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.

October 6, 2009

An Easy as Quiche Frittata

As you’ve probably noticed, Sam and I have been making quite a few trips to New England this fall – we just can’t stay away!  This weekend we visited friends in Hanover, NH.  It was gorgeous up there!  Peak foliage made for some excellent hiking and driving throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, and the apples we picked ourselves were just right.  (Later this week: Delicious apple recipes!) 

But now we’re back and although we only took a long weekend, it felt like we were gone for weeks.  Since we didn’t have much in the house and didn’t want to make a huge run to the store, I decided to fall back on an early Hotplate Confidential standby – the frittata.  There are so many options, almost any combination of veggie and cheese works. Tonight though, I had some feta and a pepper.  Paired with spinach and a little parmesan on top, it made for a perfect Tuesday (although it feels like Monday) night meal.

Because I don’t have an oven that can handle a frying pan with its long handle (believe me, I’ve tried!), I’ve perfected a way of making frittatas that is essentially the same as making a quiche.  No need to start on a stovetop and transfer to the oven – just stick the dish in and bake!

“Greek” Frittata

6 eggs
¼ c. skim milk
½ a red pepper, sliced in ½ inch pieces
large handful of spinach, steamed
2 oz. feta, cubed
salt & pepper
1/3 c. parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt & pepper.  Place the red pepper, spinach, and feta on the bottom of the pie dish (mine is 9 inches).  Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cheese.  Sprinkle the parmesan and more salt & pepper on top.  Place in the oven for 25 minutes.  The mixture should be completely set before you take it out of the oven.

October 1, 2009

Adding a Little Spice to the Week with a Hot Pink Beet Risotto

I can’t believe I went so long without trying a beet!  Beets are the most wonderful root vegetable – their colors are stunning, and when paired with goat cheese, they offer a perfect texture that balances out the soft, tart cheese.  Nowadays, I can’t get enough of beets, and I generally order them whenever they are on a menu. Salads, sides, borscht. I’ve even had beets paired with a goat cheese panna cotta, an interesting, but not all together successful dish.  But it was at a special birthday dinner when I tried a beet and black truffle risotto, that I was blown away.  The color was a deep, almost blood red and the truffles added a dimension of decadence.  I was determined to try a version of it at home.

The first beet risotto I made was with a jar of sweet baby beets my parents had brought for me from one of their weekends away.  It was good, but really much too sweet for a main meal.  It would have made a very nice side to a roast pork tenderloin.  This second time though, I made the risotto with a can of beets – I have to admit, I’ve never tackled fresh beets at home.  I pureed the beets and folded them into the risotto once it was cooked.  The result was hot pink, but delicious.  And then there was the really inspired part – I crumbled goat cheese on top!  It was the same tart, sweet combination I love in the salad, but without the texture – it was delicious.  Next time, I would go with more goat cheese, and maybe a few fresh herbs, but this is going to be a new standby – hot pink and all.

Beet and Goat Cheese Risotto 
(Serves 2-3 as main dishes)

4 c. chicken stock
2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, diced
1 c. Arborio rice
½ c. dry white wine
½ c. freshly grated parmesan
salt & pepper
3 oz. goat cheese
1 15 oz. can of beets
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped to sprinkle on top

In a medium sauce pan, bring the chicken stock to a boil and reduce to simmer over low heat.  Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the onions, reduce heat, and cook slowly until onions are soft and translucent.  Add rice and stir for about a minute to toast.  Add the wine, increase heat and simmer, stirring constantly until the pan is almost dry.

This process should take about 30 minutes: Add enough stock to cover the surface of the rice, about 2 cups, and stir constantly until the liquid is mostly absorbed.  Add another ½ cup of the stock, stirring constantly again until the liquid is mostly absorbed.  Add the last ½ c. of stock and stir constantly until all of the liquid has been absorbed.  At this point, the rice should be tender, but firm to the bite and the thickness should be similar to the consistency of mashed potatoes.  If you like your risotto less al dente, continue to cook, adding a ½ cup of boiling water at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Quickly puree the beets.  Add the parmesan to the risotto and combine.  Fold in the beet puree until completely combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Plate the risotto and crumble the goat cheese on top.  Garnish with more parmesan, parsley, and pepper.