Tag Archives: easy

Spiced Chocolate Shortbread

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Shortbread de Chocolate e Especiarias

Here at Culinary Tertulias, December is a synonym for edible gifts!

To start this series, I wanted to make something with chocolate and spices, Christmas-y but not overly so. I also wanted a quick and easy cookie, because I had to take SOMETHING to a meeting with friends. I found this recipe at King Arthur’s Flour and I immediately knew it was the one to make – I love shortbreads and I had all the ingredients!

I used two things that may be a bit tricky to find outside the US: allspice and pumpkin pie spice. To make this recipe, you will need one teaspoon of spices – you can use a mix of ground ginger, ground cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

You will need:

1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/3 cup (28 g) Dutch cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp mixed spices – I used ½ tsp allspice and ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice, but you can also use a mix of ground ginger, ground cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 and 3/4 cup (200 g) all-purpose flour

 
Shortbread de Chocolate e Especiarias
 

Start by lining 2 8-inch square pans with aluminum foil, leaving some excess to help you remove the shortbreads, and grease them well. Pre-heat your oven.

This is a recipe that is stirred by hand, which sounds hard – it’s actually pretty quick and easy, if the butter is properly softened!

With a spatula, mix the butter, salt, and sugar. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla, spices, and baking powder. Mix well. Add the flour and mix just until you can’t see any more white specks.

Divide the dough into both pans – use the spatula to smooth the surface and prick it all over with a fork. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. Use the excess aluminum foil as handles to remove the shortbread from the pans and immediately cut the shortbreads into squares. Cool them on a wire rack.

When they are completely cool, place in a cute box or bag and spread the cheer! 🙂

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Chocolate Pudding

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Potinhos de Chocolate

One of these days, Sky said he was craving chocolate pudding. Naturally, I went looking for a recipe. Smitten Kitchen’s sounded pretty easy, and I had all ingredients there, so it was a no-brainer.

The recipe was indeed easy – six ingredients! One pot!

I made it quickly, and decided to place it nice serving bowls. While I was dividing, I had a taste – it was DELICIOUS! Comfort food at its best!

For six servings, you’ll need:

1/4 cup (30 g) cornstarch
1/3 cup (75 g) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt – or, you know, a generous pinch
3 cups (710 ml) whole milk
6 ounces (170 g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped – I used 70%
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Potinhos de Chocolate

Have I mentioned how easy this recipe is? This recipe is really easy! 😀

In a medium-sized pan, whisk the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the milk slowly, mixing well to avoid lumps. Place the pan over low heat. Stir occasionally with a spatula, scraping the bottom and sides. If you feel lumps are forming, use a whisk – I didn’t have to.

After about 10 minutes, the mix will start to thicken – it will be hot, but not really boiling. Continue to stir until the mixture can coat the back of a spoon – I think the picture shows what I mean!

Potinhos de Chocolate

Still over low heat, add the chocolate and stir until it melts and the pudding thickens – this will take another 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and mix well.

Now you can be fancy and avoid all lumps by passing the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. I (obviously) didn’t bother.

Another thing you can do is to divide the mixture into individual serving bowls, but that is option. What is not optional is covering the pudding with a plastic wrap directly on it, to avoid the formation of the skin. In all fairness, even that is optional, some people like the skin! :-S

Refrigerate for about 3 hours. The original recipe says the pudding will last for three days in the fridge, but I was never able to test that! 🙂

Stuffed Pepper Rings

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Anéis de Pimentão Recheados

Food nostalgia. It’s not often, but every now and then I miss some recipes I ate as a child and nobody (aka Mom/Grandma) has ever cooked them again.

This time, the feeling was quite odd: I was longing for a recipe that Mom must have cooked only once in her life AND I DIDN’T EVEN LIKE IT AT THE TIME! Ok, I know this might be a sign of madness. But there I was, thinking about stuffed peppers, so I decided to do something about it.

The idea for this recipe came, as usual, while I was procrastinating on Pinterest. I thought I’d follow this recipe to a T, but I ended up doing something different 😀

For two hungry people, you’ll need:

2 large bell peppers – choose your favorite color/the one that’s on sale 😀
400 g ground beef
1 egg
¼ cup parmesan, thinly shredded – I used my microplane for that
1 onion, chopped into small cubes
Garlic, to taste – and my taste is a bunch!
½ bunch of chopped parsley
Salt, pepper, hot paprika, red pepper flakes, and powdered mustard
400 mL tomato sauce –
About 300 g of mozzarella

Anéis de Pimentão Recheados

Start by cutting the bell peppers into thick slices, about 2 fingers-tall. I got three slices per pepper, give it or take. Set aside. Chop the leftover peppers into small cubes.

In a bowl, mix together the ground beef with the egg and the parmesan. Add the onions, chopped peppers, garlic, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper – as usual, I added paprika and other spices (this time, red pepper flakes and powdered mustard). Set aside.

Stuff the pepper rings with the ground beef mix. Do so gently, to avoid breaking the rings.

On a hot (cast-iron if you have it) pan, seal the stuffed rings for 3 minutes on each side.
Cover a baking sheet with the tomato sauce and place the sealed rings on it. Cover the rings with the mozzarella – I used slices, because that’s what I had, but I think it would melt better if I had used the shredded version.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes and serve!

FREEZER: Freeze them before baking: cover a freezer/oven safe baking dish (I used a disposable one) with the tomato sauce, place the sealed rings, cover and freeze. When it’s time to use it, thaw, cover with cheese and bake as usual.

Zucchini Ceviche

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Ceviche de Abobrinha

Mom, who was here for a short visit, opened the fridge, saw a few zucchinis there and told me that she had had zucchini ceviche at a restaurant somewhere, and that it was delicious. A ceviche without fish? Of course I had to try it!

I found a recipe that looked really interesting, but they left the zucchini strips whole. When making my own, I decided to cut these strips into smaller pieces, for better texture. Easy and tasty!
You’ll need:

3 medium-sized zucchinis
½ medium-sized onion, cut into thin rings – I forgot to add the onions to the ingredients picture! 😮
¼ red bell pepper, chopped into small cubes
½ Anaheim pepper or 2 ajíes dulces (optional)
½ bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of two lemons
Salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper, to taste.

Ceviche de Abobrinha

Cut the onion into veeeeery thin slices. Place them in a bowl, add the juice of one lemon, and set aside. This step helps to reduce the spicyness of the raw onion – I don’t usually do it, but the one I used was VERY spicy! 😀

Slice the zucchini veeeery thinly. If you have a mandolin, it’s time to use it! I didn’t use the core, as it’s all seeds anyway. After slicing the zucchinis, chop them into smaller pieces. Chop the bell pepper, the Anaheim pepper, and the cilantro.

In the serving bowl, mix the zucchini with the peppers, cilantro, and reserved onion. Add the juice of the remaining lemon, and season with salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Set aside for 15-20 minutes, to marinate, and serve as an appetizer or a side dish! 😀

Lamington Bars

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Lamington Bars

You know, sometimes all we need is something that is simple, but looks complicated, complex, sophisticated. Or something that has a fancy name!

This recipe, from Technicolor Kitchen, fulfilled an old desire of mine: I always wanted to make Lamingtons, but was too lazy to make the traditional ones!

You’ll need:

125 g unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup flour
1 ¼ rsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup whole milk, lukewarm
1 cup of sweetened coconut flakes – I must confess I didn’t really measure! As I can’t find sweetened coconut flakes in Uruguay, I used shredded coconut.

For the icing, you’ll need:

¾ confectioner’s sugar, passed through a fine mesh sieve – can I use regular sugar? Probably NOT.
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, passed through a fine mesh sieve
1/3 cup boiling water
1 ½ Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Lamington Bars

As in brownie recipes, start by preparing the baking sheet (i used a 9 x 13 inch one): line it with aluminum foil and butter the foil – do so CAREFULLY, to prevent tears. I ran out of aluminum foil that day (the horror!), so I used parchment paper – make sure you butter it as well!
In the stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla until the mixture is light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition – remember to use the silicone spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl!

Turn off the mixer. With your silicone spatula, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt, until it’s all well incorporated. Mix in the milk. You’ll get a reasonably thick batter. Spread it over the baking sheet, making sure to smooth the surface with your spatula.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. This cake doesn’t raise or color much, don’t worry. Let it cool COMPLETELY in the pan over a cooling rack.

When the cake has cooled, cut it into bars – cutting before pouring the icing makes the bars look pretty on the sides! 🙂

It’s time for the ridiculously complicated icing. Ready? Mix all icing ingredients in a bowl. There. With a spoon and a little bit of patience, spread the icing over the bars. Top them with coconut and serve!

Another great thing about these bars is that they freeze PERFECTLY! Wrap individual portions in plastic wrap. When you really need something sweet, just remove from the freezer and let it thaw a little bit – they’re pretty tasty cold! 🙂

Borscht

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Borscht

Last month, my aunt told me about a beet soup my grandma had made a long time ago, but had lost the recipe. Of course I went and asked grandma about it, but all she could remember was that the recipe was “from Russia or something like that”. It had to be borscht! I found several recipes, and I decided to combine Ana’s and Chef John’s recipes to make my own! 🙂

Those who know me know that I have very strong opinions regarding vinegar (AKA: it’s not food, it’s a cleaning product!). This recipe has made me change my mind, at least temporarily! I try the soup with and without vinegar – it was much better with it! 😮

You will need:

3 cups beets, diced
2 medium-size carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
½ white cabbage, sliced – I used ½ cabbage, because mine was a big one. If yours is small, use it all!
2 L meat stock – or vegetable stock, if you want a vegetarian/vegan recipe
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 bay leaf
Salt, pepper, paprika

Optional, but advisable:
Sour cream
Dill, chopped thinly – for the photo, I used parsley, because I had run out of dill!

Borscht

This is a very easy recipe: start by chopping the beets, carrots, onion, celery, and cabbage. I julienned the beets, just because I thought it would look good – no fancy scientific explantation here! 😀

In the pan that you will use to cook the soup, place the onion, celery, and carrots with a little bit of butter (use olive oil to make it vegan!). Season with salt, pepper, and paprika and cook for about 5 minutes. When the onion has turned translucent, add the stock, the beets, and the cabbage.

Cover the pan. Cook over high heat just until it comes to a boil – then, cook over low heat for approximately 50 minutes, or until the beets are soft. Check the seasoning, add the vinegar and… THAT’S IT.

Serve with a generous Tbsp of sour cream (your vegan friend doesn’t get any, though!) and garnish with a little bit of chopped dill!

Chocolate Bread

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Pão de Chocolate

When my mom bought a bread machine, in 2000 something, we were curious about one of the recipes in the booklet that came with it: chocolate bread. We made it, but it was only ok, so we never repeated it. Last month, when I found this recipe by David Lebovitz, I decided it was time to give the idea of chocolate bread a second chance.

Don’t fool yourself: this is not a cake. It’s not a fluffy bread with a hint of chocolate, either. This dense bread has a deep chocolate flavor, and it is wonderful when toasted, with a little bit of butter! It’s perfect for a special breakfast, say… a birthday breakfast! 😀

You’ll need:

55 g (4 Tbsp) butter

85 g dark chocolate – I used a 71% one

¾ cup whole milk, lukewarm

2 ¼ tsp instant dry yeast

75 g (6 Tbsp) sugar

1 ½ tsp instant coffee – optional, but highly recommended

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

280 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

90 g (3/4 cup) dark chocolate chips, or dark chocolate, chopped – I used chocolate chips, 50%

70 g (½ cup) walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts, chopped – also optional, also highly recommended! I used walnuts.

Pão de Chocolate

Start by melting the dark chocolate with the butter in a double boiler, or on very low heat. When it melts, remove from the heat and let it cool down.

In a big bowl, place the lukewarm milk, yeast, and one Tbsp of the sugar. Mix and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. When the mixture has bubbled, with a layer that looks like beer foam, it’s time to add the rest of the sugar, instant coffee (if you’re using it), egg, vanilla, and salt.

As the cocoa powder tends to clump, sift half of it and half of the flour directly in the bowl. Mix with a silicone spatula. Add the melted chocolate, mix a little bit more, and sift the remainder cocoa powder and flour. Mix until it’s all incorporated.

If you have a stand mixer, use the hook attachment and knead for five minutes – the dough won’t stick to the side of the bowl for long, but keep kneading anyway! You can also knead by hand (the original recipe called for mixing vigorously with a spatula for five minutes), but resist the temptation to add more flour. The dough is a little wetter than that of normal bread!

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for two hours in a warm place. After this, add the chocolate chips and the nuts. Place the dough in a buttered 9-inch loaf pan.

Cover the pan and let the dough rise for one hour. Bake in a pre-heated oven for approximately 40 minutes. The bread will be ready when the house smells of chocolate and you hear a hollow sound when you tap it.

Now comes the hard part: let the bread cool completely before slicing it!

The Browniest Cookies

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Biscoitos Brownie

Have you ever read a recipe, thought it would be easy to make, knew it would be tasty, pinned it, aaaaand…… never remembered to do it? Always, right? 😀 To continue the Chocolate Tertulias, I decided to finally make these cookies, which are basically little round brownies!

These are not only delicious, they’re also very easy to make: you don’t need to soften the butter and you only use one pot! I didn’t have unsweetened chocolate, so I used a70% cocoa one. It was very tasty, but next time I’ll use one with 80% cocoa, or stronger. Even if you don’t like bitter chocolate, I don’t think this recipe would work with milk chocolate – it’d be way too sweet!

You’ll need:

115 g (½ cup) unsalted butter
115 g unsweetened chocolate, chopped
190 g (1 cup, packed) dark or light brown sugar
25 g (2 Tbsp) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp fine sea or table salt
45 g (½ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
130 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
115 g (2/3 cup) chocolate chips or chocolate, chopped into chunks

Biscoitos Brownie

In a pot that fits all ingredients, melt the butter and the chocolate. You can use a water bath, or do what I did and melt everything over the lowest heat on the smallest burner of the stove, stirring constantly and being careful not to let the chocolate burn.

With a silicone spatula, mix the two kinds of sugar into the melted chocolate. Add the eggs, one by one. Mix in the vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter − yes, I do mean sift it! 😀 − and mix. Sift the flour over the batter and mix just until you don’t see any white specs. Now all you have to do is add the chocolate chips!

Cover the pot with plastic wrap and let it cool in the fridge for about half an hour. Use a cookie scoop or make small balls (mine were about 1 Tbsp of dough), place them on a lined baking sheet, leaving plenty of room between them, and bake in a preheated oven. The original recipe said to bake for 11 to 12 minutes, warning that they would be soft. I did this on the first batch, letting them cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. This gave the cookies a really brownie-like texture. On the second batch, I baked for 15 minutes, and found the texture to be closer to a normal cookie − and I liked them even better that way!

Freezer: As with most cookies, you can freeze the balls of dough in a plastic wrap-covered baking sheet. When they are fully frozen, transfer them into a Ziploc bag. To bake, take them straight from the freezer to the oven, baking for a couple extra minutes.

Roasted Onion Pie

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Torta de Cebolas Assadas

OOOPS, we skipped a week! I went to a conference last week and I didn’t have time to schedule a post. :S

To end the Pie Tertulias, I decided to cook a recipe that I always wanted to try. It seemed easy (and it was), but I had a huge problem: I couldn’t buy decent puff pastry in Uruguay! The frozen ones never properly puffed, and they all had that wonderful (not) taste of hydrogenated fat! Gross! I took matters into my own hands and made my own puff pastry, following La Cucinetta’s recipe. It totally worked, and wasn’t even THAT hard! I didn’t photograph the process, but I will next time!

This is a great recipe for a casual dinner at home, a happy hour, or even Sunday lunch, why not?

You’ll need:

¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp vinegar – the original recipe called for red wine vinegar; I used rice vinegar because that’s what I had 😀
1 Tbsp thyme – I used the dried version, but if you have fresh thyme, use it!
Zests of 1 lemon – it’s not in the ingredient picture because I only remembered it when I was about to put the onions in the oven
Salt and pepper
2 red onions
2 yellow onions
400 g puff pastry – you can use the store-bought version! I would have 😛
100 g creamy goat’s cheese – I used one that was seasoned with herbs, it was great! You can use regular cream cheese, if you prefer a milder taste.
1 egg, beaten, to brush the dough

Torta de Cebolas Assadas

This is a ROASTED ONION pie, right? So we’ll start by roasting the onions! 😀 Thinly slice the onions – if you have a mandolin (which is currently on my wishlist), use it! Line a big baking sheet with parchment paper and place the whole onion slices on it – do not separate the slices into rings and, if possible, do not pile them on the sheet.

In a bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, thyme, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the onions and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until they are soft. Remove from the oven, but don’t turn it off! 🙂

Open the puff pastry into a 20 x 25 cm rectangle. If you’re using the homemade dough, line the baking sheet with parchment paper, so it absorbs some of the extra fat, leaving the dough crunchier.

With a sharp knife, score a 1-cm border on all sides of the rectangle of dough – don’t cut it all the way down. This will give your pie a nice, puffy edge! With a fork, prick the entire inside area. Spread the goat cheese inside the scored area and place the onion slices – feel free to pile them up a little bit 🙂

Brush the non-covered borders with the beaten eggs and bake for 20 minutes, or until the dough puffs and turns a lovely golden color. Eat!

Fish and Chips

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Fish and Chips

I remember the very first thing I ate in England: a COLD pork pie, with a visible fat layer, together with a coffee that was also cold and yucky. To make things worse, it was expensive! To this day Sky, who was responsible for making that choice, is mocked! 😀

But there I also ate wonderful things, among them the famous fish and chips. The first time we ate that was at the only restaurant open after a long day of walking around. When we ordered a beer, the owner was almost insulted: we hadn’t realized that the restaurant was halal! To end the Sea Tertulias, I decided to make fish and chips – and had a good laugh when I realized Jaime Oliver’s recipe called for beer in the batter! 😀

You’ll need:

250 g white fish fillets, deboned – we used corvina
½ tsp salt
pepper and paprika
225 g flour
250 ml COLD beer
3 tsp baking powder
Potatoes to fry – I must confess I cheated and bought frozen fries. I know, I know.
About 1 liter of oil to deep-fry

Fish and Chips

Start by heating the oil. Place some beers in the freezer. When the oil is hot enough, start frying the French fries. While they’re frying….

Season the fish fillets with salt, pepper, and paprika. As we wanted finger food, I cut the fish into medium-sized chunks, but traditionally this dish is made by frying the entire fillet. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder. Add the beer, which must be very cold, in parts. The batter should be thick, almost like a cream – if it’s too liquid, it’ll make a mess of your oil!

Dip the fish pieces in the batter, making sure they are fully covered. Deep fry them for about 4 minutes, or until they are golden. Here, I served with garlic and herb mayonnaise – and beer, of course!