Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Triple Chocolate Brownies with Fleur de Sel

I love really good chocolate and I love salt, so it is only natural that I seek out recipes that can satisfy both these cravings. It all began with a giant chocolate cake I made last fall with salted caramel. This thing was so good, I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

These brownies are along the same theme--lots of dark chocolate and a sprinkling of salt. My friend Erin (one of the lucky eaters of the aforementioned cake) gets credit for them. She busted out these brownies as part of sundaes at a dinner party she threw a few weeks ago. She used Gourmet's recipe for Triple-Chocolate Fudge Brownies and spread a good layer of kosher salt on top. My version uses a light sprinkling of Fleur de Sel (French sea salt), which is much stronger (hence the light sprinkling--as I recognize that not everyone loves salt as much as I do).

I made these for my friend Rose's recent backyard party, so I sliced them up pretty small. They're so rich that you don't really need much more than a bite or two, so these are great for large parties.

Triple Chocolate Brownies with Fleur de Sel

6oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 large eggs
1 tsp. salt (regular kosher or table)
1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 TB Fleur de Sel or other fancy salt

You'll notice right away how little flour these is in these things, which is what makes them so good. Flour is a great binder of ingredients, but doesn't contribute much in taste. The best dessert recipes often have just enough flour to make things not resemble soup.

In a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (your ad hoc double-boiler), melt the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate with the butter, stirring the mixture until smooth. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool until it's lukewarm. (Very important since if it's still hot you'll have scrambled eggs in chocolate.)

I didn't set up the double-boiler, I know. If you don't either just be very, very vigilant with your stirring or else you'll burn the chocolate.

Stir in the vanilla and add the eggs, 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the regular salt and the flour until just combined, then add in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into a buttered and floured 13 x 9 inch baking pan and sprinkle the Fleur de Sel evenly over the top.

Smooth out the top and bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs suck to it. Let cool completely on an oven rack and cut into bars.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Last Friday some friends and I visited newly-liquor-licensed pizza place Motorino in Williamsburg. I had been meaning to give it a shot for a while, and the combined factors of finally being able to get a beer and a mini-review by, as Eater sometimes calls him, Frank the Tank Bruni, finally gave me the push I needed.

I was terrified that there was going to be a long wait, not only because of the recent review, but also because usually you have to wait for anything good in Billysburg. Magically, there wasn't, and we were seated promptly right next to a giant ad hoc air conditioner. Although I am usually complaining about restaurants being too cold, this thing was a blessing. The decor was nice: a giant brick oven in the back and cool (in temperature) marble tables throughout the dining room. There was also a tiny cup of moss on every table, which we thought was a nice touch.

via Nick Sherman on Flickr

Billie ordered the Prosciutto de Parma pizza which I just spent ages trying to find a picture of (no luck)because you will not believe how generous they were with the toppings. This stuff was falling off the edges--amazing.

I had an anchovy pizza because I knew that since they're personally sized I could indulge in this gross liking of mine. It also made me remember a time when my mom and a waitress ganged up on poor anemic vegetarian me and made me eat an anchovy. I remember being horrified, but somewhere along the lines I picked up a liking for these guys. They just taste like salt. I love salt.

Anyway, the pizza was really wonderful. Not soggy at all and the crust had that wonderful Neapolitan crackle without turning into a cracker. I know I should be sophisticated and like that sort of crunchy pizza, but I just don't. I love pizza crust, and this stuff delivered. (Ha! Get it! Motorino does deliver, btw.) All the toppings tasted fresh and wonderful and the sauce was a perfect consistency of thick enough to keep your toppings in place without tasting like tomato paste.

via Jeffrey Allen on Flickr

Kate had a seasonal pizza, of which there were a few. The brussels sprouts and speck pie was tempting, but ultimately she went with the "basil, garlic, some kind of meat, and some other weird thing i don't remember the name of
and red onion" Pizza. Later conversation revealed the meat to probably be mortadella. Anyway, it was good.

All three of us polished off our pizzas, only offering bites--not slices--to our table-mates. Our waitress was friendly and more attentive than almost any other waiter I've had in Brooklyn. Unfortunately for her, the people at the table next to us were a little obnoxious. The guy was complaining that there was no cheese on his pizza and sent it back, urging her to give it to someone else "so that it doesn't go to waste." Dear Sir, no one wants your rejected pizza. Also, read the menu before you order. This isn't Pizza Hut (or Slut, as we called it in high school), and your pizza doesn't automatically come with half a pound of processed cheese product.

To conclude: Motorino: go there. Oh and P.S. They're opening one in Manhattan.

319 Graham Ave.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Thursday, July 2, 2009


DISCLAIMER: Apparently, gazpacho is one of those dishes where everyone gets VERY defensive about how you make it. Therefore, I just want everyone to know that this is just a gazpacho I happened to make, not how I recommend you make gazpacho every summer for the rest of your life. K? K.

So it recently, finally, started to feel like summer in NYC, which means that when you live in a 4th Floor walk-up, you don't want a panini or something else hot for lunch because it's too humid for that. Also, I've developed an all-of-a-sudden aversion to sandwich bread. So I needed something for lunch that didn't involve heat or sandwiches.

Enter, gazpacho. I LOVE gazpacho: it's one of my "sucker dishes," like pulled pork or anything with pistachios where, if it's on the menu, I'll order it. I'd never made gazpacho myself, so I thought I would give it a try. After a precursory search of Epicurious (which I like even better now that it has an iPhone app) and perusing some very scary comments about every single recipe sucking, I settled on Chunky Gazpacho from Bon Appetit, April 1993. People seemed to hate it the least and it didn't have MAYO in it, like other recipes I've seen. So here's what you need:

1/2 small onion, sliced (I used red because it's a little spicier, I think)
2 large garlic cloves
3 TB olive oil
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2 pounds tomatoes
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, diced (I used yellow because I'm not huge on green peppers)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
2 TB tomato paste
Tabasco sauce
Tomato Juice (optional...I didn't option)

And here's what you do:

Puree first four ingredients in the food processor, which makes a really nice color:

Ok then there's this weird step where you take 1/2 cup of the chopped tomatoes, cukes and pepper and stick them in a bowl. This is so you can serve it all pretty with a pile of this stuff on top...honestly...I did it, but it's sort of a waste of time unless you're serving this at a dinner. Despite that, I do want to take a moment to say that seeding cucumbers by slicing them in half and then scooping the seeds out with a spoon is totally the way to go. Once you do that you can chop them however you like, especially if they're just going in the food processor.

Ok once everyone's in there, blend until chunky puree forms. Season to taste with hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and cover soup (if you did the chopping thing reserve those separately for aforementioned presentational brownie points). Chill at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.

So, here's the thing. When I was little, there was this fruit stand a mile from my house that sold the best salsa fresca ever. It was all tomatoes and garlic and spice, and it was just perfect. I miss it very much. This gazpacho kind of reminded me of eating a less awesome version of that salsa fresca...only a whole bowl of it...which is not really the point of gazpacho. I don't think thinning it with tomato juice would have helped, either. I have to say that, while I'm not sure what the key difference between salsa fresca and gazpacho is, whatever it is, this gazpacho did not have it. All I can say is, please, god, don't let that difference be mayo.