Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Weekend Brunch - Citrus French Toast with Blood Orange & Chocolate Sauce

In honor of the most romantic of weekends, here is a brunch that is pure love for your tastebuds!  One of my favorite chocolate companies, Vosges, has a chocolate bar called the Blood Orange Caramel bar, which was the inspiration for this recipe.  They compose dark chocolate, blood orange hibiscus-flavored caramel, and campari together to create an ultra-sweet, slightly tart, rich and floral arrangement of flavors.  It's absolutely wonderful!  This dish mimics those flavors by adding a citrus-rosewater aroma to the French toast batter and making a luxurious blood orange and dark chocolate sauce to drizzle over the top.  Does it get any sexier than that? 

This brunch is, of course, meant to be for a special occasion.  In other words, it's decadent!  A few things, however, make it nourishing for the body as well as a delight for the senses.  For one, both blood-orange and dark chocolate are loaded with antioxidants.  The batter is also a lightened version of your typical French Toast batter.  I also used homemade whole-wheat bread, which adds a wholesome note to the dish, a rustic, dry texture to the toast and lots of fiber to the meal.  You can use any bread you have on hand, just make sure it is thickly sliced.

Citrus French Toast with Blood Orange & Chocolate Sauce
Serves 2

4 thick slices of whole wheat bread
1 egg
1 blood orange
1 T rosewater
1/4 cup half and half
2/3 cup low-fat milk or soymilk
pinch of salt

Chocolate Sauce:
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
juice of 2 blood oranges
1 T maple syrup
1 T butter
pinch of salt

First, start the chocolate sauce.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add all the ingredients and whisk until melted together.  Keep warm over low heat.

Zest the blood orange, then remove the peel.  Slice the orange into rounds or half-rounds for garnish.  Set aside slices.  In a shallow dish, use a fork to whisk together egg, zest, rosewater, half and half, milk and salt.  Heat a tablespoon of butter in a large, flat-bottomed pan over medium heat.  Soak each slice of bread in your liquid and allow the liquid to absorb, about one minute, flipping the slice over after the first 30 seconds.  Add soaked slices to the hot pan and fry each side of the toast for about two minutes or until golden-brown. 

Serve two slices per person, drenched in chocolate sauce, with the blood orange slices on the side.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Provencal White Pizza with Mache

Anybody who knows Obe and I well knows that we love pizza.  Big time!  So, it seems about time to include a homemade pizza recipe, which will probably be the first of many.  We start with a very basic crust that is made with a mix of whole wheat and white flour.  The "Provencal" flavor comes from sweet caramelized onions, ricotta that is scented with herbs de provence, and roasted fingerling potatoes.  The pizza is topped with a generous pile of oh-so-elegant mache, which is a beautiful, mild-tasting, slightly nutty green.  If mache is unavailable, use any flavorful green you like (sunflower sprouts, arugula, or watercress would work nicely). 

If you've never given yeasted bread a shot, pizza dough is the best place to start.  Especially if you have a standing mixer, it is a simple dough to master and it only takes an hour to rise.  This dough makes enough for two large pizzas, so I divide it in half and par-bake the half that doesn't get used (just bake the crust at 500 degrees, brushed with a little olive oil, until cooked on the outside, about 3 minutes).  That way you have a homemade crust that is ready to go when you are.  You can assemble and bake in less time than pizza takes to deliver, and it'll taste twice as delicious!

Provencal White Pizza with Mache
Serves 2

Pizza dough:
1 cup warm (110 to 115 degrees) water
1 T sugar
1 package yeast
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

3/4 cup part-skim ricotta
2 tsp herbs de provence
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 T butter
about 8 very small fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 cups mache
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar

Start the dough.  Dissolve sugar into warm water, then mix in the yeast for about a minute, until you get a creamy, beige-colored solution.  Allow to sit for five minutes.  A thin layer of yeast bubbles should form on the top of the mixture.  If not, throw it out and start again (if the water isn't the right temperature, it will either fail to activate or kill the yeast). 

In the bowl of a standing mixer combine the rest of the ingredients with a wooden spoon.  Add the yeast mixture and stir to moisten all the flour.  Mix with the dough hook on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough becomes elastic.  Form dough into a ball and coat the bowl with a little olive oil.  Roll the ball of dough around in the bowl until the surface is coated with oil, then set inside the bowl.  Cover with a dish towel and place in a warm spot in the kitchen.  Allow to double in size, about one hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the toppings.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix ricotta, herbs de provence and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Slice fingerling potatoes in half lengthwise and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Arrange on a baking sheet and roast until browned and a little crispy, about 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, caramelize the onions.  Heat butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add sliced onions and a pinch of salt and saute until golden-brown in color and very sweet.  Set aside. 

Place a pizza stone in the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.  Sprinkle your working surface with a little flour and place the ball of dough in the center.  Knead with your knuckles until all the air bubbles are burst and the dough shrinks a little.  Using a heavy rolling pin, roll out dough into a rustic, oblong shape (or a perfect circle if you wish for a more uniform-looking pizza) until the crust is nice and thin (I like about  1/4 of an inch, for a crispy crust).  Sprinkle flour on a large cutting board and place crust on the board.  Brush dough with a little olive oil and spread the ricotta on first.  Top with onions and potato slices, then sprinkle the grated mozzarella on top.  Slide pizza onto the pizza stone and bake until crust is lightly browned, about 8 minutes. 

Remove pizza from oven with a large metal spatula.  Slide onto a cutting board.  In a large bowl, toss the mache with the vinegar and a pinch of salt.  Place greens on the pizza and slice with a pizza cutter or a large knife.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chickpea Curry and Fry-bread

This recipe is really chickpeas two ways:  a coconut curry and a fry-bread.  The curry is wholesome, flavorful and packed with nutritious vegetables and the fry-bread is just a little bit decadent!  Chickpea flour is truly wonderful stuff, adding a toasty, nutty flavor and lots of protein to the crispy, chewy bread.  Once you taste it, you'll want to make it often!

Chickpea Curry and Fry-bread
serves 6

2 cups dried chickpeas, boiled in water until tender
1 cup chickpea flour
1 1/2 cups water
4 T olive oil
1 T ghee (or olive oil)
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sweet potato, diced
2 small carrots, sliced
1 can coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup yoghurt
2 T curry powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup cilantro leaves

Start the fry-bread:  Whisk together chickpea flour, water and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium sized bowl.  Cover with a towel and set aside.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a large, flat-bottomed saute pan, add the 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Heat inside the oven until oil is hot, but not smoking, about 6 minutes.  Carefully pour the bread batter into the pan and fry in the oven until very crispy and golden, about 40 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and slide bread onto a cutting board.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and slice into 6 pieces. 

Heat ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, sweet potatoes and carrots and saute for about 5 minutes, making sure not to let garlic burn.  Add chickpeas, coconut milk and stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer mixture, covered, until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.  Add yoghurt, spices and kale and turn off heat.  Allow the kale to soften, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.  Top each serving with cilantro leaves and almonds and serve with fry-bread.