Chocolate Cake and Tortilla Soup

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A quick and satisfying dinner from this weekend.

Tortilla Soup with all the fixins
Butter Leaf and Arugula Salad
Chocolate Chip Kahlua Cake with Whipped Cream





Tortilla Soup

Serves 6

This tortilla soup is rather light and brothy and a bit spicy, which can be mellowed down or turned up, depending on your own taste. As usual this soup is very basic and easy to make. It is really all about the toppings -fresh baked tortilla chips, ripe avocado, fragrant cilantro, creamy goat cheese and a squeeze of lime makes up the true essence of this tasty soup.


6 corn tortillas, cut into strips
1 teaspoon corn or canola oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow or white onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeds and core removed, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
14 ounces crush tomatoes
8 cups homemade vegetable stock (or 5 cups store bought and 3 cups water)
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 ripe avocado, cut into slices or bite size pieces
3 limes, cut into wedges
3 ounces goat cheese
salt
fresh ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the tortilla strips with the corn or canola and 1/2 teaspoon salt on a large baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

In a large heavy bottom saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño, cumin and chili powder and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, and 1 cup of stock and cook for 5 minutes over medium/low heat. Turn off the heat and puree with a hand held food blender, until smooth. Add the remaining stock, season with a bit more salt and pepper and bring everything to a simmer over medium heat. Let the soup simmer without a lid for 20-30 minutes. Taste for spiciness. You can add more chili powder if you want a spicier soup.

Serve the hot soup in individual bowls and top with a handful of the tortilla strips, a sprig of cilantro, chunks of avocado, and a tablespoon, or so, of goat cheese.



Arugula and Butter Leaf Salad

Serves 6

This salad is so simple, yet has so much flavor; the peppery arugula compliments the salty Parmesan cheese and mild butter leaf lettuce perfectly. With very few ingredients, this salad is quick to make, and goes well along side all sorts of meals. I serve this salad when I make pizza and also when I am making an elegant dinner and do not want to overwhelm the pallet with an overly complicated salad.


5 cups (1 four ounce bag of pre-washed greens or 1 medium bunch) baby arugula
1 small head of butter leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bit size pieces
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup finely graded Parmesan cheese (a microplane works best)


To assemble the salad, place the lettuce greens in a large bowl. Drizzle the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper over the greens and toss together. Taste for more salt and pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese to the salad and gently toss everything together. Serve immediately.




Chocolate Chip Kahlua Cake with Chantilly Crème

Serves 8

This chocolate cake is dense, moist, fudgy and very chocolaty. A dollop of Chantilly Crème, i.e. not over-whipped whipped cream, is a perfect accompaniment. The combination of this chocolate cake and the Chantilly Cream reminds me of a gourmet version of the cream filled chocolate cupcakes that come in individual packages at the grocery store. Of course, this dessert is on an entire different playing field than packaged cupcakes, but that same flavor profile is there. Serve this cake at the end of a dinner party with a cup of fresh brewed coffee and you will certainly wow your guests. This recipe is adapted from the Spago Chocolate cookbook.



6 oz bittersweet chocolate (60-65%)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Kahlua
3/4 – 1 cup coffee, at room temperature
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract



Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan or springform pan and line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper as well.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or slowly in the microwave, being careful not to burn the chocolate or clarify the butter. Set the chocolate/butter mixture aside to cool.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl fitter for an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs on low speed. Slowly pour in the sugar; then beat together on medium/high speed for 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the chocolate mixture, vanilla and kahlua until combined. In alternating batches add the flour mixture and the coffee to the chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for approximately 1 hour. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes then invert the cake onto a clean plate and then invert right side up onto another clean plate. The cake can be served slightly warm or at room temperature with a dollop of Chantilly Crème. Store the cake in an airtight container for up to 3 days. This cake is very moist and can even be made the day before serving.


Chantilly Crème


1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3 heaping teaspoons confectioner’s sugar


To make the Chantilly Crème, pour the cold heavy cream into a large bowl. Stir in the vanilla bean paste and confectioner’s sugar until dissolved. Use a large whisk to whip the cream until soft peaks form. Do not over whip. Serve immediately or keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve, for no longer than 3 hours.

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