Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tomato Paella

I've been eyeing this recipe for a while, but now, knee-deep in tomato season, seemed like a perfect time to make it. It's not worth the trouble unless you have perfect juicy tomatoes to be the star.

I was not feeling the need to go out and buy a whole bunch of specialty paella ingredients, including a paella pan, so I made some substitutions. The modified recipe is what I've included here.

Tomato Paella
Adapted from Mark Bittman
Via Wednesday Chef

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, or about 6 large plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and cut into thick halves or wedges
2 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 links andouille or chorizo sausauge, cut into half-moons
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Large pinch saffron threads
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
Minced parsley and basil for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Warm water in a saucepan. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat.

2. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, sausage, and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Stir in tomato paste, saffron, and paprika and cook for a minute more.

4. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another minute or two.

5. Add wine and let simmer until it is mostly absorbed, then add the hot water and stir until just combined.

6. Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Put pan in oven and roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes.

7. Rice should be dry and just tender; if not, return pan to oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of water. When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes.

8. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with parsley and basil. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

Comments & Modifications:
  • Lacking a suitable pan, I used my cast iron skillet, and prayed that the acidity of the tomatoes wouldn't ruin the (factory-made, but still valuable) patina. I think a small amount of the surface may have been removed, though it was hard to tell as I don't use that pan very often. For the future, I think I'll keep an eye out for an inexpensive oven-safe skillet that's not cast iron, just to be safe.
  • I used andouille sausage links that we'd normally put on the grill. They weren't originally in the recipe, but complemented the flavors of the paella very well.
  • If I ever find bomba or other Spanish rice for a decent price, I'd like to give it a try, but the arborio worked well and is so much cheaper and easier to find.

Verdict: Delicious. Both Dan and I went back for second helpings, and still had to restrain ourselves from eating more. The tomatoes were practically melting! Definitely a good way to use up some of that summer bounty.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Best Cocoa Brownies

For as long as I can remember I've used boxed brownie mixes to get my brownie fix. With a cup or so of chocolate chips as mix-ins, they always came out pretty decent, so why mess with a good thing? is what I asked.

I've been reading too many food blogs, however, and seeing recipe after recipe for good homemade brownies finally put me over the edge. In addition, this recipe is practically a one bowl recipe when you use the microwave to melt the butter and chocolate together. So I decided to give it a try.

Best Cocoa Brownies
Via Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet

  • 10 T (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 c flour

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each interval, until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot to the touch. (It will still look gritty at this point.)
  3. Stir in the vanilla. 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, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
  4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack, then refrigerate.
  5. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Comments & Modifications:
  • Per Smitten Kitchen I used a heaping 1/4 tsp of flaky sea salt, but felt that it could have used more. Next time I'll go for the full 1/2 tsp.
  • I used a blend of natural, dutch process, and black cocoa powder, because I couldn't decide which to try. I also discovered that I have 7 different types of cocoa powder, and possibly an addiction to purchasing high-quality baking ingredients.

Verdict: Do I even need to say it? They were delicious! Smooth and fudgy, with rich chocolate flavor offset by a good bit of saltiness -- and easy enough that I won't even bother keeping a box or two of mix around for emergencies.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake

In my ongoing quest to feed my husband and my Sunday School class, here's another breakfast recipe . . .

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake
from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 12 oz chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar, then beat in the egg yolks and vanilla.
  4. Add sour cream and dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately in several additions.
  5. Beat eggs whites until stiff, then gently fold into batter.
  6. Mix last 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon together in a separate, small dish.
  7. Pour half of the cake batter into a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the top with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and half of the chocolate chips. Pour remaining batter on top, sprinkling the top with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips.
  8. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Comments & Modifications:
  • I had some cinnamon and sugar mixed up from making snickerdoodles, so I used that instead of mixing it up fresh. It was pretty cinnamon-y, maybe more than what was called for in this recipe. Fortunately, I like cinnamon.
  • I took mine out after 40 minutes and it may have been slightly underbaked, but was very moist. Definitely better to take it out a few minutes early than too late.
  • Next time I'd add some salt, either by using salted butter or by adding a pinch to the dry ingredients.
  • I wonder if it would work to use yogurt instead of sour cream? It would certainly be much healthier.

Verdict: This makes a LOT of coffee cake. This was not a bad thing. We all enjoyed it very much, and I'm sure it'll be made again.