Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brownies with Chile and Sea Salt

I am full of excuses for the month of July---the number one excuse being that I broke my arm and have been in a splint the past two and half weeks, which it makes it rather difficult to type. This morning, I have removed the splint just to add this recipe.

These brownies are addictive. They are the ultimate "adult beverage" (which my cousins and I jokingly call desserts because for the longest time, we only had dessert after the kids went to bed---similarly to how some people consume adult beverages.) It's easy to eat a quarter pan at a time, thanks to the salt sprinkled on top. The chile isn't enough to make the brownies spicy (M would eat them which would mean they are not spicy whatsoever). It's just enough to leave a little hint of tickle in the back of your throat after you ate the brownies (a tickle in a good sense as opposed to a choking tickle or a full out spicy throat burn).

Enough said. There are no pictures. The brownies don't last long enough. Plus, it's hard to get a good picture of a brownie. :)

Brownies with Chile and Sea Salt
adapted ever so slightly, maybe, from In the Kitchen with Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

18 T butter (also equal to 1 c plus 2 T butter or 2 sticks plus 2 T butter)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/8 - 1/4 t cayenne (I think I used closer to 1/4. Don't substitute chile powder)
1/2 c plus 1 T cocoa powder
2 1/2 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 T vanilla
fancy sea salt flakes like Fleur de Sel or Maldon, for sprinkling

Melt together the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. In a separate small to medium bowl, combine the flour, kosher salt, and cayenne. Transfer the chocolate and butter mixture to a larger bowl. Stir in the cocoa powder and sugar (it will be rather thick). Add the eggs and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Fold in the dry ingredients (flour, etc) and continue to fold until batter is lump-free. Scrape the batter into a 9 x 13" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper (alternately, you could just butter the bottom really well, but it may stick). Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle all over with the sea salt flakes. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees oven or until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the top is set and shiny (if you like your brownies undercooked, just bake a minute or two less). Allow to cool until they won't burn your mouth any more and enjoy.

By the way---these, like most good brownies, are fabulous served warm with a scoop of ice cream melting over top. :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Vietnamese Cabbage and Chicken Salad

I am discovering my cooking is evolving and changing. That's pretty much a constant with me--my cooking changes, I frequently try new recipes and discard ones I liked really well. Last summer it was all about Greek and Mediterranean food. While those are still regulars on our menu, I am finding a new theme for this incredibly hot summer (are we at 20 days over 100 degrees yet without even hitting July? Probably. I keep thinking there is no way this heat can last all summer, but it seems to be attempting to do that). Quick, easy, and minimal cooking.

We spend many an afternoon at the pool (it's within walking/biking distance of our house), which leaves me not a lot of time to make supper. Years and years ago, back before I even considered cabbage to be an ingredient I'd eat, I made a cabbage/chicken salad that I just barely found palatable. Things have changed, I like cabbage as long as it's not too cabbage-y, and Curtis and I thought this was a great hot summer afternoon meal. The kids didn't think so, as much, but I didn't expect them too, so I planned for a little more to the meal than just that.

This recipe is a great summer meal to use up some of the cabbage that just lingers on, long past the memory of the cold weather when it was planted and grown. I'd make it again, next June, when I have cabbage, it's hot, and I'd rather be swimming than cooking.

Vietnamese Cabbage and Chicken Salad
adapted from Food and Wine

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 t salt
2 T sesame oil
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger
2 1/2 lbs cabbage, shredded
2 T cider vinegar
2 T Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
1 1/2 T lime juice
3 medium carrots, grated
3 radishes, grated
2 c mint, basil, or cilantro (or a combination), coarsely chopped
1 tart apple (like Granny Smith), cored and grated

Rub the chicken breasts with 1 t salt and 1 T sesame oil. Put ginger in a medium pot. Add 2 c of water and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and cover the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the chicken continue to cook for 5 minutes. If the chicken is not done, turn the heat back on and simmer for a few more minutes. Remove the chicken from the saucepan and let cool. Pull into shreds when the chicken is cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, combine the cabbage with vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice and 2 t salt in large serving bowl (glass or stainless steel). Let stand for 10 minutes. Add the carrots, radishes, 1 1/2 c of the herbs, and the apples to the cabbage mixture. Stir in remaining 1 T sesame oil. Gently toss in the chicken and garnish with remaining 1/2 c herbs.