Monday, February 13, 2017

Cacao One-Bowl Triple-Chocolate World's BEST Easy Brownies—for Your Valentine or for You?

Cacao Powder may be the secret of the brownie universe. Not cocoa, but cacao, which is raw. If you don't believe there's much difference, try a blind taste-test. Cacao is more subtle, more rich. Cacao powder is fantastic—in oatmeal, in cappuccino, and in batches of homemade brownies—and it is off-the-charts delicious.  Here’s the brownie recipe I came up with that is insanely easy—everything mixes in one bowl and the baking pan is lined, so there’s no buttering and flouring necessary. Super-fast to make and guaranteed to win you admiration.

Makes 16 larger or 32 smaller brownies 
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter
2 ½ cups turbinado (raw--also called "demerrara") sugar
1 ¾ cups cacao powder
½  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large organic eggs
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup cacao nibs
8 ounces chopped Belgian or other quality semisweet chocolate bar (do not use chocolate chips)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 13” × 8” baking pan (a lasagna pan) with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.  
  2. Melt the butter in the microwave in a large microwave-proof bowl until just melted. When cool to touch, add in the sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Stir gently to mix. 
  3.  Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, but do not over-mix. 
  4.  Stir in the nuts and chopped chocolate chunks. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
  5.  Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 35 to 40 minutes until set but not firm (should be slightly moist in the center). 
  6. Let cool completely on a rack or, if you are in a hurry, in the refrigerator.

    NOTE: This recipe doubles beautifully! Use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The cooking time is the same, just be careful not to overcook (it cooks faster on the outside than the inside). These brownies do not rise--this is a rich recipe without leavening. They spread a bit and firm up, but are moist and rich and incredibly delicious. In fact, I believe these to be the most delicious brownies I've ever tasted--but you must use cacao nibs and cacao powder and raw turbinado sugar to get that effect.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Tri-tip into Bulgogi: From Blah into Bravo JUSTLIKETHAT

Chances are, if you have dined in a Korean restaurant, or are lucky enough to have Korean friends or family, you probably have already tasted bulgogi, a thinly sliced marinated sesame beef barbecue that is indescribably delicious. And, if you live in California, you have probably been served tri-tip barbecue so many times it's a ho-hum deal. Growing up on the east coast, I had never heard of tri-tip. But when I moved out west, it took only a week or two to encounter my first tri-tip.

Tri-tip goes by other names: sirloin or knuckle roast. Tri-tip is the corner piece that is cut off when slicing sirloin steaks. Usually not as tender as the rest of the sirloin, it is just as flavorful and takes well to marinating and grilling. Santa Maria barbecue is just that, marinated and grilled tri-tip. Not much to it, just sugar, garlic, pepper, and salt and the technique of slow-grilling. Why then the avid following of a simple barbecue style?

In the same way as tri-tip barbecue, bulgogi is the most common barbecue of Korea. Ho-hum to those who grew up there and ate it often, but lavishly exciting and exotic to the rest of us.

Tri-tip, bulgogi . . . what's the connection? Bulgogi recipes call for sirloin roast. And tri-tip is sirloin, only less expensive than sirloin steaks. If you have access to tri-tip from your local grocery or warehouse store, then why not, instead of serving the usual tri-tip barbecue, take a tip from Korea, where some of Earth's best barbecue comes from--and add a few more simple ingredients and slices, and voila! You've got irresistible bulgogi--to wow your friends and loved ones, with no more effort than any other barbecue. With bulgogi, you get a lot of wow factor for your effort.

  • 2 pounds sirloin tri-tip, sliced thinly across the grain on the diagonal bias
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
  • 3 tablespoons mirin sweet cooking wine
  • 3 scallions, chopped (optional--if you substitute chopped white onion, the chances are good that the beef will be cooked before the onions are--raw onion is not yummy to most folks, so I’d either use scallions or skip onions altogether)

Serve with:

Chili paste, like Sriracha brand
Toasted sesame seeds
Green leaf lettuce leaves
Steamed jasmine rice

Arrange the raw tri-tip on the cutting board, and with a very sharp knife, slice across the grain in thin slices (1.8 inch or so). In a resealable large plastic bag, add the sliced tri-tip to the remaining ingredients. Let marinate, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours, or longer, if you have time.

Cook the beef in one layer in a nonstick pan, along with the marinade. Alternately, you could cut each piece of meat thicker--in 1/2 inch slices to make little steaks. Then you could grill those 1/2 inch bulgogi steaks on the grill--this is how we chose to cook it, but authentically, bulgogi is sliced thinly. Another option is to cut the meat into 1 inch cubes and then, skewer them and grill them on a grill.

Serve with steamed rice and allow diners to wrap each piece of bulgogi (if sliced thinly) in a lettuce leaf roll. If sliced thickly, then serve as is, with a salad.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Greens, Greens, Glorious Greens

Funny thing about greens--I never really liked them until my hubby taught me how to make them. Growing up, all I ever got was canned spinach (it was the culinarily unenlightened 70s). The first time I ever had spinach salad, I was an adult--and I thought it was the yummiest thing I had ever tasted! Finally, hubby is a greens devotee, and a gifted gardener, and he grows lots of them. (He makes a crispy collard greens that is to-die-for too--amazing.)
Anyway, I finally figured out that the way to really enjoy greens is to dress them like you would salad--with some sort of oil and some sort of vinegar or lemon juice, and salt, if needed. Also great with veggie or chicken stock. Voila! Greens that I cannot stop eating. So many kinds of vinegar that make greens fun--rice vinegar, umeboshi (pickled plum) vinegar, spicy vinegar with those little peppers in it (that's big in North Carolina, where I'm from--and I swear it is YUMMY!). Also good with garlic, bacon or ham (sorry, vegetarians!), hot sauce--you name it!
Eww--I love creamed greens too--ever make creamed spinach? Just make a white sauce and add frozen or slightly sautéed fresh spinach--add parmesan cheese, if you like--it's heavenly. I figure we could all do well to have more greens in our lives. So whatever gets them into our mouths is good.
One big thing to consider with greens is how tender/tough they are. Because that affects the cooking time completely. The more tender, the less they need done to them (thus spinach is great raw and to cook it takes only seconds--just enough to wilt it).
So here's my rough approximation of where some greens lie on the tender/tough scale:
The tenderest of all. The "king" of greens. Most mild flavor too. What's not to love? Great wilted, great fresh. I'd eat spinach every day if I had the option. Also, makes your tummy feel good.
Swiss Chard 
The leaves are delightfully tender but the stems can be anywhere from somewhat tender (and lovely) to very tough (and inedible). Try using just the green leaf if there is any doubt about the stems. Tastes similar to spinach, with a texture that is only slightly beefier.
Dandelion Greens 
If fresh, needs only about 10 minutes in salted, boiling water to soften. They do age quickly, though, and can turn bitter and tough soon. But if you get them when they are tender, they are truly delightful! Greeks love them. They are great in Japanese shabu-shabu--one pot communal cooking, like Swiss fondue.
Somewhat chewy--needs more cooking than chard, has more robust flavor (e.g, somewhat more bitter) than chard. You may want to cut out the stems. Vegetarians eat them raw and they can easily go in green smoothies. I have to admit, kale isn't my favorite green--but, kale makes the top of the most nutritious green leafy veggies list.
Collard Greens
The toughest and most robust of all, but worth it. On the positive side, you can't hurt them. You can cook them for 20 minutes, forget about them, and when you come back, they are delicious and tender. Needs lots of seasoning, though.


I'm not that familiar with mustard greens. How are they? Where do they fall on the tender/tough scale? Let us know here at What I 8

Turnip Greens
I love turnip greens when they are served (in the South, look no further than Cracker Barrel, of all places!), but haven't found them available in stores.

More on Greens:
Health benefits--may be one of the healthiest foods on planet Earth. Seriously. Check this out: