Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Cake

When the Engineer and I got married, we had to consider many dietary restrictions. Some of our guests were lactose-intolerant (including me), some had nut and peanut allergies, some were gluten intolerant, and finally some kept kosher and preferred not to eat dairy after the meat at the main course. I had my heart set on a red velvet cake with marzipan topping for the wedding cake (so dairy, nuts and gluten in one big lovely package, even in my new recipe), but I also wanted a dessert that everyone could enjoy. We did find a great company that makes nut-free and dairy-free food, but their cakes do contain gluten. We decided we didn’t want to add a third kind of cake for the gluten-intolerant, so I set out to find a recipe that would suit everyone and be good enough for a wedding. It was this cake. I made six and froze them ahead of time for the wedding.

(In the past year, I’ve started reading Orangette, Molly Wizenberg’s blog. It turns out that on her wedding day, she made something very similar. Since she practically walks on water as far as I am concerned, I was very happy to see that we independently came to similar conclusions.)

On our wedding day, we called it “free cake”, because of all the things it did not contain (dairy-free, nut-free and gluten-free). However, I’ve since realized that if you serve something and present it as a “free cake” or a “gluten-free cake”, most people won’t even want to try it, because they assume it’s somehow defective. If you call it a “flourless chocolate cake”, it automatically sounds better (even though it’s the exact same cake).

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup dairy-free margarine
¾ cup sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 °F. Grease a 9-inch round springform pan. Line the bottom with waxed paper and grease again. Dust with cocoa powder. (The reason for the cocoa powder instead of the flour here is twofold. One, you don’t want white streaks on a chocolate cake, so cocoa is better because it will disappear in the batter. And two, if you’re baking gluten-free, don’t go smearing your gluten-free cake with gluten!)

Melt the chocolate and margarine together.

Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, eggs and vanilla.

Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes (for a gooey center) up to 60 minutes (to have it cooked through; it is easier to unmold and handle that way, and you also don’t have to worry about raw eggs if anyone having the cake is pregnant).

Let cool in pan 20 minutes, then unmold and cool completely. (This means: gently slide a knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the cake and remove said edge; flip the cake over on a plate and gently remove the bottom of the pan along with the paper; then flip the cake onto a presentation plate OR a rack to cool completely and then slide it onto the presentation plate.)

Slices can be reheated 20-30 seconds in the microwave before serving.

Lemony Poppy Chicken with Sweet Pea and Mint Couscous

The thing about Rachael Ray is this: even though she sometimes comes across as obnoxious, and even though some of her recipes just don’t work that well, the fact remains that some of her recipes are awesome. I’m a huge fan of her Vodka Cream Pasta, for example, though I now have to use lactase for it. The recipe I’m sharing here is also one of the great ones: Lemony Poppy Chicken with Sweet Pea and Mint Couscous. I saw it on television while on vacation, and I wrote down key words on hotel paper so that I could look it up online once I got home. This recipe has served me well over the years!

2 ½ cups chicken stock, divided
1 (10-oz) box frozen peas
1 ½ cups couscous
3 to 4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup flour
salt and pepper
2 lemons zested, 1 juiced
1 ½ to 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp butter or lactose-free margarine
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
10 leaves of basil, chopped
10 leaves of mint, chopped

Place a medium-size saucepot over high heat and add 1 ½ cups of the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then add the peas and the couscous. Place a lid on the pot and turn off the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes.

While the stock is coming up to a boil for the couscous, place a large skillet over high heat with 3 turns of the pan of olive oil, about 3-4 Tbsp. While the skillet is heating up, place the flour on a plate. Toss the chicken in the flour to coat, shaking off any excess. Add the chicken pieces to the hot skillet. Season the chicken liberally with salt, pepper and the lemon zest, and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every now and then to get them brown all over. (To avoid doing two batches one after the other, I often use two pans side by side; you can cook less chicken, of course, but I like having leftovers.) With a microplane or the smallest grade of a handheld box grater, grate in the garlic the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Once the chicken has browned, add the remaining cup chicken stock to the skillet. Once the stock is hot, add the butter and poppy seeds. Stir until the butter has melted and the sauce has thickened up a bit, about a minute. Turn off the heat and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the pan.

Remove the lid from the pot of couscous, add the basil and mint, and fluff with a fork. Place a portion of couscous on a plate and top with the chicken.

Pâtes aux pois et au prosciutto

Voici une recette de pâtes toute simple et très trapide, tirée du dernier Coup de Pouce (la recette n’est pas encore affichée sur leur site, mais ça devrait être fait dès février; cherchez-la avec des mots-clés au besoin). C’est à mi-chemin entre les pâtes carbonara et les pâtes primavera, donc c’est très bon! Je donne les quantités de la recette, mais je ne les ai pas suivies exactement (j’ai mis tout le paquet de prosciutto, ce qui me restait de petits pois, la moitié du paquet de pâtes, et l’oignon, au pif).

1 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
1 c. à soupe de beurre ou de margarine
1 oignon doux (de type Vidalia), haché
1 ½ tasse de petit pois surgelés
10 tranches de prosciutto, hachées (environ 5 oz/150 g)
12 oz de pâtes
½ tasse de parmesan râpé
feuilles de basilic frais (facultatif)

Dans un grand poêlon, chauffer l’huile et le beurre à feu moyen. Réduire à feu moyen-doux. Ajouter l’oignon et cuire pendant environ 10 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’il soit bien doré.

Ajouter les petits pois et le prosciutto et cuire pendant environ 2 minutes. Retirer du feu.

Entre-temps, dans une grande casserole d’eau bouillante salée, cuire les pâtes jusqu’à ce qu’elles soient al dente. Égoutter en réservant 1 tasse de l’eau de cuisson.

Ajouter les pâtes et le parmesan à la préparation à l’oignon et mélanger délicatement, en ajoutant un peu de l’eau de cuisson réservée au besoin. Poivrer et parsemer de parmesan et de feuilles de basilic, si désiré.

Potato-Leek Soup

My mother had a great recipe for potato-leek soup. She still has it, but I use the past tense here because that recipe is from a time before I became lactose-intolerant – and since it calls for a cup of cream, I gave up on it. But I recently came across David Lebovitz’s potato-leek soup, which is vegan. I decided to give it a go, and I’m really glad I did.

The only problem I encountered is the fact that I do not have an immersion blender – or a blender, for that matter. And since you cannot put potatoes in the food processor (they turn all gummy), I was a little stuck. I ended up mashing the potatoes in the pot with a potato masher. The soup tasted wonderful, but the consistency was not as smooth as I would have liked. I’ve now decided to get an immersion blender (I’ve done some research and added one on my Amazon wish list), but until then, the potato masher will have to do.

If you’re not used to leeks, the most important thing is this: wash them correctly. You need to cut off the tip with the roots, then cut the leek lengthwise and put each half under running water, to get the sand/grit out from in-between each layer. So it’s different from other vegetables in that the dirt is inside, not just outside, but once you know that, it’s easy to handle. (The reason I bother mentioning this is because I still remember having a restaurant meal once where the chef didn’t know how to clean leeks – nobody likes a mouthful of sand, trust me.)

I also reduced the amount of water called for, and added about a ¼-cup after mashing the potatoes to get the desired consistency. I’m giving you here the amount of water I started with, but of course that depends on the pot you’re using. You can also use vegetable broth.

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
4 leeks, washed and sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme (optional)
¼ tsp chilli powder or Korean dried pepper
4 cups water
1 ¼ lbs (600 g) potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
½ tsp freshly-ground white pepper (optional)

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the slices leeks and season with salt. Cook the leeks over moderate heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they're completely soft and wilted.

Add the thyme, if using, and chilli powder, and stir for about 30 seconds, cooking them with the leeks to release their flavours.

Pour in the water, and add the potatoes and bay leaf. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender when poked with a sharp knife. Depending on which potatoes you use, it could take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

Pluck out the bay leaves and puree the soup with the white pepper, seasoning with more salt if necessary. Use an immersion (stick) blender, or a standard blender, or a potato masher. If the soup is too thick, add a bit more water, until it's the desired consistency.

I served it here with crackers, sharp cheddar (I like Irresistibles’ Extra Sharp White Cheddar, because it tastes great and is lactose-free) and pumpkin marmalade.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Je n’ai rien de nouveau à apporter sur le sujet. On est tous au courant du tremblement de terre et des secousses subséquentes. On sait tous qu’Haïti manque de médicaments, de nourriture, d’aide, de tout. Même les gens qui ont survécu au séisme risquent encore de mourir. Pour faire un don, on préfère les organismes officiels comme la Croix-Rouge ou la Coalition humanitaire.

Ce qui me frustre aussi, c’est la lenteur des gouvernements à réagir après une telle tragédie. Comme on le constate dans cet article de Rima Elkouri, entre autres, il me semble que le ministère de l’Immigration du Canada pourrait se déniaiser et assouplir ses critères, temporairement, vu l’urgence de la situation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coconut Rice with Ginger

To the best of my knowledge, I got this recipe in The Gazette (I think it was part of some Valentine’s Day menu), but I cannot find it on their website, so I don’t have any more information as to who created this recipe. It remains my favourite recipe for coconut rice; I just love making it as a side dish to most wok dishes we make. It’s very easy to make, too. I sometimes cheat and use more coconut milk instead of the water, but in hindsight, it’s not quite as good as when I actually follow the recipe. You can serve this rice topped with sesame seeds, or crushed pistachios or raisins (though I rarely do the latter two). I think roasted cashews would be nice, too.

This time, we served the rice with peanut-butter chicken; the recipe is here, but instead of using 2 cups of peanuts, we use up ½ cup (or a bit less) of natural peanut butter. Enjoy!

2 Tbsp butter or oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
¾ cup long-grain white rice
½ cup coconut milk
1 cup water
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the butter in a one-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until aromatic, about 2 min.

Add the rice and stir until the rice is well coated with butter, about 1 min.

Add the coconut milk, water, salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until tender, about 20 min. Let the rice stand for 5 min, then fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Correct the seasoning if necessary.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Carottes braisées à l'orange

Ceci est une recette de Ricardo. Je le dis tout de suite, j’ai utilisé une casserole au lieu d’une poêle, parce que je n’ai pas de couvercles de la bonne taille pour mes poêles. J’ai donc trouvé que les carottes prenaient du temps à cuire, mais c’était un peu ma faute. Je pense quand même que c’est une bonne idée de couper les carottes en morceaux, ça évite de trop faire cuire les oignons en attendant que les carottes soient tendres. C’est vraiment génial avec les carottes jaunes, rouges et violettes qu’on retrouve maintenant assez facilement en épicerie, mais ce serait bon aussi avec de bonnes vieilles carottes orange. En règle générale, une orange donne ¼ tasse de jus, alors il vous faudrait six oranges pour cette recette.

(Vous remarquerez peut-être une différence dans la qualité des photos : c’est que la pile de mon nouvel appareil était à plat, alors j’ai utilisé l’ancien.)

2 lb de carottes de couleurs variées (pelées si elles sont colorées jusqu’au centre), en morceaux
16 oignons perlés, pelés
½ c. à thé de graines de cumin
sel et poivre
2 c. à soupe de beurre ou de margarine sans lactose
1 ½ tasse de jus d’orange, idéalement fraîchement pressé (6 oranges)
1 c. à soupe de miel
graines de tournesol (facultatif)
persil haché (facultatif)

Dans une grande poêle, faire revenir les carottes, les oignons et le cumin dans le beurre à feux doux, environ 5 minutes. Saler et poivrer.

Ajouter le jus d'orange et le miel. Porter à ébullition. Couvrir et laisser mijoter à feu moyen environ 20 minutes en les remuant fréquemment ou jusqu'à ce que les légumes soient tendres.

Parsemer de graines de tournesol et de persil et servir. (C’est servi ici avec un reste de casserole de poulet citronné à l’italienne que j’avais fait décongeler; ça faisait quand même beaucoup de légumes, alors si vous voulez manger autre chose avec les carottes et la viande, pensez plutôt à des pommes de terre, à des pâtes, à du riz ou à une salade verte.)

Orange-Yogurt Cake

I’d like to share this Orange-Yogurt Cake recipe I’ve had for a few years. It’s adapted from a recipe I saw in Martha Stewart Living. It’s perfect for informal dinners, especially served with a segmented orange. I usually sprinkle some confectioners’ sugar on top, though that’s entirely optional. This cake is delicious and also incredibly simple. I remember making this cake for my mother-in-law once, when the Engineer and I had forgotten to plan dessert. I was able to throw it together at the last minute – as a matter of fact, by the time the Engineer came in the kitchen to assist me, I was sliding the cake in the oven. It’s that fast.

Note that I use lactose-free yogurt, but you can use any plain or vanilla yogurt you want, even soy yogurt. One individual container is about ½ cup, and I don’t bother measuring any further than that. I also never measure out the orange zest; I just grate all the zest from one orange, chop it up to make sure it’s small enough, and dump it all in.

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
½ cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 pinch of salt
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp grated orange zest + 1 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1 large egg
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan (lately, I’ve put some greased waxed paper at the bottom as well, as a precaution).

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl; whisk to mix well. Stir in yogurt, oil, orange zest, orange juice, egg and vanilla; mix well. (The batter may be a bit stiff, but don’t worry.)

Pour into the pan and spread evenly.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack before unmolding.

See, it’s really that easy. For those of you who have never dusted a cake with confectioners’ sugar, here’s how it’s done: use a small sieve (I use the type that would filter pulp out of orange juice; a big sieve would do too, as long as it’s a fine sieve).

Put a spoonful of confectioners’ sugar in the sieve (a little goes a long way) and, placing it over the cake, gently tap it to make the sugar fall through it. Just do that over the whole cake and you’re done.

The perfectionists among you can put strips of paper on the plate around the cake beforehand and remove them once you’ve dusted the cake with sugar; that way, the plate stays clean and presentation is nicer.