Rhubarb

Posted: May 19, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

I fell in love with rhubarb when I was 21.  I had just graduated from college and had agreed to travel to Denmark and Germany for almost a month with the family that I had been a nanny for during my last year.  We started in Copenhagen, spent some time in Hamburg, and even had a couple of days at the original Lego-Land, which was mildly entertaining, but not when you are toting around two children that are not yours while their parents criticize every move you make.  The best part, however; had to be the ten days we spent on an organic farm in the country outside of Copenhagen.  This was where I learned all sorts of new thing about fruits and vegetables.  Cucumbers, when left to their own devices, will grow curvy.  Fresh mango is the most amazing flavor in the world, and rhubarb is super delicious and WAY more versatile than I thought.  There was a rhubarb patch behind the farm house, so I would take the kids out in the afternoon and pick the biggest leaves so we could use the edible portion for dinner.

As a scientist I also this its pretty cool since the leaves are highly toxic to humans, but the stalk, also known as the petiole, that connects the leaf to the stem is completely edible.  One of my colleagues, who is a botanist, tries to accompany each of his plant anatomy lessons with ‘edible visual aids’ so he had carrots and ranch dressing for the kids when they were learning about roots, hot chocolate and coffee when they were learning about seeds, etc…  So the other day they were studying leaves, and he brought in rhubarb pie.  He offered me some of the left over and as I was shoveling it into my face, while trying to appear calm and casual I started thinking about different rhubarb recipes that I could try now that it is back in season.  In Denmark we made a lot of cobbler/crumble type desserts with rhubarb, and one morning we put it on our pancakes which was super delicious, but I wanted to do something a little bit different just because thats what I do.  So after thinking about it and looking around I came up with these:

Rhubarb White Chocolate Brownies:

The Brownies:

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1cup sugar

2 Eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler until its smooth.  Take it off the heat and mix in the sugar, vanilla and eggs. Finally, add the flour and salt.

Rhubarb:

Cut rhubarb in appx 1/3″ slices until you have a full cup.  Put it in a small sauce pan with 1/3 cup water and 2 1/2 tbsp sugar.  Bring the mixture to a boil for about a minute, then reduce the heat and let simmer until the rhubarb falls apart a bit when you stir it.  Remove it from the heat and pour it into a blender or food processor.  Let it cool for a few minutes and then blend it until it forms a smooth compote.

White Chocolate:

Melt white chocolate pieces with some heavy cream until it forms a smooth mixture that is thick, but pour-able.

I folded the rhubarb mixture in to the brownie batter, poured it into an 8×8 brownie pan and drizzled the chocolate over the top.  Bake for 45 minutes at 325, or until a fork in the center comes out clean.

The flavors all came together just like I wanted them to, and these bad boys are delicious with the sweet and tangy balancing each other out.

Here’s what I didn’t like:

1) The rhubarb flavor wasn’t as strong as I wanted it to be, so next time I think I will reduce the compote to concentrate the flavor.  I also might drizzle it over the top rather than mix it in with the batter, but that will probably be decided as I’m making it next time.

2) The white chocolate was a little dense and sort of sank into the batter as you can see from the picture.  I want to find a way to lighten up the mixture so that it hangs out more on the top.  Perhaps beating in some cream cheese?  Any suggestions would be more than welcome.

As we head in to summer, I am excited about all the produce opportunities that are coming my way, so hopefully I will end up with some great new summer recipes.


Risotto 2.0

Posted: January 10, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

In my last post I mentioned my desire to attempt a sweet risotto, and I’ve been thinking about it all week.  At first I was thinking some sort of fruit situation, however nothing I came up with really did it for me.  After cruising the internet (while I should have been working, of course) I found a chocolate risotto recipe from the great chef/epic douche Michael Chiarello.  From there I started playing around and came up with S’more risotto.

The chocolate risotto was pretty basic:

6 cups milk

2 vanilla beans

1 cup sugar

6 oz semisweet chocolate chips

4Tbsp butter

1 pkg Arborio rice

Put the milk in a large sauce pan with the sugar and the 2 vanilla beans (split lengthwise) and let it simmer for about 10 minutes over medium heat to infuse the vanilla flavor into the milk.  Once the milk has simmered, remove the vanilla beans and throw them out.  Make sure the milk stays hot. Melt 2Tbsp of the butter in a large saucepan then add the rice and stir it until the rice is hot and coated with butter.  After that start adding the milk a ladle full at a time and stir it until the liquid is absorbed before adding another ladle full.  Keep adding liquid and stirring until it gets creamy and delicious, and is the consistency you want it to be.  Once its done, take it off the heat and add the other 2 Tbsp of butter, and the chocolate pieces.  I added a little extra chocolate, shockingly enough.

Chocolate Risotto

Once I stopped had finished eating this directly out of the pot, entirely for the purposes of quality control of course, I could assemble my experimental concoction.  Since this was a new recipe, I just wanted to get a feel as to whether or not it was even worth my time in the future, so rather than making the graham cracker crust myself, I picked up some of the Keebler mini graham cracker crusts at the grocery store to make my life easier.  So once the risotto was made, I took one of the crusts and filled it with risotto.

Choc Ris in crust

In the future, I think I will not fill it as much and just try to keep it even with the top of the crust.

Then I topped it with mini marshmallows, and broiled it on low for about 4 minutes.  I like my marshmallows a little on the burned side, so you might want to drop that time a little.

Smore Risotto

The mini marshmallows make it look a little goofy, so I would like to find a way to change that in the future, but overall it turned out pretty much like it did in my head :) .  You get the full flavor of the smore that will bring you back to being 8 again, but you also get a whole new textural component with the risotto.

This is most definitely something I am going to continue to play with, and I think next time I will class it up a bit with ramekins, rather than the super elegant tin foil, disposable mini pie tin…

I would love to get thoughts, suggestions, etc… from everyone :)

smore risotto bite


A Very Pretty Thanksgiving: Who's yer Punkin?

Posted: November 15, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: A Very Pretty Thanksgiving, Bake-zilla, Johanna, pumpkin | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Punkin Paaaah!There are some things that are synonymous with Thanksgiving, with the holidays. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Squash. We’ll get to all of these except the turkey as we help our dear friend Bakezilla work her way through her first Thanksgiving dinner, as well as sharing stories adn tales about our own personal holiday faves.

A big one for me at the holidays has always been Pumpkin Pie. I went through a phase where it was my favorite thing ever. I’ve kind of cooled on it lately, which is odd given my recent love affair with most things pumpkin. I’m more into combining pumpkin with muffins, or brownies, or jello shots.
However, my friend and all around awesome lady, Jackie, brought me back to pumpkin pie. She has an allergy to cinnamon, which means that her fave dessert  has the chance to put her into anaphylactic shock. This is not a cool thing, as you might imagine, because I love Jackie and do not want her to die from dessert. She asked the Pretty Girls via Twitter to try and hack pumpkin pie to produce something she could consume. I promised to try.

A couple days later, while washing the dishes, my mind wandered away from the crusted on remains I was scraping off my casserole dish, and suddenly, I had it. Cumin, and Cayenne, would provide the heat and spice that cinnamon give. Nutmeg and Cardamom would provide warmth and spiciness.

Pie-oh-My.

I had it. And I had to immediately try my theory. I abandoned the dishes and immediately ran to the store to buy pumpkin and evaporated milk.
Pumpkin Pie for Jackie
Preheat oven to 425.
Roll out your pie shells and place into your pie plate. If making 1 pie, make it a deep-dish pie plate.
Combine 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar in a bowl. Reserve.
Beat 2 eggs in a large bowl. Add in 1 can of pumpkin puree and the sugar-and-spice mixture. Once this is combined, add in 1 can of evaporated milk.

Pour the filling into the pie shell, thump it on the counter a fe times to get rid of the air bubbles, and put it in the oven. I baked my 4 mini pies and 1 mini springform for 15 minutes at 425, then reduced the heat to 350, and baked  them for 35 minutes. For a larger pie, make it 45 minutes at 350.

This pie was 2-boy-approved: Jesse and our friend Steele both decided it was pretty darn good. While you notice the lack of cinnamon, I certainly didn’t miss it. The spices work brilliantly with the pumpkin, creating a general feeling of warmth, and the cayenne provides a nice slow burn at the end.
In fact, you could probably use coconut milk instead of evaporated milk, if you’re lactose intolerant.

But in the end, the best part is that Jackie can have her fave again, without anaphylactic shock. And that’s a win. :)



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.