Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Grain Bowl with Barley, Mustard Greens, Chickpeas and Tahini

I often speak disparagingly of my old favorite of "hippie dinner." Some whole grain, steamed or sauteed vegetables, maybe a bit of tofu, and tahini. It's a healthy standard, sure, but it also pegs you as a dated, stubbornly unstylish old hippie. And then I happened upon a few articles, in the space of a week, that made me realize I was branding it all wrong. It wasn't hippie dinner, see —it was a grain bowl! My cooking is so au courant.

Thus rebranded, my quinoa-tofu-broccoli grain bowl seemed due for a bit of an update. Or, to be honest, I was thinking that I should try to put a dent in the enormous vat of barley that seems to have landed in my pantry. And then there were the mustard greens I had bought because they were just so pretty, but I didn't have much of a destination for (as my initial suggestion of "mustards pizza?" was roundly dismissed for the bad idea it so clearly was). And so, revamped hippie dinner! Excuse me, I mean, grain bowl.

As with hippie dinner of the so-dated past, grain bowls can really be anything. I had the aforementioned greens and barley, and some leftover chickpeas I'd simmered up a few days prior for whatever. I made up a standard tahini, but also tossed in some ground turmeric and freshly grated ginger (which both added a bit of flavor that stood up to the bitter blanched mustards, as well as some psychological witch doctor immunity against whatever late-winter illnesses seem to be circulating out there), and topped everything with a few random fresh herbs. Being trendy turns out to be delicious. I had no idea.

Grain Bowl with Barley, Mustard Greens, Chickpeas and Tahini

yields 2 servings

Ginger-Turmeric Tahini Sauce:
1/3 cup tahini paste
juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1 clove garlic, pressed or grated
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch each sugar and salt

Grain Bowl:
1 bunch mustard greens, washed and torn/chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cups cooked barley (I favor cooking mine like pasta in big pot of boiling water, as I'm less likely to scorch it)
~ 3/4 cup cooked chickpeas (warm to at least room temperature if they're coming out of the fridge)
handful of fresh herbs, if you've got (I had some scallions and cilantro)

To make the Tahini: mix together the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, turmeric, sugar and salt. Add a splash of water, and mix, adding more water (or, if it seems like it needs more bite, lemon juice) until you reach a thick-yet-pourable consistency. Set aside.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil while you wash and chop the mustard greens. Place the greens in a large heat-proof bowl, then pour the water over them. Let sit for a few minutes to soften, then drain (this both cooks the greens and leaches out some of the bitterness, and has the added benefit of making it harder to overcook).

While the greens are blanching, assemble your bowls. Divide the barley between two bowls, then top with the chickpeas. Add the blanched and drained mustard greens, top with a healthy dollop of tahini sauce, then sprinkle on the fresh herbs.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Almost-Flourless Chocolate Cake

There are a lot of times when grown-up life is hard. When decisions and bills pile up, when you feel like you deserve some sort of trophy for managing to actually get through your days — hanging laundry and braving post office lines and fighting with your health insurance and meeting deadlines and oh dear god why is that light on the car blinking? The times when you wonder why nobody told you things would be like this.

But thankfully, there are the other times. When your life is exactly like a childhood dream.  Where you get to live with your best friend, or take a stroll in the middle of the day because it's sunny out and you just want to. And make a dense, amazing chocolate cake just because.

Well, actually because I had leftover whipping cream. See, totally responsible grown-up.

But this cake. It's so good! And it's so much better the second day! This is a rich, chocolate-butter-eggs-sugar bite of perfection. And while I could easily inhale a terrifying amount, just a slim slice of this cake is surprisingly satisfying. Especially when you have another slim slice with your mid-afternoon coffee. And possibly another slim slice for breakfast. Because what is adulthood for, if not for that?

Almost-Flourless Chocolate Cake

adapted from I Want Chocolate by Trish Deseine, as adapted by Orangette
yields an 8-inch round cake

7 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
7 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 1/3 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
barely-sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit, and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment, and butter the parchment too.

Set a bowl above a pot of simmering water, to create a double boiler. Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl, and let melt, stirring occasionally. When melted, stir in the chocolate, and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Then add the eggs, one by one, stirring well after each addition, and then add the flour.

Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until most of the cake is somewhat set, and only the center jiggles. Remove to a rack, and let cool (the cake will fall, which is fine). To serve, run a knife along the edge, turn upside-down onto a plate, peel the paper off the bottom, then flip right side up onto another plate. Serve in small slices, with whipped cream.

Like brownies, this cake is much, much better the second day (store in the refrigerator, but let come to room temperature before eating).