Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nothing like Nutella

Nutella, that lovely Italian spread of nuts and cocoa, raises even graham crackers to the level of treat. I really wanted some on a waffle this morning, but alas, there was no jar of Nutella in my pantry. But I did have a dark chocolate bar and some blanched hazelnuts, and I was quite pleased with the result. It was chunkier than Nutella, which has the consistency of chocolate frosting out of a can. I suppose if I wasn't in such a hurry, more processing would have made it smoother.

Choconutty spread

1 large dark chocolate bar, 4.2 ounces
1 cup whole raw hazelnuts
2 tablespoons canola oil

Break up the chocolate bar into the food processor and add the hazelnuts. Process until the mixture starts forming into a ball. Add canola oil slowly until the ball relaxes back into a smooth mixture. Makes about 1 cup of spread.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tangy Tuscan chicken

Toward the end of October last year, I published a method for easy preserved lemons (if you missed it, click on the orange words and you'll be taken to that post with the recipe). Now that your lemons are quite soft and ready to use, you may be wondering what else can benefit from this tangy condiment.

This week's Washington Post food section has a yummy recipe for Tuscany chicken, cooked on a Tuscan grill in the fireplace. If you don't have one, you can still make this chicken on the stove in a large, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, weighting the chicken with foil-covered bricks or even a slightly smaller skillet; or on your grill, if you haven't stored it away for the winter. Just be careful and keep the heat rather low, so that the chicken cooks through before its outside is charred.

If you would like to make an aioli dipping sauce for the chicken, remove 2 tablespoons of the marinade before mixing it with the chicken and combine it with 3/4 cup mayonnaise. Refrigerate until ready to use.

MAKE AHEAD: The lemon-garlic paste can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. The chicken should marinate for at least an hour or as long as overnight.

4 to 6 servings


  • 4 preserved lemon wedges
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles removed from the stem, stem discarded
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 3- to 4-pound chicken, butterflied
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red chili pepper
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper


To prepare the marinade for the chicken, place the lemon wedges, garlic, rosemary and olive oil in a blender. (A food processor may be used, but the blender makes a more pastelike mixture.) Blend on low speed, just until coarsely chopped. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Butterfly the chicken by cutting along the backbone on both sides and removing the bone. Place the chicken breast side up on a stable surface; press down on both sides of the breast and pull out the legs to flatten the chicken. Place the chicken on a shallow platter, skin side down. Rub the cavity of the chicken with one-third of the marinade and season with half of the crushed chili pepper, salt and pepper. Turn the chicken over and rub the remaining two-thirds of the marinade over the chicken to coat the skin. Season with the remaining half of the crushed chili pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.

Meanwhile, prepare a fire in the fireplace. It should be hot, but allow the flames to subside before you begin cooking. Have ready a Tuscan grill (see headnote).

Place the flattened chicken on the Tuscan grill, skin side up. Place the grill in the fire in an area where there is the least amount of heat, so the chicken won't burn before it is thoroughly cooked. Place 2 bricks covered in aluminum foil (or other heavy weight) on top of the chicken to keep it flat. Cook for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the bricks, turn the chicken over and put the bricks back on top of the chicken. Watch the fire carefully. As the embers burn down, move the grill around or adjust the grill's height to allow the chicken to cook evenly. You will also need to watch for flare-ups and move the grill if the heat is too high. Cook, turning the chicken over every 10 minutes or so and adjusting the grill as needed, until the the skin is lightly charred, the chicken is flattened and an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thigh area reads 170 degrees. Cooking times will vary, but it should take 30 to 45 minutes.

From Alisa Barry, owner of Bella Cucina Artful Food (

Tested by Bonny Wolf for The Washington Post.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

McD's turns other chic in Europe

I might consider going to McDonald's again if their Eurostyle jumps the pond. The photo shows the remodel, top, and the original, below. Which would you rather eat at? The story also noted the local foods that McDonald's provides on its menus abroad. For the full Forbes story, click here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Berkeley Bowl West

From dealing with snow removal, to power outages, to teaching skiing part time this winter, I haven't been cooking nearly enough to blog about it. But going through some old photos, I thought I'd share this one of me shopping at the (then)new Berkeley Bowl West. While I still think the old Berkeley Bowl is perhaps the most fun shopping experience in the world, the new one just looked like food art, so clean and pristine with all the excellent produce displayed in aisles where people could actually turn around. I'm pictured with a fava bean, one of my favorite harbingers of spring in California.
If you're ever in Berkeley, be sure to stop at the old store or the new, even if you're staying in a hotel and have no need to shop. Berkeley Bowl is an icon, crammed full of the most amazing array of fresh produce, a hundred varieties of olive oil and vinegars, an aisle of artisan bread from a half dozen local bakeries, a dozen varieties of fresh wild mushrooms, avocados from XXL to small, artichokes with leaves still tighter than Mike Tyson’s fist. Berkeley Bowl West has all this, too, but the stocking is much less chaotic and there’s room to move down the aisles without playing shopping-cart chicken.