CAKEGASM

(not my picture)

Hold the phone, stop what you’re doing, this is important. I’ve found the Holy Grail of chocolate cakes. This cake is definitively the. Best. Chocolate. Cake. In. The. World.

I have the utmost respect for chocolate cakes and I’ve had years of experience baking and eating them. I’ve had restaurant tortes, homemade birthday cakes, box cakes, lava cakes, ice cream cakes, and devious impostors, but this is it. I wouldn’t mislead you. This is the most chocolatey, flavorful, moist, memorable, spongey, blissful, delicious chocolate cake I’ve tasted in my entire 20 years.

And it comes… from a pie shop. Continue reading

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Baklava

As long as you have some pre-made papery thin phyllo dough at hand, Baklava is really easy to make. The basic concept is to mix together chopped nuts, sugar, and spices, and then stack alternating layers of phyllo dough, butter, and nut mixture. Then, drizzle with honey, lemon juice, and some more spices, and you’re done!

As you could probably guess from the height of my baklava, though this process might not be technically challenging, it is very time consuming. Which is why it was nice to tackle baklava with someone else in the kitchen to speed along the stacking and keep me entertained.

Or, you know. An entire kitchen full of people works, too.

So… between Liz, my brother, his friend, and my dad periodically wandering in and out (plus pauses for some entertaining YouTube videos) I got the tiniest bit distracted, which is why there aren’t very many pictures. But like I said, this really isn’t the hardest recipe to follow, and the few pictures I took of the results are hopefully mouth-watering enough for those of you who just read cooking blogs for the pictures.

I used this recipe, which came out perfectly delicious, but I also found another one a few days ago that uses pistachios, cashews, and macadamia nuts in the nut mixture and orange peel in the honey syrup. These sound like excellent additions. Continue reading

Muesli and Toaster Pastries (and Baklava)

I saw my friend Liz the other night, which means one thing: baking extravaganza. We spent a while talking about past baking adventures and mishaps and what we planned to make that night. We both agreed that we wanted something easy, something you could just pour into a pan and forget about in the oven. And then we got home and looked through my recipes, and Liz’s eyes immediately alighted upon the word “baklava.” And that was that.

At the same time, we ‘d been discussing this article on making muesli, entitled How to Feel Competent by Dumping a Lot of Stuff in a Bowl, and diabetes-friendly foods in general, so when we were at the supermarket we picked up some ingredients for muesli as well.

Of course, when we got home, we realized we had all of the ingredients for muesli, but we’d gotten puff pastry instead of the phyllo dough that is absolutely essential for making baklava. At this point, I’d already stopped at the grocery store twice and didn’t have the energy to make another trip. So we called my little brother and his friend, who obligingly went driving all around town to find a grocery store that was still open and sold phyllo dough. And when they got back, they were in the mood for toaster pastries. So we decided to make some of those, too. Continue reading

Send me pictures of your food!

This is my friend Jenna and her Thai-inspired lunch of “cauliflower, peppers, onions, mushrooooooms, spinach, tomatoes, yaaamm, with cashew butter and squash soooup.” Sounds delicious! And it’s good to know I’m not the only one photographing my meals. Or adding extra letters to foooood (see: “banananas”). Welcome to the blog, Jenna!

Send me pictures of your food!

This week in food…

Since starting this blog two weeks ago, I’ve been wondering how, or if, it would change my relationship with food. I’m relieved to report that for the most part, the changes I’ve noticed have been positive. I chop vegetables and wash bowls faster. I’m more prone to improvisation. When I get home tired from work, I can still summon the energy to make dinner because I know the extra effort will be worth it, and I’m excited to taste the finished dish. Also, there are always yummy leftovers in the fridge, so I always have stuff to take to work with me (and consequently, have been saving money by not eating out for lunch or buying snacks) and spend less time standing in front of cabinets, wondering what to eat. In the words of my mother, the biggest noticeable change is that she can always tell when I’m cooking because I have my camera with me (Though I have to admit, I’m still not quite used to taking pictures of my food).

Moreover, because I’m constantly on the lookout for new tips and recipes, I’ve been reading a lot more food-related articles. Here are my favorite finds from this week:

Tips and Tricks

How to Prevent Mold Growth on Berries: Rinsing your berries in warm water before refrigerating them apparently prevents mold. Is it magic? No. Science! (Just kidding. It’s definitely magic).

New York Centric Articles

Creating the Perfect Brooklyn Meal: Both a helpful guide for navigating Brooklyn’s many acclaimed eateries and a great source of inspiration for your own kitchen. I’m definitely keeping Colonie’s brussels sprouts combination in the back of my mind.

7 Unusual Meals to be Had Off the 7 Train: Ever spend long nights lying awake, wondering where to find roasted guinea pig, Colombian hot dogs, and Turkish “meat-canoes” in New York City? I’ve got you covered. If you’re wondering where to find a great place to take your in-laws or out-of-town guests, you should probably keep looking.

A Food Critic and His Two Daughters Review New York’s Best Ice Cream: Finally! A food review that understands that despite a foodie’s proclivities toward the unusual or pretentious, when it comes to dessert most of us revert back to being 8 year old girls. The close-ups of melty, toppings-laden ice cream and imaginative descriptions will make you drool on your keyboard.

Just for Lulz

The Most Annoying Dinner Party Ever: At first, I thought this was just going to be more complaining about vegetarians, people with food allergies, and other dietary restrictions, but this clever illustration pokes fun at prevalent but mostly unrecognized food tribes, like Pollanvores, Sobertarians, and Beigeatarians.

Books

– The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender: I didn’t have high hopes for this light summer read, but the writing is gorgeous and Bender has one of those gifts for structure that is both subtle and masterful. The book is about a girl who can taste other people’s emotions in the food they make; she literally eats feelings.  An excerpt:

My birthday cake was her latest project because it was not from a mix but instead built from scratch — the flour, the baking soda, lemon-flavored because at eight that had been my request; I had developed a strong love for sour. We’d looked through several cookbooks together to find just the right one, and the smell in the kitchen was overpoweringly pleasant. To be clear: the bite I ate was delicious. Warm citrus-baked batter lightness enfolded by cool deep dark swirled sugar.

But the day was darkening outside and as I finished that first bite, as that first impression faded, I felt a subtle shift inside, an unexpected reaction. Because the goodness of the ingredients—the fine chocolate, the freshest lemons—seemed like a cover over something larger and darker, and the taste of what was underneath was beginning to push up from the bite. I could absolutely taste the chocolate, but in drifts and traces, in an unfurling, or an opening, it seemed that my mouth was also filling with the taste of smallness, the sensation of shrinking, of upset, tasting a distance I somehow knew was connected to my mother, tasting a crowded sense of her thinking, a spiral, like I could almost even taste the grit in her jaw that had created the headache that meant she had to take as many aspirins as were necessary, a white dotted line of them in a row on the nightstand like an ellipsis to her comment: I’m just going to lie down. . . . None of it was a bad taste, so much, but there was a kind of lack of wholeness to the flavors that made it taste hollow, like the lemon and chocolate were just surrounding a hollowness. My mother’s able hands had made the cake, and her mind had known how to balance the ingredients, but she was not there, in it.

Hope you found some of these links enjoyable, helpful, or intriguing. Happy weekend!

Chicken Fajitas with Mango Salsa

I am currently sitting in the den with my mom, where we are both listening to the lovely Sharon Van Etten. It’s the end of the week, my belly is full, I have a great weekend ahead of me, and I honestly can not imagine a more relaxing evening.

I’m not saying this is all because of the chicken fajitas. But they probably have something to do with it.

There’s no real recipe for any of this; I just happened to find a bottle of mango tequila jalapeno marinade in the garage and knew immediately that I had to make something with it. And we had some still unripe mangos in the fruit basket. And a can of beans in the pantry. So here we are.  Continue reading

Soba Noodles with Peppers and Tofu

Soba? Soba. Soba is a Japanese noodle, made of buckwheat or spelt. This is significant for people with diabetes or gluten allergies, or families with people who have diabetes or gluten allergies.

Tofu? Tofu. You have probably heard of tofu, but are maybe not too fond of eating it. If that’s the case, this recipe can easily be modified by using beef, chicken, fish, or seafood instead. If you like tofu, but are uncertain of how to prepare it yourself, I highly recommend this wonderful tofu tutorial from blogger Daily Garnish.

So. Tofu and soba. Two curious ingredients. I combined them, using this recipe from Serious Eats  as a template, for a light but satisfying meal that my whole family could enjoy. Continue reading

Coconut Tilapia with Cucumber Radish Garnish


Aaah tilapia. The elevator muzak of fish. Bland, totally uninspiring, and nearly infuriating in its sheer inoffensiveness.

I’ll admit: after being served this fish nearly every day in high school and eating it pretty frequently at home, I’ve actually come to tolerate, even occasionally enjoy, the utter beige-ness of tilapia. You can pair it with any sauce or spice or marinade or side. You can cook it any way you like. You can even put it in the microwave under a wet paper towel and voila: dinner.

I would never have thought that adding a little coconut would actually make tilapia taste good, but lo and behold, this dish from Big Girls, Small Kitchen was a smashing success.

What it was not: easy to make. My kitchen was a total mess by the time I was through. But if you have some time on your hands and don’t mind the extensive clean up, this recipe will totally wow anyone who associates tilapia with flavorlessness. Continue reading

Kale Walnut Pesto

Finally! After my first attempts received lukewarm feedback, I have finally found a way to use up the rest of the kale in our fridge (yup, that same giant bag is still around). This kale pesto recipe from Always Order Dessert was perfect; the cheese and olive oil of the pesto actually compliment the bitter taste of kale instead of hiding it. And the recipe takes literally five minutes to prepare — you just throw your ingredients into a food processor and you’re done! I’m planning on having this with swiss cheese on a mushroom burger for lunch, and maybe serving it with some tomatoes and cheese as a side dish for tonight’s dinner.

My one recommendation for this recipe is to follow the directions. I usually eyeball measurements when I’m cooking, but for this recipe proportions count. Except for the cheese. You should always add extra cheese.

Pretty Food from Amorino Gelato

Last week, I got off work early and went to Amorino Gelato (near Union Square) with Vanessa and her friend Hannah.

Things I love I about their gelato: You can get an unlimited number of flavors per cone. Each cone is artfully arranged into a beautiful gelato flower with each flavor as a different petal. It is delicious and extremely flavorful.

Things I don’t love about their gelato: The price. But as a one-time treat, it wasn’t so bad.

I wrote more about the experience for Inside New York, a New York City guidebook and blog that I’m writing for this summer. You can my full review here, or in the 2012 guidebook that will be in select bookstores this September!