home cooking

Backwards posts!


I know, I didn’t publish Monday or Tuesday, so I’ll give you a simple and delicious treat as a consolation prize.  I mentioned in the last post a dessert recipe that I stole from Nigella and made my own.  Well, here it is, Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake.    And the best part of all of it, there are only 4 ingredients total and you don’t have to bake it!!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

  • Two 8 oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature (if you can get Philadelphia, use it)
  • One 13oz container of Nutella, or any chocolate hazelnut spread you can find, at room temperature
  • 5 tbsp of soft, room temperature butter
  • 1 package of cookies (graham crackers, Nilla Wafers, chocolate chip cookies, you decide)

And that’s it!  In a food processor, process the cookies until they’re sand-like.  (If you don’t have a food processor, put them in a plastic zip bag and bang the heck out of them, then roll over with a rolling pin until you achieve the same result.  Then use melted butter rather than the next step.)  Add the soft butter to the processor and whiz again, until the mixture starts to clump, and looks uniform.  Turn this out into a 9 inch springform pan, and press it into the bottom, until it’s uniform and completely covers the base.  Store this in the fridge to chill.

In  the same processor, or a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until soft, then add in the entire jar of chocolate hazelnut paste.  Beat together until completely smooth, about 10 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides and the bottom to be sure everything is combined.  Spread this topping onto the cookie base, smooth with a spatula/spoon, and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill for 4 – 6 hours or overnight and eat.

I will say, I topped this with a chopped up chocolate hazelnut bar, and it was so good!  But you don’t have to top it, just dive in and eat.  I also recommend to let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so before cutting into it.  It is more melting and delicious this way.

home cooking

Cooking for Your Vegetarian on Valentines Day!

Last year for Valentine’s, I made several recipes from the book I had been given for Christmas called “Jerusalem” by Yotom Ottollenghi.  This year, I think I have upped the game!  I am making lentil “meatballs” and fresh pasta, with a lemon pesto.  I did get the idea from a blog a I read quite a bit, but the pasta making is something I have been doing for years on my own, so the addition of it wasn’t hard.  I’ll give you all three recipes, so you can duplicate it for yourself!  I’ll blog the pasta making, and the hazelnut cheese cake I blatantly stole from Nigella and made my own, tomorrow and Monday.

The Hubby and I both love meatballs with pasta and sauce, and luckily you can get some good quality “fake” meatballs on the market.  I even found a new product called Neat, which uses ground nuts, and no soy, and you can pretty much add an egg and roll your own!  This recipe caught my eye, mainly because it incorporates lentils with some ricotta cheese to give it life and lightness.  Honestly, the mixture looks very much like a meatball, and the feel when you roll them out and bake them is almost identical.

Lentil “Meatballs”, by way of “Sprouted Kitchen”:

  • 2 c cooked lentils (that’s about 1 cup uncooked, I used French Puys, and added the fennel seed to the cooking water)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 c ricotta
  • 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp each of each salt and pepper
  • 2/3 c fresh breadcrumbs, or Panko

In a food processor, or blender, process the cooked lentils until they’re pureed.  They will be dry, but that’s OK.  Add all the other ingredients and pulse until the mixture comes together.  It should look greyish and you will be able to see some of the lentil pieces.  Scrape this all out into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill well.  I made it in the morning and formed the meatballs around 5pm.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.  You can lightly coat the foil with oil, or not, the oil will make them a little crustier.  Roll out the balls in tablespoon amounts, I used the mini-ice cream scoop you see below.

Lentil meatballs

Bake them for 10 – 12 minutes, then give the pan a little shake, so they brown on all sides, and return to the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes.  If you leave them in for the longer time, check frequently after the 17 minute mark.  Once brown, take the sheet out of the pan and allow to cool, then serve with the pesto below, or any sauce, or dip you like.  I also served them with pasta, and at room temperature.

Lemon Pesto

  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly cut up
  • 1/4 c pine nuts (I used walnuts, Hubby hates pine puts)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp sea or Kosher salt
  • 1 c packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 – 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Put everything except the olive oil and Parmesan in a food processor or blender.  Process until everything is finely minced.  Slowly add the olive oil down the funnel when processing.  Everything will begin to cohere in a thick puree.  Scrape out of the processor into a bowl, stir in the Parmesan.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate until you need it.

Lemon pesto

And tomorrow, the pasta recipe!

home cooking, Julia Child, mushroom, pearl onions, vegetarian

Cooking French Food for Your Vegetarian

pixabella-Red-Stylised-Heart-with-Smaller-HeartsHappy February!  It’s soon to be Valentines Day, and I usually go all out and make a really romantic meal for the Hubby.  I’d love to hear how you, my dear readers celebrate your significant others, or even celebrate yourselves for a special day!

You all know, I have a vegetarian husband, for whom I will try to cook anything vegetarian style.  I have however never really been successful with the full blooded classic French dishes.  Mainly, I am half successful in creating something that has the meat replaced by something processed to be like meat, or by substituting something else for the meat.  He always says he likes it, and I am sure he does, but it always feel like I am cheating!  Flash forward to today.  I was trolling around the usual cooking sites I look at for food inspiration, and I came upon this gem, Mushroom Bourguignon (yes all those ‘g’s” are supposed to be there.)

The recipe carries all the French classical steps, braising, reduction of liquids, the mirepoix*, but it is simple, and really delicious.  For the past several years, I have raffled off a meal at work, for our internal fundraising campaign, and Beef Bourguignon is always on offer.  Perhaps I’ll change it this year and offer this dish too!

Mushroom Bourguignon

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1lb Portobello mushrooms, stems cut off and discarded, mushrooms cut into 2 in cubes
  • 2lbs white or brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, cut on a diagonal
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 gloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cups full bodied red wine
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (or water if you don’t have any)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 cups pearl onions, peeled (these are optional)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp cold water

In a deep, heavy bottomed pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium.  I used my cast iron Dutch oven, even heat makes a huge diference.  Add both types of mushrooms, sauté until lightly browned.  They may give off some liquid, but at this point that’s good.  Add celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, until you begin to smell the garlic.  The aim here is to cook but not to brown the vegetables.  Add thyme, red wine, tomato paste and stock and stir gently, until the tomato paste has dissolved into the liquid. Put the lid on the pan and allow this to cook at a low heat for 20 minutes.  After that time, take the lid off and raise the heat up to high and cook until liquid has reduced, about 15 minutes.  It should be reduced by half, and taken on a more syrupy or rich consistency.  Add the optional pearl onions and cook another 5 – 10 minutes until they’re starting to turn translucent and softer.

Here we use a classic sauce thickening technique.  Mix the cornstarch and cold water together in a small dish until all the cornstarch is dissolved.  Cornstarch will make the sauce thicker and glossier than flour would, it’s more gravy like than stew like, if that makes sense.  Bring the pan to a boil, and add the cornstarch mixture to it.  Once again, the alchemy of cooking shows itself, you’ll see the sauce thicken and darken slightly.  At this point, you’re finished.

Generally I would serve this dish on egg noodles, but you can serve it with boiled or mashed potatoes, polenta, rice, whatever you love.

And remember to love the vegetarian you’re serving this to!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

* Mirepoix is a classical French flavor base of minced onion, carrot and celery.  You can not duplicate the taste of celery, and I urge you to add just a stalk, even if you don’t like it!  If not, try a pinch of celery seed, trust me you won’t be disappointed with the result.