Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fat Witch Brownies

I have found that New Yorkers are really social.  People who live in the city offer to host dinner parties/get-togethers/general hanging out in their homes all the time.  Especially in the winter when the local bar or restaurant is too far to travel because your ears my fall off from frostbite.  It turns out ear muffs were not just something that looked cute on me when I was six-years-old. They actually serve a purpose.

The willingness to host guests for an evening of fun in one’s apartment is fascinating to me because everyone who lives here (correction, everyone with whom I associate) has either A) an incredibly small apartment or B) random nooks and crannies that would deem a dinner party impossible to accommodate in one room leaving someone sitting by themselves in the bathroom because that is the only seat available.  Or both.  These two are not mutually exclusive.

Nevertheless, people are still willing to open their hearts and homes on a snowy Friday night to hang out and that is where we found ourselves last night.  Two of my neighbors and I thought we should host a progressive dinner party in an effort to hang out with our fellow 33 West 89ers.  The plan was to start on the second floor for appetizers, head to the fourth floor for empanadas and hit up the fifth floor for dessert (this was my contribution, naturally).  Once I got over the fear of letting ten people into our miniscule living room (complete with floor maps of what the most efficient seating arrangement would look like), I was ready.  As we all gathered on the second floor and mingled with our neighbors, we realized we should just bring the food there instead of moving herds of folks up three extra flights of stairs after gorging on wine and cheese.  And that is what we did.  We brought the progression to them.  And it was lovely. 
My contribution included cupcakes (to be revealed on a later post) and these brownies from the popular Fat Witch Bakery in Chelsea Market.  Chelsea Market has long been one of my favorite spots in NYC.  When I would visit Robbie here (pre-Robbie-in-London, pre-law-school, pre-marriage), we made it a point to stop in and peruse the shops.  In the five years since, it has become much more of a tourist attraction (can’t say I blame them) with a random Anthropologie thrown in the mix of local bakeries and vendors.  They were a hit last night, even with some unintentional extra chocolatey-ness. (I added 1 cup of bittersweet chocolate instead of ½ cup.  Oops.) 

These are best eaten the same night (or soon after) unless you can find a way to keep them as airtight as possible. There’s a reason Fat Witch Bakery individually wraps their brownies with tight cellophane.  I will say, though, that they are still their crumbly, chocolate deliciousness on a Saturday morning with one’s cup of coffee.  Just saying. 

Fat Witch Brownies

14 Tablespoons Butter
1 cup bittersweet chocolate (The original recipe calls for ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips but I used a bar of bittersweet chocolate and chopped it up until I had a cup.  So I broke the rules twice.)
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour
Pinch of Salt

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring often.  Set aside to cool once they have melded into each other.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.  Cream the sugar, eggs and vanilla together.  This can be done by hand, no need to break out the mixer.  With a whisk, mix with some hearty elbow grease until it is a light yellow color and well-incorporated.  Add the chocolate mixture and mix until blended.  Add the flour and salt and mix until combined and you see no more dry ingredients in the batter.  Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for 33 minutes.  (I left mine for 36 minutes. This is what happens when my timer breaks and I convince myself I can just remember that I have brownies in the oven and should check back in 33 minutes.)  Remove from the oven and let cool for 1 hour.  They are much easier to cut if you wait this hour although I know it will be tempting to dive right in.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Thai Coconut Lentils

I love weekends.  Adding an extra day makes them even better.  I start them off with a list of all the things I want to accomplish and then, inevitably, I end the weekend on Monday night watching the Bachelor  and thinking about how I only marked off a quarter of what I had planned.  Let's hope I at least spend some time watching the Inauguration (or at least the assessment of Sasha and Malia's outfit choices) and do something for humankind in honor of MLK Jr. Day.  

Speaking of The Bachelor.  I am extremely excited about this season.  I have been a loyal viewer of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise since Season 2.  I watched through college when my older and wiser sorority sisters would have viewing parties of the show and explain this is how not to go about getting a guy and then have kept watching over 20 seasons later.  I remember every moment on this list like it was yesterday and I loyally follow many of my favorite contestants as they continue to make their way through life.  Except Jason.  I am still hurt about that one. 

You may wonder why I'm talking about my dedication like it's something I'm proud of.  I will remind you that I can't make it through a weekend to-do list so 25 seasons of a tv show is pretty impressive. 

Granted, the show is incredibly entertaining.  It's a great mixture of hot and spicy romance with sweet and tender moments.  And then the contestants themselves are often a train wreck which makes all of us look better.  I make Robbie watch it so he knows how lucky he is.  And then I feed him this dinner.  Perfectly appropriate for your next Bachelor viewing party.  It is hot and spicy from the curry and pepper while sweet and tender from the coconut milk and sweet potatoes.  Maybe it could be the next contestant on the Bachelor.  Someone get Chris Harrison on the phone.  

Thai Coconut Lentils
Adapted from Pinch of Yum via Tasty Kitchen

1 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ heads green cabbage, chopped
3 cups cubed sweet potatoes
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoons salt
1 can Coconut Milk, 14 ounce
1-½ Tablespoon Green Curry paste 
½ cups Crushed Peanuts For Topping

Rinse your lentils well to avoid any gritty taste in the final product.  Cook the lentils in a pot of boiling water until soft, for about 45 minutes. Drain the water and set  lentils aside. While lentils are cooking, saute the garlic in the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the cabbage and stir fry until the cabbage begins to soften.   If you would like more cabbage, you can add it here.  The cabbage gives this dish a lot of heft.  Remove from heat and set aside (or add to the bowl of lentils – everything will be added back into the pan momentarily).  Add a little more oil to the pan and add the sweet potato. Season with the cayenne, chili powder, and salt—or any other seasonings you like. Add the coconut milk and simmer the squash for 8-10 minutes or until soft but not mushy. Add the green curry paste and stir until mixed in with the coconut milk.  Add the cooked cabbage and lentils to the squash and gently stir to combine. Top each bowl with chopped peanuts if you desire.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ricotta Spinach Pie

It's Oscars Season!  I now have about 25 movies I have to see between now and the Academy Awards.  I'll be spending way too much money (and time) sitting in a dark room with strangers over the next few weeks but at least I will be able to make pretentious comments about the contenders.  I saw Les Miserables last night and I am disappointed to say that it was the most boring two and a half hours of 2013 so far.

For the record, here were my top five movies this year:

  • Argo - Ben Affleck with facial hair.  Hollaaaa!  In my opinion, he deserved Best Director and Best Acting nomination.  But I am a huge fan and obviously many people disagreed with me.  
  • The Intouchables - A French film that is AWESOME.  It's a really touching story and if you want to watch one feel-good movie prior to the Oscars, make it this one.  NOTE: This French film should not be confused with the other French film, Amour - another great movie according to my husband.  Unfortunately, I have not seen it but any movie that has a title that means 'love' and has my husband's raves must be exceptional.
  • Dark Knight Rises - My movie experience was heightened because the two nights prior to seeing the movie, I rewatched Batman Begins and Dark Knight and therefore, I was of the variety of viewers who recognized the obscure connections from the previous two movies (thereby irritating all those people around me with my chuckles of acknowledgement).  
  • The Amazing Spider-man  - I adore movies with real life couples.  Emma and Andrew were precious.  I have reenacted the scene where Spiderman throws his web out to catch Gwen Stacy and she twirls back to him over and over again in the living room/kitchen/foyer area of the apartment.  Note the use of 'I' in that sentence. I'm reenacting this by myself while Newt stares lazily back at me from the couch.
  • Zero Dark Thirty - Another one who was snubbed for Best Director category.  I actually saw this one in 2013 but I'm going to still count it if you don't mind.  It was the most intriguing movie I saw this year.  If I can't chose this one then I will replace it with Wreck-it Ralph.  But the intellect of my list will take a severe hit.  
You should find the nearest Redbox and pick up some of these or go to the movie theater and enjoy the magic.  We will be watching Beasts of the Southern Wild tonight.  24 to go!  

Now, what to eat for these movie marathon watching sessions?  I recommend something easy to throw together and then something that will need to bake so you can get the movie started.  Then, it will give you a good break from the movie to discuss second-act transitions while you pull the dish out of the oven and enjoy.  Start off with this Spinach Ricotta Pie.  I completely removed one of the cheeses from the recipe as I didn't want to have a heart attack during the credits.  

Spinach Ricotta Pie 
Adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 350°F. Unfold pie crust and press out folds.  Sprinkle the tablespoon of flour over the crust and place the crust flour-side down in a pie dish.   Crimp the edges decoratively.   Take your thawed spinach and drain it of as much moisture as you can.  (I put mine in a wide lipped bowl and then placed an empty wide lipped bowl on top of it and pressed out the liquid into the sink.)  Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Sauté until all liquid from spinach evaporates, about 3 minutes. Combine ricotta and Parmesan cheeses in large bowl. Mix in eggs. Add spinach mixture from the pan and blend well. Pour the cheese mixture into pie crust. Bake until filling is set in center and brown on top, about 35-40 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before cutting and serving.