How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stirring Up Mocha Cake

This week's recetas nuevas are variations on two favorite recipes of long standing, made all the better with secret ingredients from our friends at L.O.V.E. -- the Lebherz Oil & Vinegar Emporium in Frederick, Maryland. As regular readers may know, this culinary treasure was recently established by a fellow alumna of UMBC, where Pam and I met a few years back. And don't worry: the "secret" ingredients are about to be revealed!

The first modification was a simple one. We were pleased to get some late-season eggplant, so of course made a bonus round of ratatouille (we thought we had put the season finale in the freezer a couple weeks ago). By adding a small hot pepper from our farm box and chipotle-infused olive oil from L.O.V.E. and cooking for four hours, this weapons-grade tomato stew was even more scrumptious than usual.

The genius part of the evening was the addition of dark chocolate balsamic vinegar -- along with a few other modifications -- to our favorite pound cake recipe. Our new creation is based on the Mocha-Swirl Pound Cake on page 191 of Mollie Katzen's classic Moosewood Cookbook (just try to find another two-word title with eight Os!). The result is a perfect use of Marley Coffee from Jamaica!

Our modified version requires
  • Butter (or Crisco or Pam) and flour for a Bundt pan
  • 1 pound (hence the name) of butter, softened. Yes, that is four sticks. I'm going rowing in the morning.
  • 2 cups unbleached, granulated sugar, preferably fair-trade organic, which is available from Costco, believe it or not!
  • 6 eggs, preferably from a local chicken. Ours were from Hanson Farm.
  • 4 cups white flour (use the healthy stuff on another recipe)
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup Buffalo Soldier Marley Coffee, strongly brewed. I used medium-roasted La Orchidea from my friend's farm in Nicaragua, because I did not have time to order the Marley Coffee, but I think the medium-dark Buffalo Soldier would be even better for this recipe! (Reserve the rest of the pot of coffee -- I used a Chemex -- to serve with the cake.)
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla (also available from Costco, by the way)
  • 1/2 of a 3.5-ounce Ibarra Mexican chocolate disk, which lends just a hint of cinnamon  The next time I plan to use exotic pepper from Mad├ęcasse, which I happened to try the day after making this, and I think it would be even better. Melt the chocolate in microwave or on stove top.
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2-3 Tbs. dark chocolate balsamic vinegar (see above)
To prepare, first make the batter:
  • Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat eggs into mixture, two at a time.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Alternate mixing dry ingredients and coffee into the butter mixture, until blended. Do not beat or over-mix.
Then prepare to swirl:
  • Separate one-third of the batter to a small bowl, blend in melted chocolate.
  • Prepare Bundt pan with butter and flour and pour in plain batter.
  • Dollop chocolate batter in clumps onto pan, and then use a knife to swirl gently into the plain batter. 
Bake and glaze:
  • Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or less if using convection. Remove to wire rack to cool, and overturn gently onto a plate, using a spatula if necessary.
  • Meanwhile, sift confectioners sugar and whisk in 2 Tbs. chocolate vinegar. It will be difficult at first, but avoid the temptation to add too much liquid. Eventually, a thick glaze will form, which will drip off the whisk. Use this to drizzle glaze onto upright cake.
  • Use bread or cake knife to slice modest servings -- this is rich cake!
  • Garnish with espresso beans and/or mocha chips (ours were from Hilliard's)

Serve with Marley Coffee and try to contain yelps of true bliss, as the tart glaze melts perfectly into the rich mocha cake!

UPDATE: Having a professional photographer involved in the baking means a lot of cool shots of Stirring Up Mocha Cake in progress. Enjoy!

FURTHER UPDATE: We actually won this contest!

We were modifying a fairly complicated recipe, so all members
of the team had to study the original version!
Yes, a pound cake does have a full pound of butter.
But not in each slice!
It's all about Jamaica.
Jamaica, coffee, and chocolate, that is!
The chef hat does not help the coffee,
but hand grinding does!
While going to the trouble of baking
from scratch and using good Marley Coffee,
one might as well use a Chemex or
other pour-over brewing method.
Two hats are better than one for adding the coffee!
Coffee-infused batter!

And the cocoa batter

Swirl the two batters -- with and without cocoa.

Dark Chocolate Basalmic Vinegar glaze is the secrete ingredient.
The final presentation -- with espresso and mocha chips!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A tale of two salads

The type food we get in our farm box haul varies quite a bit as the season moves along, and changes from year to year as well. We are still occasionally getting beets, and last week also received some peaches and pears, things we had not gotten in previous years. I did some searching on to find out what I could build with these ingredients and found two delicious salads.

I made some changes to the, Roasted Beet, Peach, and Goat Cheese Salad, to incorporate ingredients we already had on hand, but was pleased to be able to use the beets and the peaches in one dish. I followed the instructions to roast the beets until I could easily remove the skin. I used more than the recipe called for as ours were rather small, ditto for the peaches, which I cut into small chunks. I added these to a mix of farm greens, lettuce, and herbs from my garden. I substituted a diced onion for the shallots, and included the feta and pistachios as suggested. Rather than make the vinaigrette recommended, I simply sprinkled some of our peach balsamic vinegar from the LOVE Emporium. It was a perfect use for it. A wonderful salad with ingredients I would not have thought to put together. And it tasted great paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Milbrant vineyards of  the Columbia Valley of Eastern Washington.

The pears were well used in the Curried Cashew, Pear, and Grape Salad. After toasting the cashews I mixed them with the melted butter, curry powder, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne. I did not have fresh rosemary, so a used dry, which worked out fine. Again, I used a mix of greens and added the seasoned cashews, the cooked bacon, sliced pears and grapes. I tossed it all with the honey/mustard dressing included with the recipe. This was sweet, tangy, and salty, with a rich variety of textures.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Parm Perfection

Nueva Receta has been a bit quiet of late, as our late summer has had us enjoying some familiar recipes and more than our usual amount of dining out, during a lot of short family trips far from our recipe shelf. But now we are back in our culinary groove, and our attention returns to, yes, eggplant.

Over the weekend, we enjoyed a terrific end-of-summer party with friends who shared all kinds of local bounty. Our contribution included our raspberry whitbeer and the first bottle of our Barolo -- which turned out very well indeed, and is expected to get even better --  any my second batch of weapons-grade ratatouille of the year.

Because our daughter became very fond of eggplant Parmesan, my attention the next day turned to that vegetarian mainstay. I have seen her enjoy it at quite a few restaurants and though my previous attempts have been less than stellar, I decided to try again, with particular attention to texture. As regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn, I turned once again to kitchen goddess Deborah Madison, only slightly modifying her recipe on page 279 of Vegetarian Cooking for All.

I do not want to give the impression that cheese is always the route to bliss in Madison's pages, but it did once again contribute to the success of this dish.

I started with one large eggplant from Hanson Farm -- about as local as possible. It was fresher than anything from the grocery store would be, but it did take me a couple of days to get to this recipe. So where Madison writes that the slices (1/3-inch) should be salted for 30 to 60 minutes unless the eggplant is farm fresh, I decided to compromise. I very lightly salted the slices on both sides and left them out for 15 minutes while packing up the car for said daughter's return to school (this was to be a farewell dinner).

I then blotted them, remembering an overly salty try at this recipe last year, and brushed both sides with olive oil. I placed them under the broiler, first a bit close, then a bit far, then back close, until both sides were browned, almost charred. It is the nature of eggplant that they never got crisp (as they might if I had let the salting go longer), but I got them to a nice, caramelized state.

Meanwhile, I had mixed a small can of tomato paste with a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce, in lieu of the fresh tomato sauce that Madison calls for. As this heated, I stirred in slivers of basil cut directly from our garden. I then brushed a very small amount of oil into a baking pan, spooned in some of the sauce, and layered the semi-charred eggplant -- I had just one layer, but more would have been great. Over this I sprinkled shredded mozzarella (Madison recommends slices of fresh mozz if available) and spooned over the remaining sauce.

And then, of course, I sprinkled some cheese from our friends in Parma, grateful that the earthquake earlier this year did not get it all! I then baked for 25 minutes at 475 (convection), so that the sauce itself became sweet and sticky, along with the cheese. I had managed not to exceed the recipe's cheese parameters -- as I am often tempted to do -- but the meltiness made this dish just perfect for our daughter's sendoff.