Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chocolate-Nettle Cake w/ Coconut-Mulberry Cream

It's that time of year again. Stinging nettle time. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while should know by now that you can use nettles for all sorts of cooking, baking, and brewing projects to take advantage of their healthful and medicinal benefits (and that's aside from outright medicine making--this year I've been drying and tincturing nettles as well to be able to use year-long). This year I found a new nettle source in the woods that back up to my grandparents' backyard which has more than amply provided me with nettles for many projects.

One such project was a birthday cake for my mama. While my parents have been hearing me talk about nettle concoctions for years now, my Dad has remained hesitant to try them. So, while dreaming what decadence I wanted to bake for the occasion, I was inspired to sneak my favorite ingredient into a chocolate cake as a subtle twist. Nettle flavor is only lightly vegetal, and I knew that the darkness of the chocolate would mask any trace to the unwitting tastebud.

 When baking with nettles in the past, I found that the easiest way to integrate them into the batter was to blend them with whatever liquid was going in. The recipe I used for Extreme Chocolate Cake had two liquid components- 1 cup milk, and 1 cup water. For the water, I substituted a cup of coffee and for the milk I used the same amount but blended in about 4 packed cups of raw nettles.


 Dry ingredients in the bowl.

 Adding my secret green mixture.


 Post bake shiny cakes!

 For the frosting I had been considering ganache, but decided to keep the theme wild gleans. With the freakishly early warm weather we've been having this year, almost everything has been a month or two ahead of season, including many berries. Mulberries are abundant in Louisville and I've never been one to let abundance go to waste.

 I stewed them on the stove for a few minutes and found that this yielded a delicious sweet-sour compote. 

 Then I mixed in about half a can of coconut milk and a couple teaspoons of honey. The sweet factor was perfect! Very delicate and creamy, not a sugarbuzz frosting. At this point, my concoction was thick, but not spreadable, so I froze it for an hour.

 This was the perfect amount of time in which to eat dinner with the birthday girl, Dad, and the grandparents. Mom was sporting a funny tin foil hat they gave her at a restaurant she went to the day before??

Just before serving, I spread the icy-creamy berry mush between the layers and on top of the cake. The final product was a devils food-like moist deliciousness, but not too rich thanks to the fruity frosting. And as for my secret ingredient... I fooled them all!! 
My Dad couldn't stop raving about how good it was :D 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wild Mustard Cress

Damn, no posts at all in 2011. Sorry guys. The good news is, I'm done with my undergrad! And now back to residing with my folks in Louisville, Kentucky. Perhaps this will be the dawning of my food blog's resurgence.

Today, following suit with the crazy weather we've been having all sprinter (springwinter), it was 63 degrees and sunny. Despite the fact that this scares me and is highly unusual for February, it made the task of digging up the garden bed for seeding quite pleasant.

Before I dug up the bed, I started by weeding out all of the mustard cress that was growing in it to set aside for my lunch. Spiff the cat examines a fine specimen.

You can eat this stuff! I don't know that much about cress, or what the more specific name for the kind growing in this region is, but honestly the cress in Kentucky looks just like it did in Washington and tastes about the same too. It's some kind of wild mustard, and as such is bitter and a little spicy. Well, a little because it's still young, but wait another month and the zing factor will probably get more intense.

What? You don't eat weeds? Well they're abundant, free, and delicious, and if they're growing in your own backyard and you don't spray funky shit on your lawn then they're organic too! (For more edible weed inspiration, see nettle harvest, nettle cornbread, nettle pancakes, nesto, nettle gnocchi, nettle beer, dandelion-plum liqueur, or pickled 'lion buds.)

Once the garden work was done, I took em inside, rinsed em real good, soaked em in cold water for good measure, and chopped off all their little rootlets.

I madeth them a bed of quinoa and chopped nuts.

Threw the cress on and added my homemade winter kimchi.

And mixed it all up, before mixing it further in my belly.
It was awesome.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Xmas for My Grandparents


Whew! This is it! Since my resolution just over a month ago, I have successfully caught up on my entire year's worth of back posts! Hopefully in 2011 I can keep it simple enough to stay up to date.

For Christmas this year my gift to my grandparents was an "in-home Bed and Breakfast," as I called it. Basically, I went over to their house and cooked them shmancy meals all day. I found all the recipes on epicurious.com, and will link to them all with my modifications. Photos of me were taken by my Grampa.

Reducing white-wine and shallots for the hollandaise sauce.

Grampa about to bust open the champagne.

English muffins topped with smoked salmon...

topped with poached eggs and hollandaise!

This recipe leaves the olives whole. If you wanted it to really be a spread, you could easily food process it to a paste, but I just mashed them with a fork after they came out, so it was more like a chunky tapenade.

My Mom got to be a special lunch guest :)

I couldn't find frisee so I left it out.

Boneless was painless.

I super-simplified this recipe and didn't use any of the fruit called for except for the pears. Also opted-out of the powdered sugar at the end. Pears are sweet enough!


I loved this recipe's tip to use a melon-baller to remove the core from the pears. They look so cute!

Spooning honey-mustard glaze onto the lamb.

Ready for baking with tomatoes, onions, rosemary, and thyme.

Wine toast.

The endive looked like magnolia blossoms and made great scoopers for the brussels and pecans.

Mmmmm. Turned out so good.

Roasted Roots


This is a super easy and delicious meal. You can use whatever root vegetables you want, but for this particular roast I used beets, yams, potatoes, and winter squash (ok, that one's not a root). If you like roasted garlic, you can add a whole clove, just cut off the top first. Toss it all with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and roast at 350 or 400 till the roots are soft, about 45 minutes. Warm your insides and get lots of vitamins and minerals!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chipotle-Pumpkin Corn Chowder, Roasted Chicken, & Cardamom-Pistachio Ice Cream


OMG- my first ever roast chicken. How exciting. Last dinner club at my house before break.

Rubbed the chicken in salt, pepper, and paprika. Surrounded it with onions and home-dried cherry tomatoes. Said "fuck it" to trussing.

Now here's a tip you may not know. Jessica taught me some time ago to save my garlic skins for making soup stock. It makes a mild, almost slightly sweet broth. In preparation for my soup I boiled down a very full paper bag of skins for several hours with just a little salt and celery.

Chopped up one dried chipotle pepper and two smallish pie pumpkins.

Roasted the pumps in an olive-oiled pan at 350(? 450? 400? Whatever.) till they were fragrant and soft when I poked them with a knife (about 45 minutes).

Sauteed onions and some more of my corn in a little olive oil til they were starting to brown. Added some fresh garlic and ginger.

Cubed up the pumpkin and added it with the broth, chipotle pepper, and some curry powder. Let it cook down till it was mashable but didn't bother with blending. Added some milk.

And voila, first course. If you want a more measurement using recipe, here's the one I used. I put toasted pepitas on top, but cheated and bought pre-hulled ones instead of roasting my own pumpkin seeds. I stuck them in the oven for just a couple minutes till they browned and plumped up. Added a nice nuttiness to the soup.

Wow! Look at that good-lookin' bird!

Served with a flowery beet and mustard greens salad.

Made pistachio-cardamom ice cream for dessert, omggggg! Huge hit with the dinner clubbers. Did everything this recipe says to do except I didn't strain out the ground up pistachios and the cardamom was my add.