• Fried Polenta Cakes with Spicy Tomato-Kale Sauce and an Olive Oil Fried Egg

    WOW this name is a mouthful. But trust me, every aspect of this recipe needed to be there, they work together to create one of the most comforting, magical, and deceivingly easy dinners.

    Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

    This past week I had a taste of what it would be like to live alone (my family was traveling but I still had work because adult life is nonsense), and wow I just don’t think I’m cut out for it. When left to my own devices, I grocery shop so irrationally it’s just embarrassing. For starters, I dropped $22 on saffron because I’d never tried it before (it was amazing and I made Risotto al Milanese and I regret NOTHING but that’s not the point), bought 3 different bottles of wine and a bottle of cognac for separate recipes and used half a cup of each, AND bought a selection of mixed berries to impulsively bake a pie (recipe for that coming soon!!).

    It was only three days someone please help me get my life together. Anyway, let’s break this meal down shall we? These polenta rounds are pan-fried until crispy, then topped with a spicy tomato sauce (almost too spicy because I got carried away but I learned my lesson don’t worry), aaaaand as if it couldn’t get any better, a runny but crispy olive oil fried egg is plopped on top to make you feel like you’re eating fancy brunch while eating dinner on your couch. Topped with a downy sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese, please try to hold back your tears of joy as you eat this.

    Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

    Let’s go!!

    Makes: 4 dinner servings
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 30 minutes
    Total Time: about an hour

    Ingredients:

    1 lb. polenta (I used already made and chilled polenta in tube-form, but you can make your own!)
    1 yellow onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic
    ½ to ¾ tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
    ½ tsp anchovy paste
    1 can crushed tomatoes
    A splash of red wine (since I was already drinking it, but optional)
    Handful of curly kale, rib removed and roughly chopped
    4 eggs, for frying
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    Parmesan cheese, grated

    Steps:

    1. In a saucepan, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium and add the diced onions. Cook until the onions become soft and transparent. Stir in the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking for just another minute, until garlic becomes fragrant but not brown and bitter. Add the anchovy paste and mix to combine.

    2. Pour in your can of crushed tomatoes and stir, making sure all the contents are incorporated, and splash in the red wine if you want it! Turn the heat down slightly and let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Toss in the kale and cook, covered, until it has wilted and softened, another 15 minutes.

    3. While the sauce is cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium in a separate frying pan. Slice your polenta into circles about an inch thick, and fry on both sides (about 10 minutes per side), until they are golden brown and crispy. Once the polenta is done, in the same pan, add a tablespoon more olive oil per egg and allow it to get very hot (about a minute). Add your egg for frying (you can fit two at a time if necessary), and fry until the whites are opaque and the yolk is your desired consistency, about 2 minutes. Swirl the pan around as you cook to make sure nothing sticks, and baste your egg with the hot oil as necessary. Season with salt and pepper.

    4. To serve, pile 3 to 4 polenta cakes on your plate, smother with a generous portion of sauce, and top with a fried egg. Add a generous grating of parmesan cheese and enjoy!!

    xoxoxoD

  • Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Blood Orange Buttercream

    Hello everyone, Happy Friday! Congratulations on powering through another work week, I’m so proud of you! I don’t know what it was about this week that made it feel so long, even with the holiday Monday, what is that about? But now that we’re approaching the sweet, sweet weekend, why not reward yourself with a slice of this incredible double layer cake, with just the right balance of richness from the dark chocolate and brightness from the blood orange. It might seem like a weird combination, chocolate and citrus, but I PROMISE I’m not leading you astray here.

    Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

    Cakes have always been a weak spot for me, I can never seem to get the shape of them right, and stacking is always a huge challenge. I grew up making sheet cakes for birthdays, and only after I really started baking seriously did I dive into layer cakes, and I realized that I didn’t really like them. It always seemed like so much effort for a piece of cake. BUT, then I started to do some research, and I learned a few things. Number one, don’t level or cut your cakes until they’re completely cooled, and chilling them makes it easier. Number two, different cake batters yield different crumb texture, and different crumbs cut better than others. I had always thought that my go-to sheet cake recipe would work for layered cakes, but with a much looser crumb structure, I found that it would just fall apart when I tried to cut it, resulting in crumbly, uneven cake layers.

    This recipe produces a much tighter cake batter (does that make sense? Can a cake batter be tight? I don’t know let’s just move on), and the combination of dark chocolate cocoa powder with some instant coffee granules (a secret ingredient used to make chocolate baked goods really pop) creates probably your new favorite cake ever. And, while I discovered that blood oranges don’t taste much different from regular oranges, I have been searching for them forEVER, and the beautiful natural pink color that they give the frosting just can’t be beaten.

    Anywho, let’s bake!

    Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

    Makes: 1 double-layer cake
    Prep Time: 45 minutes
    Bake Time: 50-55 minutes
    Total Time: ~2 hours

    Dark Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

    2¾ cups all purpose flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1½ tsp baking soda
    1 tsp kosher salt
    1 tsp instant espresso powder
    1 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (unsweetened)
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2½ cups sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    4 eggs, at room temperature

    Steps:

    1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line two 9 inch circular cake tins with parchment paper (or generously butter and flour them.

    2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, making sure everything is evenly incorporated.

    3. In a heat safe bowl, mix 2 cups of boiling water with the cocoa powder and espresso powder, whisking until completely smooth. Let cool.

    4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or another large bowl with a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and mix. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

    5. This next step will be done in parts, with the flour mixture being added in 3 parts, and the warm cocoa mixture being added in two. Start with the flour, add a third of the mixture slowly to avoid the flour flying out of the bowl. Mix until the batter is just incorporated, don’t over-mix!

    Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

    6. Bake the cakes (I bake them on a cookie sheet in case of spills), for 50-55 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through to ensure even cooking. Test with a wire cake tester or toothpick before removing.

    7. Transfer the pans to a wire rack, loosen the edges with a spatula and let the cakes cool completely in the pans.

    8. To level your cakes, use a thin serrated knife (like a bread knife) to cut evenly around the top of the cake to trim off the top dome and give your cakes an even surface for stacking. If it’s helpful, mark the line with toothpicks to keep your knife level. Remember, you can always trim a little more if you need to, but you can’t put it back if you’ve cut too much! Now on to the frosting…

    Blood Orange Buttercream Ingredients:
    adapted from The Vanilla Bean Blog, recipe here.

    3 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
    zest of one blood orange
    ¼ cup blood orange juice
    2 tsp vanilla
    ¼ tsp salt
    4 cups powdered sugar
    A few tbs milk, if needed

    Steps:

    1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter until it becomes creamy. Slowly add in powdered sugar, cup by cup, beating until fully combined.

    2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the zest and juice of the blood orange, vanilla, and salt. Mix until combined, then increase the speed of the mixer to medium and beat for about 5 minutes until fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon of milk or so until you get the right consistency.

    3. To ice the cake, place the first cake on your cake stand and add a dollop of frosting to the top, spreading evenly. Place the second cake on top and “crumb coat” your cake lightly, then chill for 30 minutes to an hour. This keeps all the dark crumbs in the first layer of frosting and not on the outside to ruin the presentation of your cake.

    4. Use the remaining frosting to generously ice the cake, and top with any decoration that your heart desires- I went with blood orange slices, but you could use sprinkles, rosemary sprigs for color, the possibilities are endless!!

    Yay now cut yourself a generous slice and put your feet up because you DESERVE IT! All the love xoxoxoD

  • French Onion Soup with Gruyere Toasts

    About a month ago, my grandpa (one of the smartest cooks I know), gifted me his copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and wow I have never been more excited or honored. I’ve been steadily building an arsenal of cookbooks, because there’s something really special about flipping through them (as opposed to constantly scrolling through my phone), turning to the same splattered pages to find an especially loved recipe covered in notes and annotations. As I was reading through this particular cookbook, it became more and more clear to me that these recipes were HARD. Like several hours and countless steps and French everywhere hard. BUT, then I came across the recipe for Soup À L’Oignon, and I knew it was the perfect first try. If you’re nervous about taking on a large cooking venture, soup is always the way to start- its recipes often allow for more wiggle room, which means that you’re free to experiment and less likely to make a meal-ruining mistake, plus the options are literally ENDLESS.

    Traditionally, French Onion Soup is served “gratinee” with a lid of melted cheese on top and a circle of bread soaking up the liquid inside, but my lack of oven-safe soup crocks made this impossible. Instead, I give you these mini crostinis, brushed with olive oil and toasted, rubbed with a clove of garlic, and piled high with gruyere melted to perfection.

    Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
    The more bread the merrier am I right!!

    The beauty of this soup is how the flavors develop in the slow 2 hour cooking process, and there just is no way to rush that kind of goodness. The key is the caramelizing of the onions, because obviously that’s the star of this dish and every other ingredient is there to enhance it’s rich, warm flavor. It’s also important to note that aside from the slicing of said onions, watch your eyes btw because I was CRYING, the hardest part about making this soup is opening the bottle of wine (and helping yourself to an obligatory while-I’m-cooking glass).

    This is the perfect warming winter soup, and I’m pretty sure it’s magical because almost as soon as we had finished our bowls, we looked outside to see the most beautiful dusting of powdery snow illuminated by the street lamps.

    Now, it’s worth mentioning that no matter how many people are actually home, I always cook for at least 10 people, so I was skeptical when the recipe claimed to serve 6-8 but only called for 2 quarts of stock, so I started messing around with the proportions of liquid. In the end, I’d say that Julia Child’s original recipe would probably serve 6-8 in small appetizer portions, but if you are looking to eat this for dinner as I was, this recipe will serve about the same number in larger portions. Let’s go!

    IMG_1096
    My favorite cooking companions- a good cookbook and yet another episode of The Office…anyone else??

    Makes: 6-8 dinner portions
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: ~2.5 hours
    Total Time: 3 hours

    Soup Ingredients:

    6 cups yellow onions, sliced (it seems like a lot, but they shrink a ton)
    4 tbs salted butter
    2 tbs olive oil
    1 tsp kosher salt
    ¼ tsp sugar (to help with caramelization)
    ¼ tsp ground thyme
    4 tbs flour
    8 cups beef stock + 2 cups water
    ¾ dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
    3 tbs Cognac (a little goes a long way)
    Salt and Pepper, to taste
    Grated gruyere or swiss cheese (to top)

    Steps:

    1. In a heavy-bottom soup pot, heat the butter and oil, and add in the sliced onions. Cook slowly with the pot covered for 15 minutes.

    Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
    I need to invest in a pair of goggles to chop this many onions again.

    2. Uncover and raise the heat to medium. Add in the salt, sugar, and thyme, then stir. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even caramelization. While the onions are cooking, heat the stock and water in a separate pot to steaming, not quite boiling. Once the onions have turned a deep golden brown (to resemble the color of brown sugar), move to step 3.

    Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
    This is about halfway there! LOOK how much they shrink as they cook!!

    3. At this point, add in the flour and cook for about 3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste, stirring constantly.

    4. Remove the soup pot from the heat and add in the heated stock, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with your spoon to incorporate all the delicious bits stuck to the bottom. Taste test here and adjust your salt and pepper as you see fit. (Tip: though I’ve never tried it personally, APPARENTLY if you find your soup over-salted, toss in a few halved potatoes, and they will naturally soak up some of the salt. The more you know!!)

    5. Add the wine, and then simmer the soup partially uncovered for another 30 to 40 minutes. Just before you serve, stir in the cognac. When serving, I like to put some shredded cheese in the bowl before pouring in the soup so that it gets melty, and then top with several of the gruyere toasts (recipe below). Once the toast soaks up some of the broth it gets soft enough for you to break with your spoon and get some excellent cheese pulls. If you want a pop of green as well, you can always sprinkle some chopped parsley on top.

    YUM!

    Gruyere Toast Ingredients:

    1 loaf french bread
    2 cups shredded gruyere (or swiss if you’d prefer)
    Olive Oil (for brushing)
    Clove of garlic, peeled but whole

    Steps: 

    1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Slice the loaf into thin rounds and brush with olive oil. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, and toast until they begin to get golden on the tops, about 10 minutes.

    2. Remove from the oven and rub the top of each piece of bread with the garlic clove (very carefully, the bread is SO hot). Top each toast with a generous amount of shredded cheese, and return to the oven. Broil on high for a few minutes, watching very carefully because the cheese can go from melty to burnt in a second.

    3. Top your soup with as many of these as you like, and marvel at how such simple ingredients can taste so magical.

    Enjoy!! xoxoxoD

    This post is dedicated to Jake, I can only hope to be half the cook you are, thank you for your wisdom and cookbooks!!