Monday, June 29, 2009

Chocolate Pudding, Roasted Tomatoes

The weather in Denmark has been unbelievably nice for seven consecutive days. It's most welcome but surprising because things here change so rapidly, and it's not at all uncommon to experience only one nice day sandwiched between five or six crappy ones. So when we had friends over for lunch on Saturday I was thrilled not only to have their company but to see sunny skies and warm temperatures, too.

I regret not photographing lunch. It was a beautiful vegetable couscous salad and marinated, grilled chicken breasts. I did, however, remember to take a shot of dessert. Maybe it's because I constantly have sweets on the brain. I found the couscous and chicken recipe on Dinner with Julie (who either got it from or Bon Apetit). It's an excellent summer lunch and because you can prepare the salad the night before, it makes the day-of prep a breeze. All that's required is removing it from the fridge to get it close to room temperature before serving and tossing with toasted, slivered almonds and cilantro. Well in my case, just the almonds.

Because I can never find cilantro in my local markets, I thought Danes never used it, but our guests Soren and Mette said you can usually find it Fotex (not in Hobro' least not when I've looked) or Bilka, which is sort of a Danish version of Costco. The chicken is a snap. It gets marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings for either 30 minutes at room temp. or a few hours in the fridge. Throw it on the grill for a 3-4 minutes on each side and it's ready to join the couscous. For those of you who want to try it, click on the links above.

When I perused my copy of Nigella Express for dessert ideas, I was drawn to a recipe for Budino Di Cioccolato (chocolate pudding) because, once again, I could prepare it ahead of time. Moreover, it's a cold dessert (not served straight from the fridge but still cold-ish) which is perfectly suitable for summer. My two words to describe it? Absolute heaven. So very creamy, smooth, and delicious. I sprinkled each dessert cup with a few colorful chocolate buttons and stuck a cookie stick inside (I can't remember the fancy name for them).

Budino Di Cioccolato from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

1c whole milk
1/2c heavy cream
1/3c sugar
1T cornstarch
1/3c cocoa
2T boiling water
2 egg yolks
1t vanilla extract
2 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped

1. "Put the kettle on to boil water, and warm the milk and cream together either in a saucepan r the microwave.

2. Put the sugar and cornstarch into another saucepan and sift in the cocoa. Add the 2T boiling water and whisk to a paste.

3. Then whisk in the egg yolks, 1 at a time, followed by the warmed milk and cream, and then the vanilla extract.

4. Scrape down the sides of your pan and put it on the heat, cooking and whisking for about 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens--if it helps, think of a consistency like mayonnaise.

5. Take off the heat and whisk in the finely chopped chocolate before pouring into 4 small cups or glasses each with a yield of about 2/3 of a cup.

6. Cover the tops of the cups with plastic wrap, laying it directly on top of the pudding to stop a skin from forming, and then refrigerate once they are cooler. Make sure they are not still fridge-cold when you serve them. You can add a blog of cream on top if you like."

My notes: I doubled the recipe and ended up with 7 ramekins of pudding. Also, I didn't bother with the plastic wrap step and it was just fine, not much of a skin at all.

Now, on to the tomatoes...

Lately, nearly every food blog I follow has posted something about roasted tomatoes. I've been salivating each time I see the photos and read the authors' comments about their deliciousness. So, Nigella came through for me once again with her recipe for what she calls "Moonblush Tomatoes." I love this recipe because not only is it ridiculously easy but it's like getting a wonderful surprise when they're finally ready. I put mine in the oven last night before bed and when I woke up this morning couldn't wait to remove them and eat some. Here's the thing, you turn the oven on and get it nice and hot and then once you place the tomatoes inside you immediately turn it off. This means you can either do like I did or if you'd rather, you can stick them in before you leave for work in the morning and come home to these beautiful, fragrant gems that are fabulous in salads, alongside fish, chicken, or steak, or simply eaten with some cheese and bread.

This morning I ate mine for breakfast with cottage cheese and a slice of toasted rugbrod (Danish rye bread). What a treat!

Moonblush Tomatoes from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

1lb, about 24, on-the-vine cherry or other baby tomatoes
2T olive oil
2t kosher salt
1t dried thyme
1/4t sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 450F.

2. Cut the tomatoes in half and sit them cut side up in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the olive oil and seasonings.

3. Put them in the oven and immediately turn it off. Leave the tomatoes in the oven overnight or for a day without opening it.

My notes: I used less than a pound of tomatoes because I simply took what I had sitting on my counter. Some were on the vine and a few of them were larger (sandwich-type) tomatoes. Also, I used sea salt and lined my pan with aluminum foil to make clean-up easy.

I can't wait for lunch to get here.

Thank you Soren, Mette, Frederik, and Agnete for coming to visit us!

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