Archive for February, 2011


Chocolate-Orange Truffles

Wanna know what I like about Valentine’s Day? Chocolate. Otherwise, it’s just a normal day. Chocolate is what makes it special, makes it a celebration of love. Yes, love, because even if you don’t have a human love, you can still love chocolate. Besides, who cares about the sappy cards or flowers? And who wants to deal with thorns and vases when you can sit down, relax, and eat a truffle?

I don’t normally eat a lot of sweets, so any day when I can indulge my sweet tooth in the name of love is pretty awesome. My husband knows this and spends money on the good, Belgian stuff for me every year, lest I waste my sugar coma on junk. If he didn’t do that, I would make these. In fact, I used to make truffles for myself fairly regularly before I got married. If you make your own, that means you don’t have to share and not sharing means more truffles for you. Isn’t that a delicious equation?

The great thing about these truffles is that they taste like they require a ton of effort, but they don’t. That makes them DANGEROUS because, once you make them, you’ll want to make them again. And again. And again.

Your tastebuds will love it. Your thighs, on the other hand, will probably ask you to join a gym with all the money you’ve saved by making your own truffles.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate-Orange Truffles

  • 1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or non-dairy creamer, if you need to be dairy-free)
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 1 tablespoon prepared coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Cocoa powder

Chop the chocolates finely with a sharp knife, then place in a heat-proof mixing bowl.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until just boiling. Turn off the heat and allow the cream to sit for 20 seconds. Pour the cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the bowl of chocolate. With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the Grand Marnier, coffee, and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

With 2 teaspoons, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Working quickly, roll each ball of chocolate in your hands to make it round-ish, then roll in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, or both. Place on a second baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight. These will keep refrigerated, in an air-tight container, for up to 2 weeks. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy! RNZZP3PPNH69

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Ginger-Glazed Scallion Meatballs

I know I promised you more Superbowl snacks. So, since I already posted about hummus and nuts, I thought you needed something more substantial to get you through the game. Meatballs definitely fit the bill.

These are not your mother’s party meatballs. You know which ones I mean – the ones swimming in a sauce made of grape jelly and ketchup, the ones that only taste good if you’re really, really drunk.

Yeah, these meatballs are so much better than that. First of all, they’re going to taste great whether you’re drunk or sober, which is an excellent quality when it comes to party food. Secondly, their gingery-salty-herbaceous flavor goes great with beer, so they might actually HELP you get buzzed, which is also an excellent quality in party food. Thirdly, Chinese New Year is upon us, so making this Asian-inspired dish would be a great – and very tasty – way to celebrate. Kung Hei Fat Choi! Go Packers!

They’re a cinch to make, too. The sauce can be done up to two days ahead of time and the meatballs come together pretty quickly, so you won’t be trapped in the kitchen if you have guests coming by. They’re also a cinch to serve. All you need are toothpicks and napkins.

As if all of those reasons weren’t good enough to make you want to try this, I’ll give you another. My absolute favorite thing about this recipe is that it also works well as a quick, relatively easy main dish. So, if you’re not interested in watching the Superbowl or won’t be having a party anytime soon, make them anyway. Glaze them with lots of sauce and serve them over rice with stir-fried veggies for an easy weeknight dinner. Yum.

Ginger-Glazed Scallion Meatballs

(adapted, just barely, from the NY Times)

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1/4 cup chopped peeled ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 4 whole black peppercorns

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 4 large or 6 small scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sriracha
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil.

Make sauce: Bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts completely. Reduce heat to medium-low and add soy sauce, mirin, ginger, 5 spice, and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.)

Make meatballs: mix turkey, scallions, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha, and several grindings of pepper in a bowl. Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, generously cover bottom of pan with vegetable oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding, place meatballs in pan and cook, turning, until browned all over and cooked inside, about 8 minutes per batch. Arrange on a heated platter, spoon a little sauce over each meatball, and serve with toothpicks and lots of napkins. Keep warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

With this weekend comes Superbowl Sunday. Like most Americans, I will be watching, even though I really don’t care much about the game itself. I’m a die-hard Patriots fan, so, sadly, I haven’t needed to watch a  football game in almost a month. But, I know my husband will want to tune in and I won’t deprive him of that simple pleasure, even though I’d rather watch pretty much anything else.

So, since I hate the Steelers with the fire of a thousand suns (because their quarterback is a rapist) and the Packers are probably not going to win, I’ve decided to focus on the snacks. Snacks that will keep me happy while I watch two unlikeable teams play a dirty football game punctuated by some clever commercial breaks.

This is one of those snacks. It’s a happy snack.

It seems deceptively simple – spiced nuts are pretty basic and don’t require much effort. But, when I originally made these to munch on during the Pats first home game this season, my husband declared them “dangerously good” and started requesting them on a fairly regular basis.  So, I make them a lot and every time I do, he rewards me by joking that he’s lucky to have married a woman who’s so good with nuts. Oy. Oy vey.

But I do agree that they ARE good. What could be bad about crunchy, roasted nuts coated in a sweet, smoky, spicy glaze? Oh yeah. The fact that they’re addictively delicious and will be gone before halftime.

More Superbowl snacks to come this week.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

(adapted from Real Simple)

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chipotle powder
  • 2 cups lightly salted nuts (Mixed nuts are fine, but this also works well with a single variety. I like using almonds or cashews.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white, brown sugar, and spices. Add the nuts and toss to coat. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading evenly. Bake 15 minutes or until the coating is set.

Cool and enjoy!

Sumac Hummus with Pita Chips

I love when my travels take me through Inman Square. It’s a really eclectic neighborhood and a tasty place to visit, so I tend to linger there, paying visits to my favorite sandwich shop and the wonderful ice cream parlor just a bit further down the street. I fill my belly, I people-watch, I let the day slow down and I savor it like something delicious.

When I’ve had my fill of sandwiches and ginger-molasses (or chocolate orange…or burnt caramel…or almond khulfee) ice cream, I make my way over to the spice shop adjacent to the ice cream parlor. Never mind Inman Square or even the greater Boston area, this shop is one of my favorite places on Earth. When you walk in the door, you’re hit by the intoxicating, almost hypnotic smells of spices from every corner of the world.  Every available inch of the store is stocked with oils, vinegars, condiments, herbs, teas, tinctures, spices, and every type of grain, flour, and bean you can imagine. I never seem to make it out of there without bags full of hard-to-find pantry staples, like bitter orange, zaatar, harissa, baharat, smoked salt, and lots of different dried mushrooms and chiles. I also never leave without buying something new to add to my spice rack.

Being a huge fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, I love zaatar, which is a widely used spice blend. However, one of the components of zaatar – ground sumac berries – always seemed like an unnecessary purchase because it’s already in the zaatar, mellowed by thyme and sesame. But, during my last visit, I decided to buy it anyway and I’m so glad I did. On its own, it’s tart and bright, with a subtle herbal quality that complements pretty much everything.

I’ve been playing around with it for a few weeks and it’s been a delicious experience. I already have a few solid, sumac-spiced main dishes in my recipe arsenal, all of which I’ll share with you eventually, but since the Superbowl is coming up, I thought I’d make you a sumac snack!

Sumac Hummus with Pita Chips

  • 2 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 small lemons (preferably meyer), zested and juiced
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoons tahini, to taste (I prefer less tahini, but feel free to adjust it to your taste)
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil, fresh parsley, sumac, black pepper for garnish

Pour the chickpeas into the food processor and pulse to mash. Add the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water, then allow it to mix for about one minute to combine thoroughly. Add the tahini and sumac, then, with the food processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil. Season with salt. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley, a little more sumac, and a few grinds of black pepper.

This hummus pairs well with veggies, olives, and…

Pita Chips

  • 4 whole pitas, cut into triangles
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon zaatar, if you’ve got it/want it (a 1/2 teaspoon each of dried thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac, and cumin will work, too)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss thoroughly to coat. Spread the pita triangles out on a large baking sheet, making sure they’re evenly spaced to allow for even toasting.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serve with hummus or your favorite dip.