for one), and so much more!

Susanne (left) and Mariah, during our early morning wine class. 2004
We celebrated my 21st birthday and her 18th birthday together, ate (and made!) incredible food,  and commiserated through various disappointments and just plain ridiculousness. I remember one time I went on a movie date with a guy who "remembered" half way through the movie that he had a girlfriend, and suddenly felt too guilty to stay so he got up and left. And it was Cold Mountain, which is, like 3 1/2 hours long, so I had to watch it by myself and then walk home alone. But things like that were OK because I always had two great girls back at home to laugh about it with.

After Italy, Susanne went on to build an incredible business and reputation for herself as an in-demand private chef and cooking teacher in North Carolina, with a passion for local food and farm-to-table cuisine. She returned to Italy multiple times, completing several more levels of culinary programs and even becoming a sommelier!

We kept in touch all these years and were able to finally reconnect in person again last year when she come to one of my cooking classes here in NY (she lives in Charlotte). It was like no time had passed!

Last year, when Susanne came to one of my cooking classes!
I'm so proud of her and seeing the incredible woman that she has become. She was the youngest out of the three of us, and it's really cool to see how she's honed and developed her talents to become this fierce and confident chef. I'll be rooting for her on the show, but honestly, no matter what happens she's already won in my eyes!

Check out Susanne's business page, The Tiny Chef and be sure to give her a call if you're near Charlotte. 

You can also follow her on Twitter at @TheTinyChef. She's going to be live tweeting the episodes so be sure to check that out!


Grill Pan Waffles! (How to make waffles without a waffle iron)

Get excited, because I'm about to teach you how to make waffles without a waffle iron.

Yup, it's totally possible!

I don't own a waffle iron. I don't have the room for it, and even if I did, I suspect it's the sort of gadget I would never pull out as I remember that they can be a bit of a pain to clean (we had one growing up--it's probably still laying unused in one of my mom's cabinets).

But, I do like waffles! Those crispy nooks and crannies filled with butter and syrup--amazing! A few months ago, I heard someone mention that Jamie Oliver has a recipe for "griddle pan waffles."

This totally blew my mind. "You can make waffles on a griddle pan?!"

I immediately started searching online in an effort to find the much-lauded recipe. All I could find were links referencing it, but no actual recipe. Not even a photo!

It turns out that Channel 4 (the network in the UK that airs Jamie's program) apparently only has the rights to post Jamie Oliver recipes for about 30 days after his show originally airs, then they have to remove it from the site.

At which point, all his recipe links take you to this:
 I'm sorry, Channel 4, but that's just ridiculous; just remove the link all-together if you can't show it!

Or they could have at least found a photo of Jamie looking a bit less smug and slightly more disappointed. Something like this:

  Or this:

Clearly they've missed an opportunity there.

Anyway, I decided that I didn't need Jamie's recipe. I would figure it out on my own.

I started out by asking myself an important question:

"Alejandra, what is the difference between a pancake and a waffle?"

The answer? Crispy ridges!

Think about it---the batter is typically the same, the center is soft and airy, it's the final shape that makes it different. A waffle is nothing if not a celebration of crispy edges, which I figured could easily be achieved on a stove-top grill pan. (Not a griddle--I don't know what the heck Jamie had in mind, but I'm pretty sure his super-top-secret recipe just makes waffle-batter pancakes.)

But I digress...

I made a simple buttermilk waffle batter and got to work testing methods. Here is how you do it:

Step 1.
Prepare your waffle batter (recipe below): you want something a bit thicker than pancake batter.

Step 2.
Preheat your grill pan on medium heat until it gets nice and hot. Brush the center of the pan where you will cook your waffle with a good high-heat oil. I recommend coconut oil, but grapeseed or canola oil also works well. You can also use clarified butter.

Step 3.
Pour a 1/2 cup of batter in the center of your pan, letting it spread into a circle.  Lower the heat on your grill pan and let it cook on low for about 3-4 minutes. This part is key--you can't rush the cooking so that the waffle has time to develop the crisp ridges and cook the center without burning. DON'T RUSH THIS PART! If you rush them, you're just going to get weird pancakes and weird pancakes is not what we're after here.

Step 4.
Once the edges start to look dry and the bottom has turned golden and crispy (lift an edge to take a peek), you can flip it. The easiest way I've found is to bring your spatula in from the side so that its edge is parallel to the ridges in the grill pan (see photo above). Bring it under the edge, lift, and slowly work the spatula under the entire waffle.

Step 5.
Flip it and press down slightly with your spatula. You would never do this with a pancake, but here you really want to get those nice ridges. Let cook another 2-4 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

The wire rack is key as it will let the waffle rest and cool without creating steam that will soften the crispy edges (again, it's all about the crisp!).

Continue with the rest of your batter making as many waffles as you need.

Serve immediately topped with butter, powdered sugar, and syrup (or whatever you usually serve on your waffles!).

Are these going to be exactly like the waffles you get out of the waffle iron? No, of course not.  I'm not a crazy magician lady! BUT...they really do taste like waffles, and you do get enough of that crispy edge to satisfy any cravings. Just be patient and let them crisp up. It takes a bit of trial and effort, but I promise they're totally worth it!

And yes, you can use whatever your favorite waffle recipe is with this method. Including Bisquick. I won't judge.

That's a lie.

I will judge you a little bit if you use Bisquick, but I'll keep it to myself.

Now go! Waffle on!

Like this recipe? Share the photo and link with a friend on Facebook or Pinterest so that more folks can enjoy it! I'd also love if you'd consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes

Thanks for reading & sharing! 

Grill Pan Waffles Recipe
Makes 5 6-inch grill pan waffles. (this batter recipe also works for pancakes)

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or just use all all-purpose)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons raw sugar (or substitute granulated white sugar)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermillk or plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon apple cider or white vinegar
Coconut, grapeseed, canola, or clarified butter, for cooking.

Preheat your grill pan on medium heat. Prepare a wire cooling rack on the side.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, kosher salt, and sugar. In a separate container (I just do it right in my measuring cup for ease!) whisk together the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, and vinegar. Pour the wet into the dry and stir gently until fully combined and no dry spots remain (you will have some lumps; that's good.)

Brush your grill pan with the oil, and ladle half a cup of batter into the center. Lower heat to low. Let cook 3-4 minutes until crisp, then gently use a spatula to life and flip (see method as described in the post above). Cook an additional 3 minutes, then remove and let cool on a wire rack. Repeat with rest of batter.

Serve immediately.


Turkey Bacon Meatballs

I was poking through the freezer this weekend looking for something interesting to make for dinner, when I found a couple pounds of frozen ground turkey meat.  I pulled it out and put it in the microwave to thaw, while I debated my options. I could do a turkey meatloaf (I love Ina's recipe) or a quick chili, but I decided that meatballs would be best because the leftovers would be great for lunch throughout the week.

As turkey breast is pretty lean, I usually like to mix it with something to keep it moist and tender. Unfortunately, I didn't have much in the fridge--no herbs except for a tiny bit of almost-dried-out-parsley, only one small onion, no milk or yogurt or bread or eggs. I was even out of some of my favorite dried spices!

Slim pickings, indeed.

But then I found a forgotten 1/2 pound of bacon in the deli drawer. The good bacon. Thick, smokey stuff from Schaller & Weber, a local German-style charcuterie shop that makes some of my favorite meat products (including the ham I use in these ham and egg cups).


I put the bacon in my food processor, along with the small onion, and a couple cloves of garlic, and processed it until it was all finely ground. I gently mixed the bacon mixture into the turkey along with a bit of salt and red pepper flakes for heat. I added chia seeds for extra fiber, but that part is totally optional.

I delicately formed the mixture into large 2 to 3" meatballs, and arranged them on a lined baking sheet. I prefer to bake my meatballs; I just find that it's quicker and less messy.

I then finish them off with a gentle simmer in marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought) and serve them topped with a bit of grated cheese and some of that aforementioned dried out parsley.

Eugene came home while the meatballs were baking and gave me a bag of cheese, peaches, and bread that he had bought at a farm stand (he had come back from upstate NY where he was running the Warrior Dash).

We opened up a bottle of wine from our recent North Fork trip and had ourselves a mighty fine dinner indeed!

Like this recipe? Share the photo and link with a friend on Facebook or Pinterest so that more folks can enjoy it! I'd also love if you'd consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes

Thanks for reading & sharing! 

Turkey Bacon Meatballs Recipe
Make 12 large meatballs (about 4 servings)

1/2 pound thick-cut Black Forest or other smoked bacon
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 pounds ground turkey
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
3 tablespoons chia seeds (optional)
3 cups marinara or tomato sauce (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup chicken broth or water
Grated cheese, fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. In a food processor, combine bacon, onion, and garlic. Process until bacon and onion are finely grated (about 1 minute). In a large bowl, combine bacon mixture, ground turkey, salt, black pepper, red chili flakes, and chia seeds. Use your hands to mix thoroughly until evenly distributed.

Gently form the mixture into 12 large meatballs and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes, or until cooked through and golden on top.

Transfer meatballs to a deep skillet or saucepan and pour the sauce on top along with the broth or water. Simmer on low for 15 minutes, turning the meatballs occasionally to make sure they're fully covered with the sauce. Serve meatballs with the sauce on their own or with pasta or other sides. Store leftovers in remaining sauce.


Strawberry Basil Yogurt Cake

I have a pretty glass bottle with a spout that I use for olive oil. We buy the large gallon jugs of it at BJs and then decant it into the smaller bottle for cooking. It saves money and the spout on the bottle makes drizzling easier.

Eugene is the one in charge of refilling the bottle. The gallon jug is heavy and the neck on the glass bottle is narrow so I typically end up sloshing oil all over the place when I try to do it. This afternoon, he got home from the gym and was making himself a protein shake while I fixed dinner. I asked him to please refill the oil bottle, which was nearly empty.

"I will," he said. "But not now." And continued working on his shake.

I needed it now, so I pulled out the gallon, pulled the spout off the glass jar and took down a measuring cup.

"No! You don't need that," he said as soon as he saw what I was doing. He took the bottles away from me and refilled the jar, showing me how he could do it without the assistance of additional measuring cups or funnels.

"See," he said. "I just did that. Like a boss!"

I stood back and smiled. "Who's the boss?" I asked.

"I am," he replied.

"Really? Because it seems that I'm the one who got you to do what I wanted..."

"No," he replied indignantly. "I did it because I saw you were about to do it wrong. You didn't know I would step in."

"Or did I?" I asked, smiling.


That story has nothing to do with this cake. There isn't even any olive oil in this recipe.

I just wanted to share that story. I'm sure you understand why.

But back to the matter at hand! This Strawberry Basil Yogurt Cake is so lovely!

When I made it, I was in one of those moods where I wanted to make something just a little bit different. I went through ideas in my head as I browsed the contents of my pantry and fridge, and this just seemed to happen.

Strawberry and basil are so great together; I paired them up previously in this Strawberry Basil Shortcake, but I think this recipe is even more fun.

You start off by grinding up basil leaves with sugar to release all the oils. This acts as the flavor base of the cake, but also lends the whole thing a lovely pale green hue. You can sort of see it in the photos, right? It's not an off-putting green; just very delicate. Pastel.

I love that the cake is moist and not super sweet. It's a good breakfast cake or a good afternoon cake.

I'm obviously into those lately.

Like this recipe? Share the photo and link with a friend on Facebook or Pinterest so that more folks can enjoy it! I'd also love if you'd consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes

Thanks for reading & sharing!

Strawberry Basil Yogurt Cake Recipe

1/3 loosely packed cup fresh basil leaves, stems removed
1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest
1 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced in half
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar ("sugar in the raw")

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8" square baking pan or a 9" round springform pan. In a food processor or blender, combine the basil, lemon zest, and sugar. Process 2 minutes, or until the basil is completely ground and worked into the sugar (the sugar should turn a pale green).

Combine the basil sugar and butter in a mixer and cream until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until incorporated, about 3 more minutes. Beat in the yogurt, cream, and lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Mix into the dry ingredients, stirring just until fully incorporated. Pour into prepared baking pan and smooth the top.

Arrange the halved berries on top of the cake, cut-side down. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar and bake 30-35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, if desired.


Sweet Corn, Chorizo, and Date Hash

This is the sort of dish that happens in my kitchen the day after I do groceries. Especially during the summertime, when the bounty is particularly inspiring.

This is also the sort of thing that makes Eugene say, "You're using up all the delicious things at once!"

Damn straight, I am! (And I won't apologize for it!)

What we have here is THE perfect summer side dish: a Sweet Corn, Chorizo, and Date Hash. There are also capers and onions in it, but the name was getting too long. The capers are actually quite key to the whole dish, so don't even think about skipping them. They add this incredible briny, salty flavor that pairs beautifully with the milky corn and sticky dates. Every single time I took a bite of this that had the caper in it, I re-surprised myself with how perfectly they worked.

Maybe I should rename this recipe and give the capers their due...

I don't mean to be pushy, but I really want you to make this recipe.  The flavors are incredible! It's bright and colorful and the perfect balance of salty, spicy, and sweet, and you pretty much just make the whole dish in one skillet. I served this with broiled wild coho salmon, but I bet it would also be great with thin pan-seared chicken breasts or grilled shrimp or even just a couple runny poached eggs!

Oooh...I bet you could even add a little sour cream or Greek yogurt, and roll this into soft tortillas for a bad ass taco.

Now...let's talk about the colors! I found these gorgeous ears of local sweet red corn while browsing Fresh Direct last week, and decided to add a few to the cart just for fun. They were a little pricier than the regular yellow corn (about $1 per ear), but the description indicated that the corn changes colors depending on the cooking method. They said it turns maroon when you roast it, blue if you boil it, and purple in the microwave.

And...yeah...I just couldn't resist the possibility of rainbow corn.

In hindsight, I should have bought three and tested the different methods, but I didn't. Maybe I'll do that next week. I'll post a pic on my Facebook page if I do.

Anyway, I bought these, along with a few bi-color sweet corn and knew that I wanted to do something a little bit more fun with them to celebrate the gorgeous color. I had the broiler on for the salmon, so I just rubbed them with a little bit of olive oil and placed them under the flame for a few minutes until charred.

You could also just put it right over the flame of your gas stove, roast them in the oven, or char them on a cast iron grill pan. Whatever you prefer!

I'm so glad I made extra. I'll be having the leftovers for breakfast today.

Like this recipe? Share the photo and link with a friend on Facebook or Pinterest so that more folks can enjoy it! I'd also love if you'd consider subscribing to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. If you're in the NYC area, be sure to check out my NYC dinner party style cooking classes

Thanks for reading & sharing!

Sweet Corn, Chorizo, and Date Hash Recipe
Serves 4 as a side 

4 ears sweet corn
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 pound Spanish chorizo sausage (about 3 links)
1/4 cup sherry (substitute vermouth or chicken broth)
1/4 cup dates, pitted and diced
3 tablespoons capers in brine

Preheat broiler. Rub corn with oil and place on a baking sheet under the broiler, turning every 4 minutes until cooked and slightly charred. (You can also grill or roast the corn, if preferred.) Let corn cool slightly and use a knife to cut kernels off cob. Set aside.

While the corn cooks, place a large heavy-bottomed skillet (such as cast iron) over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons oil. Add the diced onion and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the diced chorizo and continue to cook until heated through and slightly charred. Stir in the sherry and dates and let cook until the liquid reduces.  Remove from heat. Stir in the capers and the corn kernals, and season with kosher salt and black pepper, to taste.


Dark Mocha Molasses Snacking Cake

I've always been of the opinion that an everyday cake is a very necessary thing.

I love the idea of a snacking cake that can sit around on a plate or cake stand, ready to be sliced into as an afternoon treat, an easy dessert, or even a slightly naughty breakfast. People always say that they like to keep such things on hands for "unexpected company," but I don't really believe that such a thing exists. At least not in New York City.

(And thank goodness because it's 2pm as I write this and I'm still in pajamas with a frizzy bun sitting in the middle of my living room, which is completely in disarray. I may be ready with cake, but in absolutely no other way am I prepared for "unexpected guests"! I think that if someone were to show up at my door uninvited, I'd probably just hit the floor in a panic refusing to open the door until they left.)

But I digress.

I have a few such easy cakes in my repertoire, this Dark Mocha Molasses Snacking Cake being one of my new favorites. It's a rich, dark chocolate cake with strong hints of molasses and espresso. I based it off of Smitten Kitchen's Everyday Chocolate Cake, but changed it quite a bit. I swapped in all dark sugar (I used a fantastic organic dark sugar from Wholesome Sweeteners that smells strongly of molasses), replacing the buttermilk with very strong and very black coffee.

I also added pure molasses, to play off the deep, slightly bitter notes of the brown sugar, and Kahlua because I once read that a touch of alcohol in cooking makes everything taste better (scientifically speaking, not just socially).

The result is a very dark, moist, black-as-night cake with incredibly rich flavor. If you like coffee and dark chocolate, you'll love this one. If you enjoy those rich bitter notes of molasses in things like gingerbread and sticky toffee pudding, well then this is definitely the cake for you.

I have a special fondness for molasses. I think it's because I grew up reading a lot of books about girls in dreary surroundings who ate stodgy puddings sweetened with molasses while waiting for their beaus to return from the war.

There is something rather virtuous about molasses, too. All those minerals and iron. Make it. Have a bite. I think you'll understand what I mean.

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Dark Mocha Molasses Snacking Cake Recipe
Serves 8. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's "Everyday Chocolate Cake"

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons molasses
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup strong black coffee, room temperature
1/4 cup kahlua (or substitute additional black coffee, for a non-alcoholic version)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x5" loaf pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, molasses and egg until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the coffee and kahlua until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until completely blended and no lumps or dry spots remain. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake 60 to 75 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in pan about 15 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on a rack completely. 

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Stuffed Zucchini (Vegetarian)

I went out for dinner with a friend the other night and ordered a lackluster version of this. Obviously, I didn't realize it was going to be lackluster when I ordered it; I thought it was going to be freaking delicious! The menu promised zucchini stuffed with a savory mixture of mushrooms, herbs, and ricotta, which felt like just the perfect light summer dinner I was craving.

Only problem is that what I got ended up being rather...bland. I spent the whole meal shaking the salt shaker.

But it had potential. So I fixed it! (You know...by adding flavor!)

At home, I revamped the filling by sauteing finely chopped mushrooms with onions, garlic, fresh thyme, and a pinch of chili flakes. I then swapped the insipid ricotta for a tangy chevre that I stirred through the mushroom mixture, letting it melt in the heat. I generously filled the scooped-out zucchini boats (the ones at the restaurant had been quite skimpy) and topped it off with mozzarella.

(Relatedly: When I told Eugene I was going to make stuffed zucchini, he replied "But how can you stuff zucchini? There's no room in there!")

Into the broiler for about 7 minutes and the results were impressive. Tangy and umami-rich from the mushrooms and goat cheese, plus just the perfect amount of salty gooey-ness from the mozzarella. Since I cooked it in the broiler, the zucchini was perfect--cooked through, but still firm enough to hold the filling and slice evenly.

I served these for dinner one night along with a salad and a crusty baguette, and then again for lunch this week when my mom came by. I've just popped the ingredients into my Fresh Direct cart so that I can make them again this weekend!

(I confess that I very nearly kept this recipe from you just because I hate the photos. It was a dark and cloudy day, I was hungry, and I didn't feel like taking the time to pull out my good lens. So I just took a few shots, right on the baking pan and called it a day. But it's a good recipe so that would have been silly!)

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Mushroom and Goat Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Recipe
Serves 4

4 large zucchini
1 lb button mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme 
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
6oz chevre goat cheese
6 slices low-water mozzarella cheese

Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Rinse zucchini and pat dry. Cut in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to hollow out the center, reserving the zucchini that you scoop out. Season the insides of the hollowed-out zucchini boats with kosher salt and black pepper, and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Chop the mushrooms finely (caps and stems) finely. I like to just toss them in my food processor and let pulse until finely chopped, but you can also use a knife.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the chopped mushrooms, the scooped out zucchini insides, diced onion, and garlic. Season well with salt and let cook until the onions get tender, the mushrooms shrink and release their water, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the thyme and red pepper flakes, and stir in the goat cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning with black pepper and more kosher salt, if necessary.

Use a spoon to fill the hollowed out zucchini boats, allowing the filling to overflow slightly. Top with torn pieces of mozzarella cheese. Place in preheated broiler (allowing several inches below the flame--I put it on the middle rack in my oven) and broil about 7 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden, and the zucchini is cooked through.

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