Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chocolate hazelnut kisses and "Foxcatcher"

Chocolate hazelnut kisses / Mini bolinhos de avelã e chocolate

Last week I was finally able to watch the movie I’d been talking about for almost a year and I’ve come to the conclusion that it was directed by the wrong person: Bennett Miller played it too safe, directing in a very bureaucratic way, almost automatic, while such a dark and surprising story with fantastic acting deserved someone much more dedicated to the project.

As I watched the movie I kept thinking of how wonderful it would have been in the hands of Scorsese or Fincher, or even Cuarón.

Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum are quite something in this movie and I was especially stunned by the latter: he portrays this character with such urge, with such passion and dedication that it turned out completely different from everything he’d done before, and even though I find Mark Ruffalo a terrific actor all the supporting actor nominations should have gone to Tatum.

Carell is equally wonderful, a whole new person thanks not only to the meticulous make up work but also for making the viewer forget completely who he is – I adore him in just about anything and he really shines when given a dramatic role (it is impossible to forget how sublime he was in Little Miss Sunshine). I’ll be rooting for him on February, 22, even though I know that Eddie Redmayne has taken the world by storm.

Foxcatcher is a good movie but not a great one, and I consider that a waste of a good story and great acting. I don’t like waste, not in movies and especially not in my kitchen, that is why I made these adorable mini cakes to use up the hazelnut meal that was about to go rancid in my freezer – they turned out super cute and oh, so delicious.

Chocolate hazelnut kisses / Mini bolinhos de avelã e chocolate

Chocolate hazelnut kisses
slightly adapted from here

120g dark chocolate, finely chopped – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
100g granulated sugar
95g unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs, separated
100g hazelnut meal
1 teaspoon strong coffee
1 teaspoon rum
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

100g dark chocolate
50g unsalted butter
24 hazelnuts, roasted and shelled, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 24-hole mini muffin pan.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, then leave to cool. Beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, then add the egg yolks, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and mix well, then fold in the hazelnut meal, coffee, rum and vanilla.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold a third into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then fold in the rest. Spoon the mixture into the muffin pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until risen and a skewer inserted in the center of one mini cake comes out a little moist. Cool for a few minutes in the pan, then carefully unmold onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

For the ganache, melt the chocolate and butter over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour a little ganache over each cake and decorate with a roasted hazelnut.

The cakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature.

Makes 24

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lentil patties

Lentil patties / Bolinhos de lentilha

If you read my last post you already know that when I really like something I tend to cook or bake it quite often, and that doesn’t happen with sweets, only: I have my savory favorites as well, certain dishes I go back to again and again.

Lentil salad is one of those dishes, especially on hot days because it tastes so great straight from the fridge and the flavor develops beautifully after a night spent in it. After a couple of days, however, I did not want to made another salad with the cooked lentils I had in the fridge – I felt like making something completely different with them. Martha came to my rescue, and the lentils were transformed into these delicious patties.

I loved these, for I love lentils in just about anything, but the surprise of the day was my husband’s comment about the patties: he was never a fan of lentils and he told me that these could perfectly replace the beef patties in a burger. I was shocked – and really happy. :)

Lentil patties
slightly adapted from Martha

280g cooked lentils, drained and cooled
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ onion, finely diced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs or Panko
handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for frying

Combine lentils, cumin, olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Transfer half of mixture to a food processor; pulse until smooth. Fold into remaining lentil mixture until well combined. Shape into patties, using 3 tablespoons of the mixture per patty - I used this cookie scoop to portion the mixture.

Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and swirl to coat bottom. Add patties in a single layer, working in batches if necessary. Cook, turning once, until crisp and brown, about 4 minutes each side.
Serve with a salad.

Makes about 10

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Almond cake (with homemade marzipan)

Almond cake (with homemade marzipan) / Bolo de amêndoa (com marzipã caseiro)

As I flipped through a few cookbooks and magazines searching for inspiration, I thought of how I am attracted to similar recipes, over and over again – I can’t resist a brownie, I make oatmeal cookies quite often, and every time I see a citrus cake recipe I immediately bookmark it.

It might be a matter of taste, or it is because I seem to have the same ingredients at home time and time again, but I sometimes even tell myself that I will bake something different, only to end up making one of the favorites above.

Another recipe I cannot resist? Almond cakes – I’d probably make almond cakes every week if could. This recipe came in very handy for I’d made marzipan for a cookie recipe for my Christmas series (from this book), but the recipe failed miserably and I had to use up the marzipan left quickly.

This cake is easy to make, moist and absolutely delicious – if you’re nuts for almond cakes like me you should give it a go.

Almond cake (with homemade marzipan)
slightly adapted from the delicious and beautiful A La Grecque: Our Greek table

½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 orange
finely grated zest of 1 lime
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g marzipan, chopped – I used homemade
4 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (45g) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup (60g) flaked almonds

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Butter a 20x7cm (8x3in) round cake pan with a removable bottom, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter it as well.

Place sugar, orange and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer and rub together until sugar is fragrant. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the marzipan, beating well until it is completely incorporated.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and fold into the cake mixture. Spoon into the cake pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden and cooked (a skewer inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean).
Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Carefully unmold and serve.

Serves 8-10

Monday, January 19, 2015

Meatballs alla Norma

Meatballs alla Norma / Almôndegas alla Norma

As someone who loves anything related to food, I love reading about it, making and eating it (obviously), but I also find it amazing to talk about it with different people and learn what they like, what they don’t like and how their tastes change with time.

I have those conversations with my husband all the time, and he tells me about the food he ate as a kid, things he loved and things he couldn’t stand, how it took him so long to appreciate all sorts of vegetables, and that his mother would be really glad to see him finally eating like an adult (she passed away in 2011).

Every time Joao and I talk about those things I feel more inspired to cook, and when he asked me to make meatballs – one of his all time favorite dishes – I remembered Jamie Oliver’s meatballs alla Norma and thought that a bit of eggplant in the meatballs wouldn’t hurt.

I love eggplant. :)

The eggplant sauce tasted divine with the meatballs; Jamie served his over polenta, but since it was too hot here I went with spaghetti instead and some bread to mop up the sauce – a simple yet delicious meal that I get to replicate anytime I want with the meatballs I stashed in my freezer.

Meatballs alla Norma
slightly adapted from the always delicious Save with Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less

Meatballs – recipe here

1 large eggplant
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 400g (14oz) can diced tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful fresh basil leaves

Dice the eggplant into 1.5 cm cubes, then season well with salt and leave for 15 min in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a large baking sheet with a double layer of foil and brush it with olive oil. Place the meatballs onto the prepared sheet and bake until firm and cooked through (about 30 minutes) – bake as many as you want, the recipe yields about 25 meatballs. You can freeze uncooked meatballs for up to 2 months and bake them directly from frozen.

While the meatballs are in the oven, make the sauce: take handfuls of the eggplant and squeeze out the excess salty liquid, then put into a saucepan on a medium heat with a lug of oil to cook for 10 min, or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the sweet chili sauce and balsamic, add the tomatoes and 3 tablespoons water. Season with salt and black pepper, then simmer for 10-15 min, or until thickened. Stir in the basil and remove from the heat.

Add the meatballs to the sauce and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Friday, January 16, 2015

St. Clement’s posset

St. Clement's posset / Potinhos de São Clemente

I try to eat in a healthy way most of my days, with a brownie or a cookie here and there, and even though it doesn’t look like it I don’t eat dessert every day, and when I do I try not to go overboard with it.

I adore possets for I’m a big fan of citrus flavors, but I don’t make them frequently because well, they’re not exactly lean: the dessert is purely heavy cream flavored with something (I’m aware of that, people). ;) There are, however, occasions that call for something special and easy to put together, and those are the days when a posset is most welcome.

Today’s recipe is something I saw on a Jamie Oliver magazine and it was the dessert I served for New Year’s Eve dinner – I made the posset in a matter of moments! The glasses sat beautifully in the fridge while I focused on the savory side of my dinner.

I love both oranges and lemons, they’re delicious together – in cake form as well – and the posset was a very refreshing finish to a delicious and celebratory meal in a very hot night.

St. Clement’s posset
from the always delicious Jamie Oliver magazine

400ml heavy cream
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (80g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
¼ cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Put the cream, sugar and lemon and orange zests in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes. Add all the juices, bring back to the boil and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.

Pass the mixture through a fine sieve and let it cool slightly (to avoid cracking the glasses in which you’ll serve the posset). Pour it straight into 4 small wine glasses. Allow it to set for at least 3 hours in the fridge, or overnight.

Serves 4

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