Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Chocolate Rabbit Torte

I came home from work the a few days ago to find a little easter treat from my landlady, left for me on the steps up to my apartment:

One is never too old to enjoy a chocolate bunny and jelly beans. And tulips -- I adore tulips. (I do think I'm a little old for easter egg hunts, so I'm glad mom hasn't planned one for this year. My brother and I almost injured ourselves and each other the time she organized one in the back yard a few years ago....)

As I explained to a friend recently, Easter is everything I love about Thanksgiving, but with better weather and no football. It just might be the perfect holiday. Now, home from the annual easter festivities, I have a 7oz bunny to attend to. In what delectable form will he be eaten? I'm thinking a variation on the classic chocolate torte... nibbled on with a bottle of the recently ready coffee bourbon porter homebrew.

Chocolate Rabbit Torte


  • 7 oz milk or dark chocolate rabbit -- I'd break it into pieces
  • 12 TBSP butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • a splash of vanilla
  • 5 large farm fresh eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Brush an 8 or 9-inch cake pan with butter and dust with flour. Alternately, you can use parchment paper in place of butter/flour coating.

Melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder and vanilla.

Let cool for about 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until thick (6 minutes or so) with an electric mixer.

Gently fold chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until just mixed (uniform color).

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 40-45 minutes.

Cool in pan, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen if needed, and then turn out on a wire rack or plate to slice.

Now, which grown up kids-at-heart can I invite over for dessert?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It's all (deliciously) Greek to me

Many years ago, when working downtown for a global health nonprofit, my friend Jeanne came into the office one afternoon with the most divine smelling takeout container ever. Rich, lemony, chicken aromas wafted through the office as my colleague strolled past my desk with her pint of soup from the Greek deli around the corner.

This was my first encounter with avgolemono soup, and it was love at first scent. I believe this was in 2006. I've been in love with this soup for ten years. And just tonight, I perfected making it.

Oh, there were some bumps along the way. Nothing ever ended up being completely inedible, mind you, just odd textural disasters that I did not foist on dining companions. I ate lots of that over the years. But tonight's velvety, lemony victory was pure bliss. And a good thing, too: what's this freezing rain coming down on the first day of spring? Did Mother Nature not get the memo?

I think the secret to tonight's gustatory awesomeness was the homemade chicken broth (where I usually used delicious but definitely different veggie stock). And the fact that I kept the heat low enough while cooking was key for tempering the egg yolks. Upon reflection, I suspect that the latter is where I strayed during earlier batches. Live and learn.

Right. You want the recipe, eh? Well, here you go:

Easy Avgolemono Soup for Two
(or for one, with leftovers)


  • 1 TBSP butter + a good glug of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 handfuls cooked brown rice
  • 1-2 handfuls shredded, cooked chicken (optional - I had some left from making stock)
  • 1 quart or more of good chicken stock, warmed
  • 2-3 cups freshly chopped spinach
  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Salt and pepper


Saute the onion in butter/olive oil until soft.

Toss in the garlic, rice, and chicken bits and stir well.

Add the chicken stock, spinach, and lemon juice, and simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. (Don't bring it anywhere close to a boil! This is where I went amiss...repeatedly... usually when I was starving and trying to make this soup quickly and thus ended up with lemony eggdrop soup.)

In a small, heat-proof container, beat egg yolks. While whisking, slowly dribble about 1/4 cup of the warm soup broth into the yolks. Then slowly whisk in another 1/4 cup. And another. Now you're ready to slowly whisk the tempered egg/broth mixture back into the main soup pot. So whisk it, carefully, and over low heat.

Taste, then add salt and pepper as needed.

Voila! Your velvety, lemony, nourishing pot of deliciousness is ready for immediate consumption in less than 20 minutes from start to finish.

Now I just need to find a charming, single Greek man who can appreciate my cooking skills.... Know anyone?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Stop stealing my stuff!

I'm starting to lose my sense of humor here. Who are these people who never learned that it's wrong to take other people's things?

I finally bought a decent bike light about two months ago. Within a month: stolen... when Ollie was locked up right next to the farmers' market!

So I bought another of the same light. Within a month: stolen. When locked to a tree in the courtyard at one of my schools!! (And a week later, both my bungee cord and my extra bike lock cable were stolen...while I was at the farmers' market again!! Now, that's just rude.)

I went without a front light for about a week, in a silent protest that really only seemed to make me more unsafe, until I relented and bought -- you guessed it -- that same bike light a third time. And now I take it off every single time I am not on the bike. Even when I lock Ollie up to go into my apartment for 10 minutes between errands. You can't be too careful in this city full of kleptos....

Monday, March 7, 2016

Downright fun

It's been too long since I've been part of an elaborate dinner gathering. (Oh, don't worry, I've still been eating well, between lots of cooking at home and with kids in schools, and out and about on dates.) Last night, in celebration of the series finale of Downton Abbey, my landlady threw a wonderful dinner. It all started with me needing an excuse to make some cocktails with the starfruit I'd pickled....

What's that? You're surprised that I enjoy the at times staid, at other times melodramatic PBS drama? I was an English teacher for a time, and retain a soft spot for all things Victorian/turn-of-the-century. No, it has not led me to catch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in the theaters...but mostly because the trailers looked terrible. (The book was actually pretty good.) But I digress.

Last night's dinner was superb. Our neighbor Michele made these adorable little cucumber finger sandwiches. Sarah assembled a big green salad. I boiled up some farmers' market potatoes and parsnips, which were later tossed with butter and fresh parsley. I was also in charge of the asparagus. Kate brought some great red wines. But the stars of the show were Jacky's from-scratch Beef Wellington -- finally, a way that I can enjoy pâté! -- and Kathryn's stunning Charlotte Russe for dessert.

Here's Jacky carving the Wellington. I should have taken more pictures. I blame the good company and irresistible food and drink.

We sipped on limoncello tonics with pickled starfruit and nibbled on some nice cheeses as the final bits of our main meal came together. This was the moment when Kathryn helped me save the hollandaise from the brink of disaster. Should you find yourself in a similar state of panic -- the sauce was so smooth and velvety one minute, then a separated puddle of butter moments later -- I offer Kathryn's brilliant solution: rewarm the sauce over the lowest heat setting, and whisk in a touch of dijon mustard and a few spoonfuls of cold water until the velvet texture of the sauce returns. Voila!

Because I can't seem to resist sharing recipes these days, here's the base recipe for the hollandaise, based on Julia Child's. With Easter -- and asparagus season -- just a few weeks off, you'll want to keep it handy.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cold water
Juice from 1 lemon (or just 1/2 lemon if you're not a lemon fiend like I am)
1 1/2 sticks of butter at room temperature, cut into Tablespoons
salt and pepper, to taste


Whisk the yolks, water, and lemon juice in the saucepan for a few moments, until thick and pale (this prepares them for what is to come).

Set the pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed, reaching all over the bottom and insides of the pan, where the eggs tend to overcook.

(In retrospect, I bet this would work really well with a double boiler. Note to self....)

As they cook, the eggs will become frothy and increase in volume, and then thicken. When you can see the pan bottom through the streaks of the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from the heat if things start looking funny.

By spoonfuls, add the soft butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition. As the emulsion forms, continue whisking in spoonfuls of butter until fully absorbed.

Season lightly with salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper if you're feeling spunky, whisking everything together well.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding droplets of lemon juice if needed. Serve.

(If your sauce starts to fall apart, see Kathryn's tip above.)