Salad with Roasted Pears, Walnuts and Gorgonzola

Our friend Danny showed us this cartoon about words for the internet. Sorry for our brief hiatus from the intertubes. We haven't had much time for the blogonet since leaving Penn. We headed to Alex's home in Connecticut and did some cooking, but we've been pretty lazy about getting the recipes to the webosphere. Enough.

Really though: We are officially on winter break, which will likely mean very few posts over the next couple weeks. Keep checking though, happy holidays, and we'll be back full-force during the second week of January.

In the meantime, here's a favorite salad that we conjured up for Alex's family. The warm pears make it perfect for winter, and the way we cut them makes the salad look really, really pretty. The dressing is unique and light, so this works well as a first course. The recipe is a four-star from Epicurious, and we offer some slight modifications here.

3 bunches fresh thyme sprigs
4 bartlett pears (about 2 1/2 pounds), halved and cored
1/4 cup honey
8 oz. spring mix lettuce (or your fave, butter lettuce works well too)
6 ounces blue cheese, sliced
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

4 tablespoons white grape juice and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Preheat oven to 400. Place thyme sprigs on a baking sheet. Place pear halves, cut side down, on work surface. Starting 1/2 inch from stem and leaving pear half intact, cut each lengthwise into scant 1/3- to 1/2-inch-wide slices. Press pear to fan slices; place on the thyme sprigs. Drizzle pears with honey, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes until pears are tender. Let cool on baking sheet. To make the dressing, whisk ingredients together. Plate the lettuce, top with cheese and nuts, place pear alongside greens. Drizzle with dressing.


Coconut Lime Muffins with Rasberry Filling

Nothing like the end of the semester to throw you into an existential crisis. Studying, the material seems brand-new, and suddenly we're forced to think: Oh my God, what did I actually do this semester? And before you know it: Why am I doing this? Then the kicker: Who am I?

But back to the first question. Finals are finally over, which allowed me some time to consider the question in a broader sense, not just in the "what did I do this semester that apparently erased all recollection of this concept I'm supposed to know" sense. Upon consideration, I've concluded that something that I did quite well this semester was learn to bake muffins. We did Peanut Butter & Jelly, Vanilla and Chocolate Chip and Apple Cinnamon, as well as Chocolate Pumpkin cupcakes. Muffins are my thing! I can make them -- even without Alex's help -- and they always taste delicious! Proud, I couldn't help but do a final muffin hoorah of the semester.

I adapted a recipe from my Muffins Galore cookbook, and it turned out incredibly. As I know from my favorite bath products, coconut and lime are a miracle duo. The crumble topping lends a sweet and delicious crunch, and the rasberry filling adds a surprisingly good contrast. We served these little darlings to friends while watching the season-finale of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. It made me feel good about life.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup coconut
1 cup superfine sugar (I used half superfine, half granulated, it worked)
3 tsp lime zest, grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (we used 1 percent)
1/4 cup coconut milk
7 tbsp butter, melted
rasberry jelly

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coconut
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 375. Put muffin tins into the muffin pan. Make the topping first by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and rubbing the butter into them until it forms a coarse meal. For the muffins, mix flour, baking powder, coconut, sugar and lime zest in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, milk, coconut milk and melted butter. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix (the batter will seem somewhat thick like cookie dough, it's okay). Spoon batter into muffin tins, halfway up. Add about a tsp of jelly, and fill to top with batter. Bake for about 20 minutes, until well risen and golden. Cool and serve.

Tunisian Eggplant on Anything

Some things go with eveything. The color black, for example, hummus, pesto.

Here's another for the list: tunisian eggplant, which consists of small eggplant chunks cooked with onions in tomato paste and red wine vinegar, then tossed with olives and marinated artichoke hearts. Serve it as hours'devours on endive leaves or crackers, or for a main course over pasta or rice, or in a sandwhich with melted provolone. I could go on.

Our recipe is a minimally-adapted version of one we found in Alex's new vegetarian cookbook, The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without, by Molly Katzen. It's simple and delicious. Unbelievably versatile.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups onion, minced
1 1/2 lbs eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup green olives, pitted chopped
1 small jar (6 oz) marinated artichokes, coarsely chopped
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
more salt, pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil. Add onions and cook for 5-8 minutes until soft. Stir in eggplant, salt and garlic, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes, or until eggplant is very soft. Add small abouts of water by the tbsp if eggplant appears to stick. Stir in tomato paste,vinegar, basil and oregano, and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat (do not let boil for more than a few seconds) and add olives and artichokes. Season and serve at any temperature on anything.



Two days of exams remain, and it's getting to us. You know your brain is shot when you can watch the three-hour season finale of Survivor without realizing it. That happened. But some good came out of our study lapse as well -- in the form of a sweetly moist and richly-flavored gingerbread loaf.

We were all set to bake ourselves a cake, but the second we found this recipe we knew it had to be. Like when you walk into a party with one person, but fall in love at first sight with another and ditch the first. It's not that you didn't like them, it's just that the alternative looked SO much better. Gingerbread recipe: You had us at ... something. Butter? The best part was that at the end of the night, we knew we made the right choice. Our mouths watered at the aroma, and it tasted perfectly spiced and festive.

The recipe is from 101 Cookbooks, which posts amazingly-adapted recipes from a vast cookbook collection. We love it. We wish we had that many cookbooks. We modified the recipe again slightly, owing to what we had around the kitchen. I'm posting exactly what we did below, but check out the original recipe here.

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup honey
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice (we ground ours with the mortar and pestle!)
3 large eggs,
1/2 cup milk (1 percent)
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, grated

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease 9 x 9 baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, cut to hang over two opposite edges. Combine butter, water, molasses, honey and brown sugar in a medium saucepan and place over low heat. Stir until the butter is melted and ingredients are combined, then pour into a large bowl and set aside. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and all-spice and set aside. When the molasses mixture feels warm to the touch, add the eggs one at a time and beating well. Add the milk and stir to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter a bit at a time. Stir in the grated ginger. Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, remove from the pan using the parchment. Cool entirely before cutting.


Broccoli Soup

Growing up, Wednesday was Cream of Broccoli Soup Day at the local Giant food store. I loved the huge chunks of broccoli swimming in milky, cheesy broth. Now, anything with that much dairy would subject both of us to a killer night of cramping and indigestion. And while you'd think that would turn me off the stuff, I sometimes can't help but crave that salty, creamy bowl of deliciousness. Yesterday was one of those days, and I wondered whether it was possible to recreate the smoothness of a real cream-based broccoli soup without actually adding dairy. Alex convinced me that we could, and we came up with a great recipe that satiated my craving and caused zero sickness! In fact, it's super healthy.

There are millions of recipes for broccoli soup, and we probably read a good number of them yesterday. I once heard that Gordon Ramsay makes his by simply pureeing broccoli with the water in which he cooked it, and then seasoning and serving it just like that. But we wanted to acheive the creaminess of my favorite grocery store version, so we decided to add some potatos for a thicker consistency. From there, we brought in leeks and carrots for a more complex flavor, and mustard seeds and lemon to lighten it up with a touch of tang. We added a dollop of fat-free sour cream for garnish, but you could also likely stir some into the soup just before serving.

1 1/2 lb. broccoli, cut into florets
1 carrot, sliced
2 leeks, sliced
4 small potatos, cut into chunks
1 cup onion
5 cups chicken broth (or 4 cups broth and 1 cup water)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp mustard seed
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add onions, potatos, leeks, carrots and mustard seed, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the broccoli and the broth, and simmer for about 20 minutes. By this time, the vegetables should be cooked. Working in batches if necessary, blend the mixture (in a blender) until smooth. Add the lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with sour cream or parmesean cheese if you like, and serve.


Cranberry Walnut Bread

Bread scares us, it relies too heavily on conditions beyond our control. Is the room too hot? Too cold? Is the yeast still active? And even if the dough seems stringy and flexible and it's risen considerably -- is there any way to really know whether the lump of wet flour will become into a fluffy and beautiful loaf?

We suffered a fright yesterday. Our recipe said that the dough would rise in two to three hours, but it didn't. With no clue what to do, we guessed, kneading it down and then letting continue to rise for another four hours after that, until it had sufficiently doubled in size. Miraculously, it turned out. This always happens to us; disaster looms until the last minute and then somehow it all works. How? To quote a favorite movie: I don't know, it's a mystery.

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts

Pulse flour and yeast together in the food processor for 5 seconds. Add water and pulse again until the dough forms a shaggy, sticky ball. Remove from the food processor, and add the nuts and cranberries. Place the dough ball in a bowl and cover lightly with plastic wrap or a towel. Let sit for 2-3 hours, until the ball has doubled in size. If yours doesn't seem to be rising well, consider punching down or kneading it (requires more flour) and letting it continue to rise -- don't rush it into the oven. 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450. Bake for 20 minutes, turn the oven to 350 and bake for an additional 25 minutes, till the crust has lightly browned. Remove, cool, slice, serve.


Stir Me Nots

Sometimes, our food-idea fairy godmother is extremely generous, hanging out in our kitchen and liberally dropping bits of inspiration wherever she turns. Other times, she ditches. Yesterday, we spent hours searching through our favorite blogs and cookbooks looking for her/something yummy for dessert. We couldn't find either, and it looked like we were going to have to call off the plan. And then, in a poof of powdered sugar, she reappeared -- this time, dressed like it was 1995. She whispered the magic words: 7 layer bars. Slightly confused, we asked if she meant stir me nots. Yes, she replied, whatever you like to call them.

True fact: Everyone makes these. True fact #2: They deserve it; they're the best and easiest bars we've ever known.

1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350. In a 9x13 inch pan, add the ingredients 1 by 1 (in the order listed above), trying to distribute evenly. Don't stir. Bake for about 35-40 minutes. Let cool before cutting into bars.


Until college, I couldn't cook. My high school friends still tease me, and my parents remain unconvinced that I do anything more than write for this blog. I'm sometimes surprised myself, especially when we make something that I always presumed just grows on store shelves. Take gnocchi, for example. I found the recipe while trolling through blogs this morning, and my immediate response was: No way! People make these? Apparently. And Alex informs me that they make other store-grown products like pasta and butter as well. Who knew?

But then I thought: Well, if I'm unfamiliar with homemade gnocchi, they must be difficult to make. Scanning the recipe for confirmation, I realized that I had made yet another incorrect assumption -- it seemed completely reasonable, and we decided to try. For my grand-finale surprise, it worked!

I'll just put it out there: gnocchi are really cute. Like baby potato clouds or pasta fluffs. I love the way they pop to the surface of the water when fully cooked, and how they taste delicious with virtually anything. We topped ours with with a homemade pasta sauce and some freshly shaved parmesan.

Here's the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who never ceases to come up with amazing recipes for us to replicate with moderate success.


Tofu Chocolate Mousse

Tofu and Chocolate. It's no dream combination, and we fully disclose that you should not try this unless you actually like the taste of tofu. But for the super health-conscious and those who just want chocolate with everything, this actually wasn't so bad.

In the interest of experimentation, we went with a random recipe from the internet for "healthy" tofu chocolate mousse. Sadly, we were led astray. Following the directions, we ended up with a mousse that tasted like chocolate-flavored tofu. It was gross. We fixed it by adding more sugar and chocolate, and we posted the recipe with our own ratios below. We decided to layer ours with the graham cracker crumbs leftover from our homemade marshmallows, and it resulted in a delightful texture contrast and crunch.

The final verdict? Probably wouldn't do this again, but definitely glad we tried it.

1 package (15 oz.) soft tofu
5 oz. dark chocolate (about 1 1/2 bars), chopped
2/3 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tsp vanilla
graham cracker crumbs and whipped cream (optional)

Drain the tofu, and food process it until smooth. Boil the water, and pour it over the cocoa powder and chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth. Mix in the vanilla and sugar. Add the chocolate mixture to the tofu and process again until the entire mixture is chocolate-colored. Serve with graham bits and whipped cream.

Dear Two Fat Als: Latke Question!

Dear Two Fat Als,
I would first like to say that your blog is officially my newest guilty pleasure. It is absolutely wonderful. The writing is superb and the pictures are perfect. And the food, whoa the food, tops it all off! I seriously am in love with TwoFatAls. Ok enough of my creepiness. So I am headed to DC this weekend to go the a holiday party that my sister and her roommates are throwing. I plan to debut my new cooking desire at this party by recreating some of your delicious recipes. So far I am planning on making peppermint bark (which I already made this past weekend and it was yummy), the fig/blue cheese cracker deals, and the crispy baked latkes. Any other suggestions that you think would be good holiday fare? I have one slight problem though. My sisters place has no food processor and no grater. She said she will try to get a grater. Is it ok to grate the potatoes and onions here on Friday before I head to DC for the party Saturday evening? Do the onions need to be grated (into a mush) or sliced thinly? Let me know if you get a chance!
Obsessed with TFA (aka Maki)

Dear Obsessed,
You flatter. We are obsessed with you too. Unfortunately, we don't recommend preparing the potatoes or onions in advance -- the potatoes will oxidize and turn gray, and the onions will be smelly and kind of gross. Graters are pretty cheap though, and you shouldn't have trouble finding one. Also, you are probably better off dicing the onions with a knife than grating them to avoid the mush factor. As for the figs, you can definitely mash them up with a potato masher or even a fork -- no food processor necessary. And finally, you might consider whipping up some homemade drinking chocolate. It's so yummy and will go great with your peppermint bark. Good luck!
Two Fat Als

Shrimp Potstickers

Nothing exacerbates the urge to cook and nest like exam season. After hiding in library carrels all day, sustained primarily by coffee and diet coke, we rush home with the overwhelming desire to create obscene amounts of comfort food.

Yesterday, we did shrimp potstickers for the semester finale of our ex-DP editors' Gourmet Club. We bought the wrappers in Chinatown, which kind of constitutes cheating, but, again, it's exam season -- slack, please. They turned out so beautifully, and tasted just like the ones we love from Chinese restaurants/Trader Joe's.

For a dipping sauce, combine soy sauce and rice wine vinegar together with a pinch of sugar to taste.

1 pound shrimp, no shells or tails, chopped finely
1/4 head napa cabbage, shredded
4 carrots, shredded
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
4 one-inch cubes ginger, shredded
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup sesame oil
50 wonton wrappers

Combine everything but the wrappers in a large bowl, mix thoroughly through with your hands. If you want, fry up a bit to make sure that you like the seasoning, then adjust. Scoop a tsp-sized ball of filling into the middle of a wrapper. Fold over and press wrapper together. Then, fold the edge of the wrapper back over itself and press down again. Repeat for all of the wrappers. Steam the dumplings for about 10 minutes, cool and serve.


Crispy Baked Latkes with Cranberry Applesauce

We are equal-opportunity holiday cooks. We don't discriminate against holidays based on religious affiliation, season, Hallmark-saturation, or any other means of bias. Has food, will celebrate.

Given this policy and the fact that we've been celebrating Hanukkah anyway by opening presents (thanks Mommy, thanks Hanukkah Dog), we thought it would be shameful if we didn't make a solid effort at frying up some shredded potato.

Neither of us had cooked latkes without parentnal guidance before, so we spent some time reviewing recipes and conceptualizing the perfect potato pancake. If you are an experienced latke eater, you know that when cooked poorly, latkes taste both burnt and raw, flavorless and oily. When cooked well, however, they taste both fluffy and crisp, savory and light. Among foods, there are few things worse than a bad latke, and few things better than a great one. We decided that our safest and healthiest bet would be searing the latkes quickly in a bit of oil to give them a strong latke flavor, but then baking them to crispy perfection in the oven. We knew that this would mean making our latkes thin, and working quickly. Also, we knew that since the latkes wouldn't have much time to cook in the oil, we needed a recipe that ensured our pancakes would hold together well. We chose this one with matzo meal from Smitten Kitchen, and I've reposted our baked, modified version below.

For toppings, we decided go festive with a barely modified cranberry applesauce from Epicurious that was unbelievably easy to make (30 minutes, tops), and absolutely delicious. Sour cream is a must, and though we chose scallions mainly for color contrast, they added a great flavor as well.

Latke Ingredients (makes about 50 laktes):

10 golden russet potatoes
5 onions
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 tbsp matzo meal
5 eggs
7 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp pepper
oil for frying (we used Smart Balance oil, which blends canola and olive oil)

Latke Instructions:
Line a large baking sheet with paper towels and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400. Peel the potatoes. In a food processor or with a grater, shred the potatoes and onions, and transfer them to a colander. Squeeze dry. Wait two minutes, and squeeze dry again. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, add flour, matzo meal, eggs, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour about 1-2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, and turn the heat on high. When the oil is hot, drop teaspoon-sized balls of latke mixture into the pan, and press to flatten with the back of a spoon. Cook latkes for about 1 minute on each side, until the outside is lightly browned, then transfer to the baking sheet. When you have enough latkes to fill a baking sheet, press a paper towel on the top side of the latkes as well to soak up extra oil, then remove the paper towels and assemble latkes on the sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes on each side, until crispy. Repeat (adding oil to the pan as necessary) until you've used up the mixture, we made about three batches.

Cranberry Applesauce Ingredients (makes about 6-7 cups):
7 large fuji apples (about 5 pounds), peeled, cored and chopped
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 cinnamon sticks
6-inch strip of lemon zest, finely chopped

Cranberry Apple Sauce Instructions:
Cook everything together in a large pot for about 25 minutes on moderate hat, until the apples are very soft. Remove the cinammon sticks and mash the mixture together with a potato-masher until it is as mushy as you want it. Serve warm or cool.


S'mores, reinvented

I slept-away at an all-girls camp for 10 summers, which makes me a certifiable expert in lanyard-tying, leg-shaving, canoe-tipping and s'more-making. Not much makes me happier than sticky marshmallow fingers and licking chocolately graham crumbs from my lips. But sadly, until tonight, my attempts to recreate the treat sans-campfire have consisted mainly of me roasting forked marshmallows over the stove while Alex rushes to remove all flammable objects from the vicinity. Tonight, I'm proud to announce that we've discovered a tastier, less hazardous alternative: the winterized s'more, aka the chocolate-covered, homemade marshmallow.

We found the recipe for homemade marshmallows on Slashfood, and decided that it would be an excellent challenge to attempt an elegant, holiday dessert-friendly version of the campfire classic. Marshmallows are often used in dessert fondues, so we figured that if the basic recipe worked, a bit of chocolate and graham cracker would only enhance. And it did -- lending the finished product that perfect trio of flavors. The mallows turn out a bit thicker than your average, store-bought versions, and we loved their softness and sweet hint of vanilla.

Now all you have to do is carry one outside and eat it with your eyes closed next to a pine tree.

.75-oz unflavored gelatin (3 envelopes of Knox gelatin)
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
7 oz. dark chocolate
2 cups graham crack crumbs

Line 9 x 9-inch pan with plastic wrap, give it a quick non-stick spray then set it aside. In large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water and allow it to soak for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Let it boil rapidly for 1 minute then pour the mixture over the soaked gelatin and mix the ingredients together with an electric mixer, set to high. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, add in the vanilla extract beat to incorporate. Scrape marshmallow into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Take another piece of sprayed plastic wrap and press lightly on top of the marshmallow. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until cool and set. In a shallow dish, combine equal parts cornstarch and confectioners' sugar. Remove marshmallow from pan and cut into equal pieces. Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners' sugar mixture.

Heat the chocolate in a saucepan until melted. Dunk marshmallows in the chocolate, sprinkle with graham cracker crumb. Refrigerate again until the chocolate sets.