Curious Appetite

Month: November 2011

Chocolate BEET Nutella-Inspired Ganache CAKE.

Eat your vegetables—-for dessert! Yes, for real. Carrot cake, zucchini bread, now chocolate beet cake! Beets are one of my favorite root vegetables and here in the Puget Sound we are lucky to have them almost year round. Although in the fall & winter-like months, their bulbs tend to be bulkier which makes them easier to prepare into casseroles, roasts and soups. The beet has a looooong history, some believe it’s cultivation dates back to the 2nd millennium B.C.! Nowadays they are commercially produced for table sugar and there is even a hot controversy involving the little beet and the unstoppable GMO. Since about 1/2 of all our sugar in America comes from beets, (un)naturally the powers involved with mutating American Farmland have figured out how to capitalize on this rich sugar bulb now with a Roundup Ready GE Sugar Beet. Although the USDA has approved of this uncertain science experiment, you don’t have to. You can make this delicious moist buttery nutty chocolate cake with local organic beets found at Puget Sound Farmer’s Markets (or any local natural grocer/co-op) grown with love by Rents Due Ranch or Ralph’s Greenhouse and save yourself the mystery genes. This cake can be made even more local with Stone Buhr’s Washington White Flour (locally produced and small batch milled by Shepard’s Grain), farmstead eggs and fresh butter from the farmer’s market (or local co-op or natural grocer).

The Nutella-inspired ganache is easier than cake. Not only are beets in season and local, but so are hazelnuts! I just roasted these in the oven with a little bit of sugar until the skins popped off then beet them to a pulp in a coffee grinder then added to the chocolate ganache pot. So simple yet luscious! See for yourself!

Here is what you will need:

Dry ingredients in one bowl:

1 cup of flour (I used Shepherd’s Grain WA flour, its local and affordable!)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa or cacao

Wet ingredients:

5 eggs, separated

variation: 2 whole eggs and 3 egg whites (or 3/4 cup liquid egg whites)

1 cup of sugar

Chocolate cake base:

1 cup of beet puree’ (made with 2 medium bulk beets or 1 large bulk beet)

8 tbsp butter, or one short stick

1/4 cup espresso, instant (for ease) or 1/4 hot water

1 cup 62% semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used the Sunspire Fairtrade chips from PCC Natural Markets, less than $5 a bag!)

Chocolate-“Nutella” Ganache

1/2 cup skinned ground hazelnuts, dry roasted in the oven with a sprinkle of sugar

1/2 cup 62% semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 heavy whipping cream

1 tbsp sweet Marsala or whatever sweet wine you have around

This cake has a lot of little tasks so here is how I suggest you break it down: Beets—>Ganache—> Hazelnut roasting—-> Cake batter prep—->Oven @ 325* for 40 minutes = voila’!

Beets: scrub your beet(s) and start boiling them skin on. It will take about 1/2 hour for the beets to full boil to softness and make the skin just slip off under cool water. When beets are boiled and skinned, cut into chunks and puree them in a food processor or blender.

Roasted hazelnuts, for ganache and cake topping:

Put the hazelnuts in a thin oven-safe pan and sprinkle some sugar on. Set temperature to 350* in a toaster oven or oven making sure to give them a shake and roll around every few minutes. Roast time total should be about 15 minutes. They will be ready when you see skins starting to pop off and brown. Let these cool wrapped in the middle of a clean towel.  In the towel, try to rub off all the skins. Reserve half  for the actual cake topping. The other half once skinned and cooled, pulverized in a coffee grinder. Pour into ganache when ready. Turn over down to 325* for cake baking temperature.

How to make the ganache:  add chocolate chips and heavy cream to a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Add in the Marsala or sweet wine. Whisk till this gets a bit thick then take off the heat and allow to cool. You may now mix in the pulverized hazelnut “meal”.

After ganache is made and beets are still boiling…

Chocolate cake base (the wet ingredients): melt 1/2 cup of chocolate in a small saucepan on very low heat and make sure to stir and scrap. Add espresso or hot water once chocolate is mostly melted. Cut butter into chunks and let it melt in careful not to stir too much. Fold in egg yolks and mix until uniform. And lastly, fold in beet puree’.

Now with an electric mixer, whip egg whites until stiff and frothy. Add in the sugar slowly and stir in with a spatula. Now you can fold in the egg white mixture with the chocolate mixture and have your self a chocolate base.

Dry Cake mix: In a dry bowl, sift flour with baking powder and cocoa powder.

Take the dry mix and now add it to the wet chocolate beet and electric mix until a batter forms. Don’t be alarmed, this batter will seem pretty runny but it will bake very dense and moist, you’ll see…:)

Take 2 9in cake pans and butter it up or as I did, coat pans with a coconut oil spray. Fill each pan about 3/4 full or even a little more, just be careful not to fill it to the rim. Bake for 40 minutes at 325* (no peeking and no over baking!)

After 40 minutes, take out and allow to cool. Once cool, remove from cake pan and spread ganache on top. Take the reserve hazelnuts, cut them in half and top away!

This cake will be a hit for the holiday festivities this year. Its deep, its rich and best of all it utilizes what’s in season and local. The thick chocolaty flavor exploding hazelnut puts the panache in this ganache!  If you really want to splurge, I recommend pairing this cake with a dessert wine like Banyuls or a Tawny Port. Cheers!

Golden Beetle: Maria Hine's tipsy spinoff

You know that feeling when you and millions of other people discover a movie so good it becomes a cult classic? It’s so good that you almost want a sequel so the genius of the 1st one just keeps entertaining you? Without further adieu, that much anticipated sequel arrives…

Golden Beetle is Maria Hines’ newest venture following Tilth, a local, organic comfort food institution. Lady Hines even competed on Iron Chef and sliced everyone away.  You do not wanna mess with these skills. Tilth is unlike any other New American restaurant in town. So what do you do when you are so well received; not only by your eaters and Iron Chef judges, but by The James Beard Foundation, The NY Times AND Food & Wine Magazine? Naturally, you come up with a sequel.

Tilth seems to always be bustling and humming, making it hard to reserve a seat less than a week in advance. Golden Beetle has been open for about a year and I am not convinced of its soul quite yet. I see tables filled but it still seems a little sterile. The food is good, but I think it’s a little too forced. By the way, “good” is probably one of the most frustrating descriptions you can give for “food.” What is good, exactly?

For happy hour, they have some reasonable small plates all under $5. I really can’t ask for a better value from such the highly revered chef. The good stuff to order is the Lamb Chickpea Stew. Its small but packs a filling punch with chickpeas bathing in Moroccan spices and little studs of lamb popping out behind preserved lemon notes.  Another good item to order if you would like to be confused would be the Skagit River Ranch Sliders with tomato sauce and pickled cucumber. I’m a tad befuddled, how is a mini-burger (aka a pretentious “deconstruction” of a White Castle burghetto) Mediterranean? In Golden Beetle’s case, its cramming the patty with a confusing mix of Greek-Turkish-Italian spices and herbs then getting roasted pepper tomato soup poured on top of this constructed “slider.” I mean, at the end it was good. But not very impressive.

Another baffle was the service. Also ordered was a Hummus and Pita small plate ($4). This came with a generous ramiken-sized serving of decently garlicked chickpea mash, but it came with 6 tiny squares of fresh pita. Obviously, there was more dip than bread could handle. When asked to bring extra bread, considering the obvious underestimation of bread:dip ration, this came with an additional $3 cost. So the happy hour item turned out to be $7 and when I looked at the normal menu, the same hummus plate is priced at $3. Hmmmmm.

I was a little frustrated by the haphazard over-spicing and a little put off by the pretentious gloat of all the “handmade” goods like sumac bitters and harissa sauce. Ever been to Mediterranean Mix in Pioneer SQ? Well, it’s a little hole-in-the-wall that serves up steaming fresh gyros just glazing with homemade from scratch hummus, marinated juicy lamb, raw grassy gyro-friendly herbs and cradled by a pillowy soft slightly spotty charred pita. For probably $6 bucks. And made by the Mediterranean-sourced owner themselves who isn’t afraid to look you in the eye, say hello and ask how many brothers and sisters you have. I feel like no matter how much one travels to these parts of the world, doing culinary research, and trying to merge the local ideologies they hold back home, you just can’t imitate Mediterranean culture, food is culture. I don’t care if its local and organic, the fact is you are trying to stick it to me for 6 cubes of bread. And you’re missing the warm personable spirit of the Romance cultures you are trying to impart into your sequel. And that just won’t fly with me, lady. No matter how fancy your bitters are.

Carb-Fair Gluten-Free Blackberry Belgian Waffles

Did I just say what you think I said? Yes. It’s true.

This is my creation:

Blackberry Coconut and Almond Flour Belgian Waffles with a banana honey & yogurt “Creme Fraiche.”

And I made it for the love of healthy blood sugar. Eating out, I love me some truffle and parmigiano fries. But when I am at home, I keep it clean. But! Tasty. And this waffle is indeed!

Try it for yourself, you will thank me. So will your pancreas. November is also Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. According to http://www.pancan.org:

“Pancreatic cancer is 2 times more likely to occur in people who have diabetes than in people who do not have diabetes.”

“For people who are considered clinically obese, there may be a significantly increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.”

“Lack of physical activity or exercise has been associated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer in a large epidemiologic study”

Insulin is produced by the pancreas, eating high (simple) carb and high sugar foods stimulates a surge of insulin into the bloodstream. We know that excessive triggers for insulin (mostly caused by poor dietary habits) can lead to type II diabetes. It’s worth knowing this excess insulin in the blood signals the body to convert sugars to stored glycogen. Without high intensity exercise (aka cardio) that burns this sugary “glycogen”, it will soon be converted to fat. Which leads to obesity over time, another risk factor for pancreatic cancer. In other words, save your refined carbs for special occasions! This waffle is high in fiber, packs a good dose of protein and sorta low in sugar. The entire recipe calling for only 1/2 of a small banana, 1 tsp of honey and 1/4 cup of blackberries which are relatively low in sugar.

My little nutrition lecture aside, here’s the damn recipe!

For one person or 2, depending on how hungry you are 🙂

In one bowl mix the following dry ingredients:

3 tbsp coconut flour
1 tbsp almond flour
1/4 tsp aluminum-free baking soda
a healthy dash of ground cinnamon and cardamom <3
Then…in another bowl mix the following “wet” ingredients:
1 local humane egg
1 egg white
1 tsp of melted grass-fed butter or good olive oil
1 shy tsp bourbon or Tahitian vanilla extract
Also:
about 1/4 cup of fresh blackberries (I am still finding at Farmer’s Markets!) or thawed frozen berries of your choice
Honey Yogurt and Banana “Creme Fraiche”
1/4 cup (or your desire) plain yogurt
1 tsp local honey
1/2 diced banana
Add the dry waffle mix slowly to the wet egg mix. Whisk by hand or with electric beaters until you get all the clumps out. The coconut and almond flour should absorb a fair amount of the liquid and get a nice batter consistency. If you feel like its still a little runny even after all the beating and mashing, let it sit for a few minutes. If its STILL runny, then add 1/4 tsp of Xanthan gum, Guar gum or Arrowroot to give it a push for thicker consistency. Add a pinch more if you truly feel the need. When batter is complete, mash up the blackberries and fold in.
When this batter is all made up, pour it in a waffle maker! If you don’t have one, I highly suggest you get one! It makes making brunch that much more motivating. You can also treat this batter like pancakes. It takes just a few minutes to cook, pay attention because this flour burns easily. You should notice the waffle take on a spongy-like form when ready to slide onto plate. If you are quick at the multi-tasking kitchen draw, make the yogurt topping while waffle cooks in the pan, or while its cooling down. It only takes a minute, just mix honey into yogurt well and then add the diced bananas. Top waffle with yogurt “creme”. aaaaand eat! Enjoy the tart blackberry notes, the creamy yogurt honey banana topping smooths it out while compliments the nutty backdrop of the “cake.” So many good textures here. Banana, sponge cake, mashed berry and the cardamom sneaks out and steals your heart.
enjoy with a nice strong cup of green tea!

35th St. Bistro in Fremont

Come here for Brunch.

By night, 35th St. Bistro can be a bit off putting for the everyday city dweller, it might feel like you are only welcome if you are on a date, that NPR listening middle-aged francophile with wire framed glasses looking for that shoo-shoo chic wood-colored bistro, nicely endowed with a nice wad of cash and a preexisting familiarity with French pronunciations. I am none of those things.

At Brunch, however, all bets are off. Especially if you are smart and swoon in the bar nook. I suggest coming at around 1, either with a friend you can happily dwell with at length or a book that will last you at least a couple hours. Because at 2pm, happy hour begins and it’s the perfect time for a Tom Collins or a fresh fruit muddled martini (strawberry if you are lucky) before buzzing over to the last bit of the Fremont Market.

One should confidently enjoy a French Pizza for breakfast. Adorned with carmelized onions, bits of smokey sweet bacon, hints of gruyere, salty brunch potatoes and a farm-style egg on top, how is pizza not more common at brunchtime?

If you are looking for a stealth power packed plate to keep you full and able to resist the beignets with salted caramel and chocolate dip at Happy Hour, the Bistro Omelet is your ticket to fine herbed and gruyere fluffy eggie savourment. Be sure to order the homemade sausage over the bacon, its flavorfully saged and explosively hearty. And, who can argue with homemade?

Ladies and gentlemen, I may never be able to go back again. This little wrinkle in Sunday’s afternoon should only be relived by you and your favored ones. My time with mine has left the building. In order to keep finding gems like these. 🙂

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