Sunday, January 15, 2017

Basque-Style Seafood Stew (Sopa de Pescados y Mariscos a la Vasca)



1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Two 8-oz. bottles of clam juice
1 cup water
1 lb. bass, cod, monkfish or red snapper filets, cubed
1/2 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined (reserve the shells)
2 lbs. mussels or manila clams
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1/4 tsp. Espilette or cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Pinch of saffron
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Aioli and toasted baguette


Split Pea and Ham Soup

Whenever I have a glazed bone-in ham, usually once a year right around Easter, I like to use the leftovers to make split pea soup. But split pea soup can be made anytime, especially when it's cold outside. If you have leftover ham of any sort (except for the thinly sliced variety, which will become flavorless after prolonged cooking) or a smoked ham hock, by all means make this super easy and super delicious home made soup. For more flavor, I like to saute all the veggies (onion, carrots, celery and garlic) first before adding the ham and water. No need to use chicken stock as the ham itself will create a flavorful broth, and no need to blend the mixture in the end, as the peas and potatoes will cook down to a medium-thick consistency on their own, while maintaining some texture from the diced veggies.

1 lb. split green peas, rinsed and picked through
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 lb. smoked picnic ham (bone-in, if you have it) - leftovers work great
2 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled & diced
3 quarts (12 cups) water
1 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Rinse the split peas in a colander and pick through to remove any stones. Leave in the colander and set aside.

2. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large Dutch oven or enameled cast iron pan over high heat. Saute the chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic until softened but not browned. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the ham, bone-in and/or any pieces you have from leftovers and saute briefly.

3. Add the bay leaves, thyme, potatoes, water, 1 tsp. sugar, pinch of black pepper and salt (do not oversalt at this point since the ham will release salt into the broth). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the peas are very soft.

4. Remove the ham to a chopping board and let sit until cool enough to handle. Cut the ham meat into  1/2" cubes and return back to the soup. Taste the soup and season with extra salt and pepper, as needed. Stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper before serving.

Optional Garnishes: Chopped scallions or chives, chopped boiled eggs, shredded cheese, bacon bits, croutons, creme fraiche or sour cream

 Rinse the split peas.

 Just happened to have some fresh English peas so added them to the soup.

 Smoked picnic ham pieces.

 Diced carrots, celery, potatoes, garlic and onions.

 Saute the veggies.

 Add the ham.

 Add potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, pinch of sugar, salt and water.

 Bring to a boil.

Skim off any foam from the top. Cover and simmer over low heat 1 1/2 hours.

 Remove the ham from the soup, remove from the bone, and chop. Add the ham back to the soup. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne, according to your taste.

Riojan-Style Potatoes with Chorizo (Patatas con Chorizo a la Riojana)

This delicious dish originated in the Rioja region of Spain and consists of potatoes flavored with chorizo and paprika cooked down with some onion, garlic, peppers, and dry white wine. Perfect as a tapa or appetizer. Btw, Spanish chorizo (a dried and cured sausage) is completely different from Mexican chorizo (a spicy fresh/raw ground meat sausage), and is relatively hard to come by. Therefore, I rely on La Tienda's online store (their retail store is in Williamsburg, VA), which carries almost everything and anything you'll need for all things Spanish 

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 - 2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small red or green bell pepper, chopped
4 oz. chorizo, casing removed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
Salt & pepper
Red pepper flakes (omit if using spicy chorizo)
Minced parsley for garnish

1. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in an enameled cast iron or heavy-bottomed pan. Add the chopped onion and saute 3-5 minutes or until slightly softened. 

2. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. 

3. Add the bell pepper and chorizo, stirring about 2-3 minutes. 

4. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.

5. Add the sweet and smoked paprika, stir to combine, then add the bay leaf, dry white wine and water (liquid should almost cover the potatoes). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low then simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

6. Cover and cook another 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

7. Taste the stew and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, as needed. 

8. Plate the stew in a casserole dish or a cazuela (Spanish terra cotta clay pot or bowl) and garnish with minced parsley.

 Minced garlic, bay leaves, chopped potatoes, diced green bell peppers, diced red onion.

 Spicy chorizo from La Tienda. Remove the casing before slicing.

 Saute the onions in olive oil.

 Add the potatoes and cook until lightly browned.

 Add bell pepper, chorizo, and garlic.

 Add the sweet and smoked paprika, bay leaves, white wine and water.

 Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. 

 Cover and simmer another 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. 

 Serve in a casserole dish or Spanish terra cotta cazuela.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte)

Here's my first attempt at Black Forest cake! Why for? Well, I used to dislike Black Forest cake because most versions I'd tried before were either on the dry side, too sweet (I'm not a fan of maraschinos), and/or not boozey enough. After researching the origins of this German dessert, I learned that the traditional cherries used are not the cloyingly sweet maraschinos but rather sour cherries. Also, the frosting/filling is all whipped cream, and the chocolate cake layers are judiciously sprinkled with a deliciously boozey cherry juice spiked with kirschwasser (a clear spirit made from sour cherries). Then all is topped with chocolate shavings. This recipe is a work in progress, but I'm pleased with the end result. For the cherry component, I parboiled some fresh bing cherries in sugar and water, then placed them in mason jars with some kirsch. I brushed the cake layers with a good amount of the cherry juice-kirsch liquid. Next time around, I'm going to frost the entire cake (including sides) with whipped cream and garnish with fresh cherries and extra shaved chocolate.

1 lb. fresh pitted Bing or other dark cherries* (reserve 12 fresh cherries to garnish on top)
1/3 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup kirsch

*An easy way to pit cherries without a cherry pitter is to put a de-stemmed cherry on top of an empty wine bottle and punch through the middle with the thick end of a chopstick (the pit will fall into the wine bottle).


2 cups unbleached cake flour
1 cup double Dutch dark or regular process cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp. King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer (optional)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla
4 large eggs

1. FOR THE CHERRIES: Bring 1 3/4 cups water and 1/3 cup of sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Let cool then stir in the fresh pitted cherries and 1/2 cup of kirsch. Pour into mason jars, seal, and let marinate overnight at room temperature.

2. FOR THE CAKE: Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, cake enhancer (if using), baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, gradually mix the wet ingredients into the dry, then mix in one egg at a time. Do not over mix. Pour the mixture into two greased 9" cake pans layered on the bottom with parchment and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick put into the center comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Turn the cakes out of the pans and place onto racks to cool completely.

3. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: Combine 1 cup of powdered sugar and 8 tbsp. of King Arthur Flour Whipped Cream Stabilizer (optional) in a small bowl; set aside. Combine 4 cups of heavy whipping cream and 2 tsp. of vanilla extract in a medium bowl and beat until the mixture starts to thicken. Gradually add the powdered sugar mixture and continue beating at medium high speed until the whipped cream reaches firm peaks (do not over whip). 

4. ASSEMBLY: Slice each cake layer through the middle in half. If you like a towering cake, you can use all four layers. Otherwise, use just three and reserve/freeze the 4th layer for another use. Remove the parchment paper from the bottoms of the cake layers. Place one layer onto a cardboard cake round. Brush the top generously with the cherry juice-kirsch mixture. Top with about 1/2 cup of the whipped cream and spread over evenly with an angled/offset spatula. Place some of the kirsch-soaked cherries (halved) on top of the whipped cream. Top with remaining cake layers, brushing each with the cherry-kirsh mixture, whipped cream and halved cherries. Spread the remaining whipped cream over the sides of the cake. Pipe rosettes of whipped cream over the perimeter of the top layer of cake. Top each rosette of whipped cream with a fresh cherry. Sprinkle grated chocolate over the top and sides of the cake.

Fresh Bing cherries.

To pit, place destemmed cherry on top of an empty wine bottle. Insert the wide end of a chopstick through the middle of the cherry until the pit is pushed through into the wine bottle.  

Stir the pitted cherries soaked in cooled simple syrup (water and sugar), and kirsch.

Pour the cherries and liquor into mason jars, seal, and refrigerate overnight before using.

King Arthur Flour's Cake Enhancer (optional), cake flour oil, buttermilk, cherries, salt, cocoa powder,  vanilla extract, baking powder, eggs, and baking soda.

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.

Dry and wet ingredients.

Gradually mix wet ingredients into the dry, then beat in one egg at a time. Do not over mix.

Divide the batter between two greased, parchment-lined  9" cake pans and bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake pans from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes; turn the cakes out of the pan and let them cool completely on a rack.

Remove the cherries to a strainer to let drain (reserve the liquid).

Combine the powdered sugar and whipped cream stabilizer in a small bowl. 

Whip the cream and vanilla until slightly thickened.

Stir in the powdered sugar/whipped cream stabilizer mixture and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Cut each cake layer in half using a serrated bread knife.

Brush the top of each layer with the cherry-kirsch marinating liquid.

Top with a layer of whipped cream.

Place kirsch-soaked cherry layers on top of the whipped cream.

Continue layering, then top the cake with decorative rosettes of whipped cream, topped with whole cherries and sprinkled with shaved chocolate.