Monthly Archives: March 2017

Chocolate sour cream bundt cake

This is my absolute number-one favorite chocolate cake. Hands down. And I say that as someone who usually thinks chocolate cake is a waste of chocolate. Oh, it’s tasty, no doubt, but between the flour and the butter and the sugar and the eggs, it’s often hard to taste the chocolate at all.

This cake is different. It’s a sour cream cake, the softest and plushest kind of cake there is. That means it can support a heaping helping of cocoa powder–amounts that would dry out a lesser cake. (I’ve actually increased the amount of cocoa in this cake since I started making it, and if anything I think the texture is better.) It’s also a hot water cake, which makes the texture even moister and helps draw out flavor, coffee-like, from the cocoa. And instead of a sickly-sweet buttercream frosting, it’s covered with dark chocolate ganache. What’s not to love?

In fact, this cake is so soft that I’ve had trouble with it falling apart if I take it out of the pan too soon. Most bundt cake recipes say you should cool the cake in the pan for exactly 10 minutes–no more, no less–before turning them out. When I do that, the cake slumps into a pile of delicious crumbs. I’ve found it’s best to wait a bit longer, until the sides of the cake pan are warm but not hot to the touch. That’s my cue that the cake has cooled enough to hold together, but not enough to cement itself to the pan.

When my family makes this cake, we use a standard-sized bundt pan and a demure drizzle of ganache over the top. The cake in the picture below was for a friend’s 30th birthday party, so I scaled up the recipe to fill my giant bundt pan and shellacked the entire surface with ganache. Honestly, do as you please–I’ve never seen someone turn up their nose at this cake.


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Smoky tea-braised lentils

In a world of coffee drinkers, Sam and I are tea fanatics. Our cupboards are bursting with tins and boxes, strainers and saucers. We drink black tea in the morning, green tea after dinner, and herbal tea late at night. We even have one of those fancy tea kettles that heats water to different temperatures for different types of tea.

I love cooking with tea–and with one tea in particular–almost as much as drinking it. Lapsang souchong tea is dried over wood fires, giving it a distinctive smoky flavor. Add some leaves or a bag to a pot of soup broth, and you’ve got something deeper and huskier than any non-meat broth I know. My new favorite trick? Cooking black lentils–sometimes called beluga lentils, because they resemble caviar when cooked–in a cauldron of smoky tea, tomatoes, and spices.

The recipe I adapted this from called for simmering everything together at once–lentils, tomatoes, the works. I’ve tried that, and don’t recommend it; the acid in the tomatoes keeps the lentils from softening. Instead, I use the method from my grandmother’s bean and tomato soup. In that recipe, you start simmering the legumes on their own, cook up a saucy tomato mix in a separate pan, then bring everything together towards the end of the cooking time. I added a handful of greens, too, which wilted down and made the whole dish more substantive.

At first taste, you might assume there’s meat in these lentils. It’s a nifty little trick, brought about by the marriage of smoky tea and glutamate-rich tomatoes. You could easily serve this as a standalone vegan meal–I have, and my omnivorous dinner guests loved it. If you eat eggs, these lentils are incredible with a poached or soft-boiled egg on top. And as with so many soups and stews, the flavor gets even better after some time in the fridge or freezer.

smoky tea lentils

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Bison, sausage and ricotta meatloaf

Meet the new love of our lives:


His name is Behemoth, and he’s just shy of a year old. We adopted him from a local shelter in November. It didn’t take long for him to wrap both Sam and me around his glossy black paw. He’s sweet-natured, outgoing, and lovable as hell.

I’d walked into the shelter expecting to adopt an older cat, so bringing home a teenager was an adjustment. As far as young cats go, this guy’s pretty easygoing–he loves being around people and tends to take things in stride. But in many ways, he’s still a kitten. He has no chill. When he’s not fast asleep, he’s constantly on the move, sniffing this and climbing that and chewing on most anything within reach. And he is desperately curious about human food.

Whenever we sit down for a meal, Behemoth is there, lurking on the windowsill or the sideboard, waiting for his chance to sneak onto the table and steal a taste. There’s a curio shelf in one corner of the dining room, and he likes to climb up there and stare piercingly at us while we eat, like a fuzzy gargoyle:


He’s also just brazen enough to wait until our backs are turned. So far, we’ve caught him swiping bites of deviled eggs, cheesecake, and chow mein. And the other night, when I made meatloaf, he was falling all over himself to try and get a morsel. Not that I blame him–it was delicious, and looked not entirely unlike cat food. How could we blame him?

Behemoth did not get his share of meatloaf. We, however, inhaled it. I love my meatloaf as moist as possible, and this recipe delivers in spades. I used a combination of ultra-lean ground bison for bulk, and fatty pork sausage for richness and seasoning. Then I scooped in the last of a tub of quark–a fermented ricotta-like cheese–that we had in the fridge. The cheese melts right into the meat, making a loaf that’s oh-so-plush and juicy. Ricotta would do the job just as well, and I’ve written the recipe to reflect this.

A note on glaze: I keep seeing recipe posts and videos making snide comments about ketchup-glazed meatloaf. I don’t know who decided this was uncool–it’s probably my favorite part of a classic meatloaf. I included a simple ketchup-mustard-brown sugar glaze in this recipe, which you can tweak to your liking. And if you prefer an un-glazed loaf, feel free to skip the glaze. This meatloaf is plenty flavorful without it.

bison sausage ricotta meatloaf

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