Didya miss me? ;-) It's very unlike me to be absent from the blog for long and to miss my usual weekly Monday midnight/Tuesday early morning posting time. Alas-- however, this week, life just caught up with me, and I had to throw my hands up and just let something go. It turns out that juggling concurrent classes and research at two universities simultaneously (not to mention the commute hours hopping back and forth across the San Francisco Bay) and attempting to squeeze two years' worth of graduate work into a single semester while still trying to maintain some semblance of sanity isn't such a hot idea. Yeah. But, don't worry about me--I'm having a ball doing it all (seriously) and absolutely love it. I know. I'm crazy.
But wait--you're going to think I'm even crazier when you see the recipe I'm going to try my hardest to convince you about today: candy salad. (Boy, I sure hope your kids aren't reading this one, because you might hate me if they pick up on this idea!) This was a completely accidental discovery on my part, but it's turned out to be an absolutely wonderful one.
Here's how it all started. When one of our friends came over for our Halloween dinner, he brought along a bag of Skittles. (My policy for Halloween parties is "I make the food, you bring the candy.") Now, Skittles aren't my usual candy of choice. In fact, I don't even remember the last time I had Skittles or voluntarily sought them out. But there they were, a pail of them sitting on the kitchen table amongst the fixings for dinner. So, as I was putting together the salad I was making, my hands instinctively hovered over the colorful bowl of candies, reached in, and tossed a few into the salad. I'm no stranger to unusual and untraditional combinations of savory and sweet, but even I was skeptical at first about what I'd just done. But the minute I took the first bite and sunk my teeth through the leafy greens and into a burst of chewy candy flavor, I was sold. Skittles, it turns out, are the perfect finishing touch to a salad of spicy wild arugula leaves, accented with leaves of deeply fragrant purple basil, crunchy shaved fennel, and nuggets of juicy pomegranate seeds. Skittles contribute the final texture and flavor to tie everything together: the slight toothiness in the candy's center and the bright sweetness to balance out the herby taste of the fennel, arugula, and basil and slightest tart to enhance and highlight the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. The key, of course, is a small, light-handed sprinkling of Skittles--just enough so that it brings a bit of nuanced novelty and surprise to an otherwise straightforward autumn salad.
a Simple Halloween Menu
wild arugula, shaved fennel, purple basil leaves, pomegranate seeds, skittles
Garlic-baked chicken drumsticks
with paprika, fresh rosemary and thyme, lavender salt, and worchestershire
with a nutmeg and gorgonzola cream sauce
"Heaven and Hell"
devil's food chocolate cake affogato
For dessert, I did a play on a heaven and hell theme, especially since I had this new devil's food cake recipe I'd been wanting to try out for some time now. For the actual dinner, I served both devil's and angel food cake with plain ice cream, but the day after, I had some more devil's food cake left over, and it turned out to go beautifully in a devil's food, espresso, and vanilla ice cream affogato--so much so that I wish I'd served it this way instead as dessert on Halloween!
The cake, from the new book Baked Explorations (one of their pastry chefs was on Top Chef: Just Desserts!), is nice and dark and chocolate-y, yet still surprisingly light and fluffy and airy--and moist, too. I don't know how well it pairs with the frosting suggested in the book, but it goes so well with vanilla ice cream--its crumbs sort of melting into chocolate goodness in the cream--that I'm not sure I'd ever serve it any other way! Hot espresso poured over it all makes it definitely a heaven-worthy dessert. (okay, I couldn't resist! :P)
Anyways, I hope you all had wonderful and fun Halloweens! Happy November, everyone!
[Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Baked Explorations to review but was under no obligations to post about it. As always, I will never tell you about something that I don't love myself.]
Read on for recipes...
purple basil leaves
1. Toss to combine the arugula, basil leaves, and shaved fennel.
2. Top with a generous amount of pomegranate seeds and a small sprinkling of skittles.
Devil's Food Chocolate Cake
adapted from Baked Explorations
makes two 8" round layers or one 8 x 13" rectangle
1 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup black cocoa powder
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2/3 cup hot coffee or espresso
1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/3 cups AP flour
1 tspn baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 Tbspn butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour the cake pan(s), line the bottoms with parchment paper and flour again.
2. Place the chopped dark chocolate and cocoa powders in a bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the chocolate and whisk to combine. Add milk and whisk to combine. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4. Cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.
5. Add the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture in three stages, alternating dry with wet ingredients. Combine thoroughly but do not overmix.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly. Remove and let the cake cool on a wire rack.
7. Serve with vanilla ice cream, and pour hot espresso over the ice cream and cake.