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jiggly sophistication

Check out these gorgeous bits of brilliance:  gussied-up, post keg stand and ice-luge party-era jelly shots, and no, they are not spiked with Everclear.  The women behind these grown-up jigglers invent and test all of their recipes in Edina, MN.  They’ve currently got a cookbook in the works full of jellied cocktail  and non-alcoholic recipes, set to be published in the spring of 2011.  In the meantime, they’ve got a bunch of amazing recipes and tips here.  LUCKY US!

Above:  Cucumber Lime Margarita Shots with lime zest and sea salt, Bourbon Smash Shots with Chambord, raspberry, and mint

I usually don’t do much swooning over dessert.  I have my moments, but mostly I’d take a handful of salt and vinegar potato chips over a gooey chocolate chip cookie, even it was straight from the oven.  Most likely, you’ll find me taking a pull from a pickle jar than licking brownie batter from a spatula.  To many people, this may sound completely crazy.  Downright loony to some.  But it is just the way it is and always has been, at least from what I can remember.  I’ve particularly never loved cake, and if next year, someone were to ask me what flavor I’d prefer for my birthday, I’m one hundred times more likely to say “taco” than “red velvet.” With guacamole frosting. 

But then. 

A few weeks ago, Niki made dessert for a dinner party.  It was probably a daunting task for her for several reasons.  For one, time was short and for two, a couple of the guests were pastry chefs.  I think she is a mighty fine baker, for the record, so I had no doubts.  I mean, I turn my back for a minute and the girl has mixed a ball of beautiful dough, chilled it, and rolled it out for a perfectly flaky crust.  She does not give herself nearly enough credit. 

An hour or so before everyone was due to arrive, she was still tossing around ideas.  Tony was busy prepping the pizzas.  I had probably uncorked the first evening’s bottle of wine.  Time was ticking.

Niki finally made a decision based on a recipe she found a few days earlier, and she dove in with no apologies.  She grilled the beets in a tinfoil boat with a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of water until they were sweet and yielding to the fork.  She blended the beets to a gorgeous, deeply burgundy pulp and mixed it with melted milk chocolate.  She poured it with flour and such into a bundt pan and flipped it flawlessly onto a plain white plate.  There was no time for any icing, or even a dusting of powdered sugar.  But you know what?  It needed neither.  The cake’s edges caramelized, giving it a wafer-thin sweet crunch that gave way to more of a brownie consistency than cake.  It was a winner in so many ways.  Unexpected, rustic, and not obviously pretty.

   

We finished the entire cake.  We had seconds, even.  Everyone asked for the recipe.  And no one left a crumb.

I was so taken by this cake that I decided to bake with the same combination the next night, but instead for brownies.  I brought them to my cousin who makes beautiful art and cooks like a savant.  One week later, we made the cake again for a lovely friend’s birthday, this time iced with a clementine glaze.  That’s a lot of beet/chocolate baking in a short amount of time, which should tell you exactly how highly we think of it.  I will tell you this:  the cake recipe is the way to go.  We liked it best with no embellishment.  The glaze cheapened the flavors of the cake and competed with the fluky appeal of the beet/chocolate fusion.    

The Heavy Table, where Niki found the recipe, calls it “oddly addicting.”  Clearly, we’ve found this to be true.

Chocolate Chip Beet Cake

Adapted from Epicurious via the Heavy Table

½ c grapeseed oil
1 ½ c packed brown sugar
1 ½ c non-dairy semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 ½ c pureed cooked (boiled or steamed) beets
½ c unsweetened applesauce
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour, plus 1 tbsp for mixing with the chocolate chips
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

-Preheat oven to 375ºF and spread a light layer of oil over a bundt pan

-Cream together oil and brown sugar with an electric mixer

-Melt ½ c chocolate chips in a double boiler (place an inch of water into a pan and set a metal bowl over the pan with the chips in the bowl.  As the water boils in the pan, the chocolate will melt in the bowl).

-Add beets, applesauce, melted chocolate, and vanilla to the oil / brown sugar mixture and mix well.

-In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to beet mixture and stir until just combined.

-Toss the remaining 1 c chocolate chips in 1 tbsp flour in a separate bowl and gently mix into the cake batter.

-Pour batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

-Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Eat warm or cool.  Have seconds and thirds. 

 

I like this remedy

We’ve been doing a lot of cooking over here in this little corner of the world, in a neighborhood that locals are proud to call “Nordeast.”  We’ve candied ginger, roasted poblano peppers, stuffed burgers, and patted out chapattis.  We’ve simmered mango with onion for chutney and whisked yogurt with cucumber for raita.  We’ve grilled chicken basted with grape glaze and corn smothered in crema and cotija and cayenne, pickled cucumbers and peppers in sweet, salty brine and drizzled berry pancakes with ginger syrup.

All of this since the last post. 

I realize that it sounds a little ridiculous and far-fetched for one person to have the time involved for such things, or at least I would have thought so up until three weeks ago.  However, there are three factors working perfectly together to allow for such indulgences:  time, three like-minded housemates, and a backyard garden.

I admit that I have always considered cooking to be eminently therapeutic.  My favorite way to wind down is to spend an hour or more at the stove.  I deem it mandatory after a particularly irksome day.  Recently, due to the circumstances mentioned earlier, I am getting a much-welcomed healthy dose of culinary therapy. 

Oh, and I also get to spend time with old friends who keep me grounded and say wise things like this:  “Self-reflection, although sometimes necessary, is a real bitch.”

I think of summer as a time of reflection.

And relaxation.

And raspberries.

This time of year, raspberry bushes are practically overflowing with fruit.  N and T’s backyard fence is almost fully lined with bushes on one side, and we’re really not permitted to consider a recipe that doesn’t include ‘em.  I mean, why would we when we’ve got them nearly by the gallon ready and willing, almost pleading to be used?  When two-thirds of the household came down with an unfortunate bout of illness over the 4th of July Weekend, one with a virus resembling the flu and the other with strep, we decided on three things to make our bodies, minds, and throats feel better:  chicken soup, mimosas, and raspberry creamsicles, respectively.  Although that nasty virus kept me from watching fireworks on Sunday, there was no way in hell it would keep me between raspberries, cream, and the resulting tasteful bliss when the two are layered together in frozen form.  (I question these priorities all the time). 

This recipe will take you a total of 6 hours to complete, or 2 hours for each of the 3 layers, if you follow it step by step.  You could of course skip any of the layers for a simpler recipe, or if you have restrictions with dairy.  I, for one, will probably stick to an all raspberry-cream pop next time.  For me, the cream outshines everytime.

Maybe it was the taste of these that made us feel better, maybe it was the mid-afternoon buzz from the champagne, or maybe it was fit of laughter that ensued because of the finished product.  In any case, it was a remedy that worked.   

 

Raspberry Creamsicles

taken from Recipe Goldmine

Makes approximately 8 servings

1 pint raspberries

½ cup granulated sugar

1 ¼ cup water

½ cup cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup vanilla yogurt

Popsicle molds, waxed paper cups, or plastic shot glasses

Popsicle sticks

Blend raspberries with water and sugar.  Pour mixture through a sieve to catch the seeds.  This should give you about 2 cups of smooth raspberry pulp.

Divide the 2 cups equally into 3 separate bowls.  These bowls will be the 3 separate layers.

Top Layer: Mix in cream with raspberry puree in first bowl until well incorporated.

Middle Layer:  Mix in lemon juice with raspberry puree in second bowl.

Set first two bowls in refrigerator to chill.

Bottom Layer:  Mix in yogurt with raspberry puree in third bowl.  Pour this mixture into mold of choice about 1/3 of the way full.  Cover the mold with foil and poke a popsicle stick straight through the center of the foil and the yogurt.  Freeze until set, about 2 hours.

Remove the foil and pour the middle layer about 2/3 of the way full.  Freeze again until set, about another 2 hours.

Lastly, pour the top layer to the brim and freeze until solid.

*Run warm water around the outside of the molds for a few seconds to release

Best when eaten outside, where the melted ice can run down your arms and chin freely like it should.

Week One

Here we are, officially one week into this experiment, of sorts, if you want to call it that. To be honest, I’m having a difficult time coming up with an intro to this, so in the interest of time I will be frank: Nobody said this was going to be easy.

It is equally as difficult for me to describe my feelings about all of it. I am seventeen parts anxious to every one part relieved. I feel vulnerable but free. Exhilarated. Awake and open. Scared. Notably, I also feel a certain amount of self-assuredness that I have seemingly been searching for my entire life. It is possible that I have always possessed it but just didn’t pay it proper homage. Or it could be, as they tell us, that it comes with age and experience. This would make sense, since today I am older than I’ve ever been before. Whatever it is, I like it. I welcome it, and I want it to stay for a long, long time.

And let me tell you, the smiles of friends and family who have welcomed me home are priceless. I am truly overwhelmed in the best and brightest sense of the word. I expected it to be good and weird, but not this weirdly good.

You know what else is pretty nice? Living with two food enthusiasts, Niki and Tony, one of which I have known for most of my life, the other of which the former friend met in New York while on a trip to visit me. It’s super fun to have people around to geek out about the same things as you. In fact, I’d say it is no less than necessary. The day after I arrived, they took me to a big downtown farmers market, where we roamed for hours from stand to stand tasting cheeses, fruit, salsas, and breads. We brought home pâté and sundried tomato feta, and Tony went to work whisking together a deliciously pucker-inducing lemon curd as Niki and I sipped Cava and popped olives. This is a true story, and apparently quite a common occurrence on Saturday afternoons at the Tushar residence. I can hardly believe my good fortune.

And so it is. Through all of this transition, I figure I need a constant that will keep me sane, grounded, and honest. My family and friends do a great job with this, but I need something that is solely mine. Throughout my life, the place I have found to be most therapeutic is the kitchen. The method through which I most prefer to learn and love is cooking. And I feel good when I write. I want this to be something I’ll be able to look back upon to help me remember exactly how I felt at this specific point in time. Plus, I’m pretty much in awe of all of the cool and interesting food blogs out in cyberspace. Call me greedy, but I want a piece of that pie.

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