December 28, 2009

Veggie Heaven

Happy Holidays from Hotplate Confidential!  I hope you’ve had a wonderful couple of weeks filled with family, food, and friends.  If it’s been anything like mine, it’s been a whirlwind affair filled with all those delicious goodies that you somehow tell yourself are not bad for you from roughly December 10 to January 1.  But to tell the truth, I’m hurting.  Now, this is not to say I haven’t had my share of delicious and healthy meals too (I made a particularly good salmon and lentil dish on Christmas Eve), but I just needed a night without meat or our other vegetarian fall back, pasta. 

Whenever I’m in need of an interesting, not run-of-the-mill vegetarian dish, I turn to Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks.  Her nutritious meals are feasts for the eyes, although I often substitute easier to find/store ingredients, for her many diverse kinds of flours and grains.  Tonight was no exception, but she was the inspiration for our baked “sweet potato falafel”.  Paired with quinoa and broccolini, this meal was just what the doctor ordered.  And it even satisfied Sam!

Baked Sweet Potato “Falafel” with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 c. corn meal
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
¼ c. breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking dish with aluminum foil and set aside.  Pierce the skin of the potatoes with a fork all over and cook in the microwave on high for 8 minutes.  They should be very tender, but continue to microwave if they are at all hard.  Let the potatoes cool slightly then cut in half and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl.  Add the garlic, cumin, corn meal, lemon juice, and salt & pepper and stir to combine making sure the corn meal is completely incorporated.  The mixture should have the consistency of a dough and should hold together on its own.  If you need a little more liquid, add a drizzle of olive oil.  Using a spoon, make one inch round balls and dredge them in the breadcrumbs.  Place them on the baking sheet and drizzle them with oil before putting them into the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes then broil them for 5.  They won’t be completely brown but they should be a bit crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Makes 14-16 balls.

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. honey
salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients and whisk until completely combined.  The vinaigrette should be very viscous and sweet. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the “falafel” and serve.

Quinoa with Lemon Scented Broccolini
Serves 2

½ c. quinoa
1 bunch brocollini
juice of half a lemon
½ a medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
olive oil

Cook the quinoa and set aside in a medium sized bowl.  Heat oil in sauté pan and add the onions.  Cook for 2 minutes and add the garlic.  Cook until the onions are just soft and starting to become translucent, then add the broccolini, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Saute with another drizzle of olive oil and cook until the broccolini is just al dente.  It should still be very green and crisp to the bite.  Add the broccolini to the quinoa and stir to combine.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

December 14, 2009

A Perfect Gratin for a Sunday (and a Tuesday!)

Yesterday was a quintessential New York December day – cold and rainy.  Sam and I wanted something warm and comforting (new, I know) and I was feeling like having more of my new favorite vegetable – fennel!  Ina Garten’s potato and fennel gratin turned out to be just the trick.  Plus, I just received my package of OXO goods for being a finalist on Food52 and I was dying to use my brand new hand-held mandoline.  I think Sam liked it even more than I did!

This gratin is decadent and could probably be just fine with whole milk instead of cream, but hey, it’s the holidays so what’s one more cup of the stuff?  I have a feeling that the gratin will be even better tomorrow when I reheat it as a side dish to pork.

Potato and Fennel Gratin (Adapted from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
4 Servings

1 small fennel bulbs
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. good olive oil
2 russet potatoes
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 ¼ c. grated Gruyère cheese
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the inside of a baking dish.
Remove the stalks from the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the cores and thinly slice the bulbs crosswise, making approximately 4 cups of sliced fennel. Sauté the fennel and onions in the olive oil on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until tender.

Peel the potatoes, then thinly slice them by hand or with a mandoline. Mix the sliced potatoes in a large bowl with 1 cup of cream, 1 cup of Gruyère, salt, and pepper. Add the sautéed fennel and onion and mix well.

Pour the potatoes into the baking dish. Press down to smooth the potatoes. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream and ½ cup of Gruyère and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 50 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender and the top is browned and bubbly. Allow to set for 10 minutes and serve.

December 9, 2009

Hotplate Gourmet Leftovers

I’m sure you can tell by now that one of my favorite things to do is use up leftover ingredients in interesting and exciting ways.  Well, at least more exciting then just eating the same meal all over again.  On Monday, Sam and I used up our leftover lamb shank in a really easy and delectable way – lamb ragu with fresh gnocchi.  One of the things I love about living in New York is having the ability to get any type of fresh ingredient you need at almost any time of day.  On my walk home from work, I can get wonderful baguettes (if not Parisian), delicious cheeses, and the freshest of pastas and they always make a regular meal just a little more delicious.

For this ragu, I took my inspiration from Andrew Carmellini.  Although I haven’t had the chance to go to his new restaurant, Locanda Verde, his cookbook makes me think it would be a fabulous meal.  This recipe was easy to replicate with my precooked lamb shank, although I’m sure it would be even more wonderful if left to stew for an hour as Andrew suggests.  This adaptation, though, was perfect for an easy weeknight meal.  When I make it again, I will add 2 minced cloves of garlic to this dish, although Andrew did not suggest it, because I thought it was really missing from the overall flavor.

Lamb Ragu with Fresh Potato Gnocchi (adapted from Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini)
Serves 2-3


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 leftover lamb shank (3/4 of a pound)
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
½ a medium onion, finely diced
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 c. red wine
½ 28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
salt & pepper
Grated parmesan
Chopped parsley (optional for garnish)


Cut all of the meat off of the bone and chop up into small pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the carrots, celery, and onions and cook until the vegetables are tender.  Add the lamb and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine completely.  Add the wine and cook until it is nearly evaporated.  Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan completely so that any browned bits are incorporated and do not burn.  Add the whole peeled tomatoes and salt and stir to combine.  Cook for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes are complete combined, the liquid evaporates, and the ragu is rich and thick.  Add salt & pepper to taste.
Cook the gnocchi until all of them rise to the surface of the boiling water (about 8 minutes).  Serve the ragu over the gnocchi and top with parmesan cheese.

December 6, 2009

An Intimate Dinner Party

Last night I got a little ambitious.  I really think I was just overwhelmed by a long shopping excursion at Whole Foods, but somehow I thought it would be a good idea to cook lamb shanks for a little dinner party of 3.  Now, I’ve never cooked lamb shanks in any kitchen, let alone in my non-kitchen, but I was undaunted and they actually came out ok!  I braised them in a pot smaller than I should have, and it couldn’t actually fit all the liquid I was supposed to add to the dish, but the 2 and half hours of cooking still did the trick.  Paired with white beans and spinach, it was the perfect meal for the first day of snow in New York.  We ended up having a lovely meal at around 9 and finished it off with a simple pear crisp.  The next time I do this, I’ll use much, much less liquid…

Lamb Shanks with White Beans (from Bon Appétit)
Serves 4


For lamb shanks
4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped coarse
1 medium carrot, chopped coarse
1 celery rib, chopped coarse
8 garlic cloves, chopped coarse
1 bottle Bordeaux or other full-bodied red wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 fresh thyme sprigs

For gremolata
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leafed)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
3 garlic cloves, minced

For beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, chopped fine
2 small carrots, chopped fine
2 celery ribs, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked white beans (preferably Great Northern or navy)
2 to 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 fresh tarragon sprigs


Make lamb shanks:
Pat lamb shanks dry and season with salt and pepper. In an 8-quart (mine was obviously MUCH smaller and I used a sauté pan) heavy flameproof casserole heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown lamb shanks well in batches, transferring to a plate as browned. To casserole add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and sauté until onion is softened. Add wine and simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups. Return lamb shanks to casserole and stir in broth, tomato paste, and thyme. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer, covered, stirring and turning lamb shanks occasionally, 1 1/2 hours. Simmer mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 1 hour more, or until lamb shanks are tender.
Make the gremolata while lamb is cooking:
In a small bowl stir together gremolata ingredients.
Make beans while lamb is cooking:
In a saucepan heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring, 2 or 3 minutes, or until softened. Add beans, 2 cups broth, butter, and bay leaf and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and adding enough remaining broth to keep beans moist and to reach a creamy consistency, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and add half of gremolata and salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer lamb shanks to a plate and keep warm, covered with foil. Strain braising liquid through a sieve into a saucepan, discarding solids, and stir in butter and tarragon. Boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly. Sprinkle lamb shanks with remaining gremolata and serve with the braising liquid.

December 4, 2009

A Quick Meal from the Pantry

So tonight I spent a really lovely evening with a bunch of Batesies, Bates parents, and friends of Bates talking about food, television, and food on television!  I had a lively conversation with Kathleen Collins (author of Watching What We Eat) about her book and my blog. Although I didn’t get home until a little after 9, I thought it would be pretty bad form of me not to cook since I had just spent all that time explaining that it’s what I love to do!

So to the hotplate I went for a simple pasta with breadcrumbs.  I know I’ve posted this before, but really, it’s just the greatest, no-fuss dish around.  And, all I had to do was go to my pantry for the ingredients.  In less than 30 minutes, Sam and I had a delicious dinner that must have been (marginally) better for us than take out Chinese!

Pasta with Breadcrumbs

Serves 3

2/3 lb. spaghetti
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 slices day (or 2) old bread, pulsed into breadcrumbs in a food processor
3 tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
¼ c. grated parmesan

Boil the pasta according to the package.  Salt the water heavily.  Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a frying pan.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute until fragrant, but not browned.  Add the breadcrumbs, basil, and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Take off heat once all the breadcrumbs are crisp.  Once the pasta is done, drain and add to a mixing bowl.  Pour the breadcrumb mixture and the remaining tablespoon of oil over the mixture.  Toss to combine with the parmesan.  Serve with additional parmesan and pepper.

November 30, 2009

A Hotplate Vacation

Well, it was another successful Thanksgiving! Made all the more lovely by a use of a real, adult sized kitchen!  As much as I would have loved to make the meal in my “easy-bake kitchen”, it just really wasn’t going to cut it.  We may have only had 5 people at our table, but we still cooked for about 20.  Literally.  We had two full dinners and I’m still eating leftovers!

This year, I got my family to agree to my experimentation in the kitchen so I brought a little bit of the Hotplate Confidential way to the meal.  The stuffing was an adaptation of a couple of different recipes and there were of course the requisite Brussels Sprouts, as highlighted many times here.  But the real star was the turkey, and I have to say, my improvised rub must have had something to do with that!

Now that you’ve all eaten turkey until you’re blue, I’m sure you’re looking for a few uses for those leftovers.  My favorite is just a sliced turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich, and with the tart cranberry sauce we made this year, it’s something I won’t wait until next Thanksgiving to make again.  There’s always the turkey soup solution, but if you have leftover vegetables like string beans and carrots, why not turn it into a turkey pot pie?  Or, an even better use of leftovers, a turkey shepherd’s pie?  It’s a great way to use up those mashed potatoes.

Whatever you do, don’t let those leftovers go to waste.  They only come once a year, and I for one don’t want to be left yearning for a missed opportunity to have another slice of pumpkin pie.

Erin’s Fennel and Herb Stuffing

Serves 6-8 side portions

1 large loaf of good, crusty white bread (left out for 2 days)
1 fennel bulb, sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
2 tbsp. butter
salt & pepper
1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 c. chicken stock
½ c. boiling water

Roughly pull apart the bread into 1 inch pieces and add to a large bowl.  In a sauté pan, heat the butter and add the onions and celery.  Cook for about 3 minutes and add the fennel.  Cook until tender.  Add the herbs, salt & pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the vegetables to the bread and mix.  Add the chicken stock to combine.  Add the hot water if it is still too dry.  Stuff in a 12 lb turkey to cook, or in a separate casserole.

An Everyday Cranberry Sauce

½ c. sugar
1 c. water
1 12-ounce package Fresh Cranberries
½ c. dried cranberries
zest from one orange
juice from ½ an orange

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Once the cranberries start popping, reduce heat, add the dried cranberries, zest, and orange juice and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time. 

Oh, and I'm sorry I don't have more pictures to share!  Sam and I forgot our camera in the burbs...

November 19, 2009

Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé!

It’s here! The first wines of the season are opened today, starting with the Beaujolais Nouveau.  What? You’ve never heard of Beaujolais Nouveau?  Thought it was just a cheap, crummy wine?  Not so my friends, this annual tasting is a barometer of how the rest of the year will turn out for winemakers. According to the Georges Duboeuf website, "By French Law, Beaujolais Nouveau is always released on the third Thursday of November all over the world” and this year it arrived from France at 12:01 am. Even more importantly though, "The 2009 harvest in Beaujolais is being called the best vintage in 50 years thanks to perfect weather and growing conditions."  This is a good sign for your favorite vintners, and although I haven’t been able to taste it myself just yet, it has to be better than last year’s which honestly, tasted like bananas.

 When I was a student in Paris, I participated in my first official Beaujolais Day and have been celebrating it ever since!  There, we were able to drink a bottle of Beaujolais with friends at lunch and then go back to class – tough, I know.  The French revel in the day, and I’ve encouraged my friends to as well.  Unfortunately, getting sick derailed my plans for my own Beaujolais Day party, but don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll have another opportunity to taste this year’s batch.

2008 Bottle Design

So don’t stick up your nose at this affordable, young wine. Beaujolais is now linked with Thanksgiving and it would be a perfect treat to bring to your host – start conversation, guess what this year’s wine will be like, and enjoy the holiday! 

The 2008 Delivery!

November 18, 2009

Something Warm on a Sick Day

Being sick is the worst.  All you can do is sit on the couch or lay in bed.  So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two days.  I wish I could say I was doing something constructive with this “time off” but all I’ve been able to manage is sleeping, watching bad television, and eating chicken soup (thanks Sam!)  But when I’m back up and running, I’m going to make something warm and homey, just like this dish.  It’s another one of my go-tos, especially since it’s made with my simple pasta sauce that I save for just these times.

Pasta with Artichokes and Spinach

15 oz. can of quartered artichoke hearts
4 handfuls of spinach
3 oz. mozzarella cheese
grated parmesan
½ lb. spaghetti

Prepare the simple pasta sauce or start with your own.  Cook the spaghetti.  Add artichokes and stir.  Add the spinach and cook for another 3 minutes until it is cooked down.  Add the spaghetti to the sauce and combine.  Add the mozzarella.  Serve with grated parmesan and ground pepper to taste.

November 15, 2009

The Sweetest Thing: A Double Batch of Birthday Wishes

Another week, another birthday in the office! This time it was for a coworker who is a trained nutritionist, but who happens to love cookies!  So I went for two types that aren’t necessarily “healthy” but at least sort of sound like they could be.  The Nutella and peanut butter ones (which I have renamed Chocolate Crack Cookies because no one could stop eating them) are gluten free and could be vegan if you substituted out the egg.  The shortbread cookies were my personal favorite though.  From the delightful Heidi at 101 Cookbooks, this recipe is moist and delicious, made a little more hearty and rustic by the addition of shredded carrots, apples, and grated lemon zest.  My version ended up tasting mostly like lemon zest, which I didn’t mind one bit.  I’ll be playing around with this recipe for the holidays, maybe even adjusting the shortbread so that it is equally as delicious dipped in chocolate.  Oh and the best part about these two cookie recipes?  They both produce doughs that are easy to work with in a 30 sq. ft “kitchen”!

Chocolate Crack Cookies (from alice y on

Serves 2 dozen 1 inch sized cookies
¾ cups Nutella or other brand chocolate hazelnut spread 
¼ cups smooth peanut butter
¾ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all the ingredients together until just combined.
Roll the dough into ¼ inch thick balls (you can vary the size). Place balls one inch apart on a cookie sheet.
Bake for exactly 8 minutes. Let cool on the parchment for one minute and then transfer to a wire rack.

Apple and Carrot Shortbread Cookies (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

¼ c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ c. all purpose flour 

¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. sea salt

5 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 c. light brown sugar
2 tbsp. carrot, grated
1 tbsp. apple, grated
1 tbsp. lemon

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees.
Combine the flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir the carrot, apple, and lemon zest into the flour mixture, and mix until well coated and evenly dispersed. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until a dough forms, then knead a couple times to bring everything together. Split the dough in two, flatten each piece into an inch-thick patty, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least thirty minutes.
When you're ready to bake the shortbread, roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface 1/2-inch thick. Use a metal cutters to stamp out cookies, then place them on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown just a bit. (You can place them close together on the baking sheet, they will not expand.)

November 12, 2009

Roast Pork for a Special Thursday

I love Fall!  Even if it hasn't felt like it very much this past week, the leaves are still falling, the wind is picking up, and at night, you can feel that crispness that says winter is right around the corner.  What can I say - I'm a skier, the first sign of snow and I'm giddy!  But for now, I'm going to keep using the gorgeous autumn vegetables that are all over right now - and perhaps start practicing for Thanksgiving?

One of the challenges of this meal was how to cook the sweet potatoes.  My toaster oven was otherwise occupied for roughly 1 1/2 hours and boiling them would just take too long.  So I turned to our trusty microwave, an appliance that doesn't get enough love from aspiring home chefs.  Rightly so, there's no substitute for a nice slow roast, but I've found that the microwave can really be your friend in a tiny kitchen.  I "steamed" the potatoes in there for 8 minutes total and voila!  the perfect consistency for sweet potato puree.

With the Brussels sprouts on at the end, this meal was easy and a delicious treat - one that I suggest you make tonight!

Roast Pork with Fennel

2 lbs. pork roast
1 bulb fennel, top discarded, sliced and quartered
1 onion, sliced and quartered
salt & pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Salt and pepper the pork and place in small roasting pan.  Cover the meat with the fennel and onion (don't worry if it looks like too much, they cook down very small).  Roast for an hour and a half or until a meat thermometer through the middle registers 140 degrees.  (This may be too rare for you, but I assure you, it's safe - the bacteria you worry about with pork is killed at 137 degrees.)

Serve with the juices and vegetables over the top.

Sweet Potato Puree

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. chicken stock
salt & pepper

Microwave the potatoes on high for 5 minutes.  Check and poke with fork to let some of the steam out.  Microwave on high for another 3 minutes.  Take out and cut into 2 inch chunks.  Add to a bowl with the butter, chicken stock, and salt and pepper to taste.  Using a hand mixer, blend until smooth.  Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly.

The Brussels sprouts I did the way I have done them before for this blog - sauted and lightly steamed in chicken stock!

November 3, 2009

Repurposed, Reused, and Recycled

So I just had to immediately post about the success of the arroz and veggie burrito!  An amazing way to use leftovers, if I do say so myself.  I chose to add black beans, extra sharp cheddar, and sautéd spinach, but really, the more the merrier.  

All I can say is, next time I make Arroz con Pollo, I will make sure to make the extra rice and vegetables just to have leftovers for this dish! Oh, and Sam loved it too!

November 2, 2009

Arroz con Pollo - a Family Tradition

Tonight’s post is a meal that was a favorite standby at my childhood dinner table. It’s one of the first meals that I really remember watching dad make, and taking in what he was doing.  I remember watching when he measured, how he improvised, what he prepared in advance to make the process go smoothly.  I also have distinct memories of stirring batters for cookies and cakes with my mom, and watching holiday dinners being made, but my first real cooking experience started with this easy chicken and rice dish.  It is comfort food at it’s best and it’s a dish Sam and I still love to make.  It’s quick enough for a weeknight meal, but also feels right at home on a chilly Sunday night.  Best of all, this recipe leaves lots of leftover rice and veggies that I am going to try to turn into a tasty version of a burrito tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how it goes!  

Arroz con Pollo
(2 servings + 2 extra servings of rice and vegetables)


2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 orange pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ tsp. saffron
1 c. tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ c. dry white wine
1 c. white rice
1 bay leaf
1 c. chicken stock
Salt & Pepper
½ c. frozen green peas


Salt and pepper the chicken.  Heat the oil in a heavy sauté pan.  Add the chicken skin side down and cook for about 4 minutes until golden.  Turn and cook until browned on the underside, about 3 minutes. Scatter the onion, garlic, peppers, and saffron over the chicken.  Stir the chicken so that the vegetables fall in between.  Continue cooking for about 3 minutes.  Add the tomato and wine and stir.  Add the rice and stir to distribute evenly. Add the bay leaf and pour the broth over it all.  Let simmer for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is done.  Sprinkle with peas and cook for another 3 minutes.  Serve once peas are completely cooked.

October 31, 2009

The Sweetest Thing: Raspberry Crumble Tart

It was not one but two co-workers’ birthdays this week, so I had some serious baking to do.  I kept it easy this week.  Just two fruit tarts, one with great success, the other… not as much.  One thing you’ll learn about baking in a toaster oven is that it’s just not even heat.  This is fine for most of what I cook.  You can turn a roast around during cooking so that it doesn’t get too done on one side, but with baking, it’s a little trickier and a whole lot more devastating when it doesn’t go your way!  This is what happened with my otherwise delicious and beautiful raspberry tart – it burned.  Now, I still brought it into work and it was still happily eaten, but I was mortified!  C’est la vie.  Here’s this week’s Sweetest Thing lesson: next time, always watch the tart! 

Raspberry Crumble Tart (adapted from Ina Garten)


2 c. all purpose flour (I didn’t try it, but next time I would only use 1 ½ c. flour – I thought 2 was much too much)
¾ c. chopped walnuts
1 ½ sticks butter, cold and chopped
1 egg yolk
¾ c. brown sugar
2 pints raspberries (or other berry, the original recipe calls for plums)
2 tbsp. raspberry jam


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine flour, walnuts, sugar.  Add butter and combine.  Add the egg yolk and mix until just combined (it should be the consistency of a crumble.) Press 1 ½ c. of dough into a 9 inch tart pan and reserve rest for the top.  Spoon the jam into the center of the pan and spread out to a thin layer (I did not cover the whole bottom of the tart, but you’re welcome to!) arrange the raspberries in circles around the pan and spread the crumble over the top of the raspberries. Bake for 30 minutes – but watch it!

October 26, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Stuffy Soul

Last week, Sam caught the death cold that seems to be making its way through all the young professionals of NYC.  Honestly, it’s like being in kindergarten again when you work in huge offices with nothing but recycled air.  Luckily, I have yet to be hit so was in good shape to make him some soothing chicken soup tonight.  It’s not completely homemade since I use store-bought chicken stock instead of making my own, but it’s so much easier!  With the addition of brown rice and sliced kale, I was even able to pack in some much needed vitamins.  Here’s hoping the tried and true cure-all works its magic this time!

Chicken Soup for the Stuffy Soul


2 boneless chicken breasts
6 ½ c. chicken stock
1 tbsp. olive oil, and more for drizzling on the chicken
1 small onion, diced
4 carrots, thinly chopped
3 stalks of celery, thinly chopped
5 leaves lacitnato kale, cut in strips
¼ c. brown rice
salt &pepper


If you don’t already have pre-cooked, leftover chicken, season the breasts with oil, salt & pepper and cook them at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy pot.  Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes or until translucent.  Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 3.  Add the stock and some pepper (I find I don’t need to add any salt because of the sodium in the stock), then add the chicken and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down and let the soup simmer for 45 minutes.  Add the rice and the kale and cook for another 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked.

October 23, 2009

The Sweetest Thing: Snickers Bar Blondies

It’s another Friday!  What a week…   I’ve decided what this blog needs is a running special, a “wildcard” dish if you will.  Almost every week, I make something sweet just on a whim.  Sometimes there’s a purpose – a birthday, a party – sometimes it was a bad day, and sometimes I just have too many eggs on hand and I need to bake!  This week, we had a lot of mini snickers bars after a weekend of rowing (on Sam’s part) in Boston.  Instead of letting them sit there (and tempt me endlessly) I decided to figure out a way to use them in some sort of baked deliciousness.  Luckily, the girls over at Big Girls, Small Kitchen were thinking similarly!  Their peanut M&M blondies seemed like a perfect way to foist a few extra mini snickers on unsuspecting friends and colleagues.  Feel free to add your favorite leftover Halloween candy to this batter.

Snickers Bar Blondies (batter adapted from Bon Appetit)

Makes 18


1 c. all purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. mini snickers bars, diced in ¼ in. cubes


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9 x 13 inch metal baking pan. Whisk 1 cup flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Melt ½ cup butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; add sugar and whisk until smooth. Cool mixture 2 minutes; whisk in eggs and vanilla. Using a spatula, stir in flour mixture, then the snickers bars. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake blondies until golden, or a tester inserted into center comes out clean, and edges just begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 20 minutes; cool completely in pan on rack.
Cut blondies into 18 bars.

October 21, 2009

A Special Meal for a Hungry College Student

My brother is home from college this week and graced me with his presence tonight for an apartment-cooked meal on the hotplate.  Naturally, I wanted to do something special.  After doing a little grocery shopping and walking him around the village, we were ready to hang out and chat.  So my choice of a quick Fettuccine Alfredo, which is simple but decadent, turned out to be the perfect meal.  I’ve never attempted an Alfredo sauce before, so I would definitely tweak this recipe the next time I tried it, but it’s a wonderful meal for a tiny kitchen.  Everything is done in 2 pots maximum and there are only 6 basic ingredients.  The one twist that I threw in was asparagus, an inspiration from a recent meal in Boston.  Plus, I love that this recipe has lemon zest in it, which I think goes perfectly with asparagus. 

On the two burner hotplate, I found it easiest to cook the sauce on one, and the pasta on the other.  Once I added the cooked pasta to the sauce, I quickly steamed the asparagus in the same pasta pot and then added them to the sauce as well.

I made sure to get the best ingredients and would highly recommend using fresh fettuccine if you can find it!  It’s not that much more expensive, but absolutely makes the meal special.  Although, I’m not going to lie to you – this dish is not for the feint of heart.  Literally.  As Giada De Lauentis describes it, this is definitely an indulgence.

Fettuccine Alfredo (adapted only slightly from Giada De Laurentis, Everyday Italian)
Serves 4


1 ½ c. heavy cream
¼ c. fresh lemon juice
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
Pinch of ground nutmeg
¾ lb. fresh fettuccine
1 c. freshly grated parmesan
¼ lb. asparagus (as thin as you can find)


In a large sauté pan, stir 1 cup of the cream and the lemon juice to blend. Add the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until the butter melts, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the lemon zest, pepper, and nutmeg.  Remove from heat and let stand.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes until it is just tender but still al dente.  Drain and add the pasta to the sauce.  Add the remaining ½ cup of cream, the parmesan, and salt and pepper.  Toss and let warm over low heat.  In the meantime, steam the asparagus for about 5 minutes until just tender.  Add the asparagus to the pasta and sauce and toss.   Season to taste.

October 19, 2009

An Inspired Stir Fry

I know those nights when you really just don’t want to cook.  You’re tired, you don’t feel like going to the store, you got home late from work.  We all have them. But most of those nights, I also don’t really want to have something greasy and filled with ingredients that are sometimes indecipherable.  So instead of just turning to a jar of spaghetti sauce and pasta, I have perfected an easy, delicious, and satisfying stir fry.  It also happens to be a perfect meal for a small apartment kitchen.  It’s one of the first meals I really tested and modified when I first moved in, and ultimately it gave me confidence to continue cooking on the tiny hotplate.  All you need is one pan and a couple of bowls to reserve the ingredients, plus the whole operation takes no more than 30 minutes, including chopping time!  Just make sure to have everything cut and ready to throw in the pan – you won’t have time to chop while cooking!

You can add any kind of protein, vegetable, or spice, but I have a few favorite combinations.  I only use 5 main standbys for flavor and taste – sesame oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken stock, and ground pepper.  Anything else just gets harder to justify for a time and money saving meal. 

Chinese Inspired Stir Fry


2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. oyster sauce
2 ½ lb. boneless pork chops, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 red pepper, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 orange pepper, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1 in. pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ c. chicken stock
1 ½ tbsp. flour
2 c. spinach


Cut all ingredients and reserve.  Heat up 1 tbsp. oil in a small wok (or frying pan).  Add the pork and ½ of the garlic and stir continuously for 6 minutes until just cooked through.  Add ½ tsp. of soy sauce and pepper to taste.   Reserve the meat in a bowl.  Heat up the second tbsp. of oil in the pan.  Add the peppers, onion, and remaining garlic, stirring frequently, and cook until the vegetables are tender and the onions are almost translucent.  Add the rest of the soy sauce, the oyster sauce, the additional pepper and reserve the vegetables in a bowl.  Add the flour to the wok and pour ¼ c. of the stock over it.  Whisk the mixture until is it smooth.  Add the vegetables and pork back to the wok.  Add the spinach, pour the remaining ¼ c. of stock over the mixture and stir continuously for another 5 minutes.  Season to taste, but be careful not to salt the meal – you’re already doing that with the soy sauce!  Serve over rice.

October 13, 2009

The Sweetest Thing

I’ve been feeling like nesting lately and the coming of fall always drives me to bake.  There’s something wonderful about the smell of flour and sugar and some other delicious ingredient baking away in the oven.  It makes nesting all that much more enjoyable. Generally, when I bake, I turn to breads and cakes because they’re just such a satisfying sweet – one that’s easy to make and nearly always turns out well.

I found this recipe when looking on food52 one day and thought it would be the most perfect way to use my excess apples from the weekend before.  If I made it again, I think I would cut the sugar dramatically and try a crumble with walnuts on top.  But I offer it here because it passed a very important test – not one piece of it was left after I brought it into the office. 

Sunday Morning Apple Coffee Cake ( adapted from SavorySweetLife)

Serves 12
3 cups All-Purpose Flour (I substituted one c. of whole wheat flour)
2 cups Granulated Sugar
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
4 Eggs
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Orange Juice
1/2 cup Apple Sauce
1/2 cup Butter, melted
5 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup Granulated Sugar (I would use only 1 tbsp.)
1 tablespoon Cinnamon

Preheat oven at 350°F and grease a 9”×13” baking dish. In a medium bowl, toss sliced apples, 1/3 cup of sugar (I would use only 1 tbsp.), and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl combine flour, 2 cups sugar, baking powder, vanilla, eggs, salt, orange juice, apple sauce, and melted butter until well mixed (Approx. 5 minutes in a mixer). Pour half the batter into baking dish and arrange apple slices on top. Pour and spread the rest of the batter on top of the apples. Bake for 50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cut coffee cake into squares and serve warm (or cooled in a Tupperware at work!) Enjoy!

October 11, 2009

A Sunday Kind of Stew

I’m sorry I’ve been so out of touch – it’s been a doozy of a week here at Hotplate Confidential.  But I did continue to cook, so of course there’s more to post!  This stew (because it’s a little unfair to go so far as to call it Boeuf Bourguignon) is probably better for a Sunday evening meal in the fall because you can let it cook as long as you want.  It’s also perfect for hotplates, as I made the unfortunate discovery that my amazing Dutch oven does not fit into my toaster oven!  It fit in my first two – yes, I’m now on to my THIRD toaster oven in as many years – but I guess I haven’t made a stew or roast in the oven since last year.  So when I came to the part in the recipe when you’re supposed to “cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 ¼ hours”, I decided to improvise and just keep the pot on the stove for 45 minutes.  The resulting dish was excellent and even better reheated for lunch the next day.  I’ve halved this recipe because I just don’t have a pot big enough for the original recipe, and I also cut out a few ingredients.  Though, I think you’ll agree that this is the perfect fall Sunday Funday meal.

Beef Stew with Red Wine (Adapted from Ina Garten’s Boeuf Bourguignon, Barefoot in Paris)

Serves 4

1 tbsp. good olive oil
1 ¼ lbs beef chuck cut into 1-in. cubes
salt & pepper
4 large carrots, in ½ in. slices
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ bottle of dry red wine
1 c. beef or chicken broth
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. butter
½ lb. mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced
¾ c. frozen peas

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven (again, mine is 2 ¾ qt.) Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt & pepper.  In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3-4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Set aside.

Toss the carrots, onions, salt & pepper into the fat in the pan and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are lightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.  Put the meat back in the pot with any juices that have accumulated and add the wine and broth to almost cover the meat.  Add the tomato paste and more salt & pepper.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and let simmer for at least 45 minutes.  The meat should be very tender when pierced with a fork. 

In a small frying pan, heat up the butter and sauté the mushrooms for 5-8 minutes, or until lightly browned and then add to the stew.  Add the frozen peas and lower the heat.  Let simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.  Season to taste.

Best served with crusty bread and a glass of red wine.