Classic Brownies

{ Wednesday, February 24, 2010 }
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a hopeless chocolate addict. The cravings usually start after breakfast, and by the time mid-afternoon hits I need to have a bite of something, anything chocolate.

Last week, my parents stopped by to drop the last load of odds and ends I had forgotten to pack during my move from my childhood bedroom to my new New York apartment. In addition to my collection of Harry Potter books, framed photographs, and a hookah, my mom had also brought some baking essentials. She had flour, sugar, baking powder, and vanilla tucked away in a bag, but, more importantly, an entire Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Baking Bar. I knew if I didn’t bake with it soon, the chocolate would end up in my stomach. And this is how I ended up making brownies.

The Ghirardelli brownie recipe is of the one-bowl variety, making it both easy to prepare and easy to clean up after. There’s also no need for fancy equipment (aka an electric mixer – I still haven’t had a chance to buy one yet!), which means that however sparse your kitchen is, you can definitely whip out a batch of these babies. And I mean it. I don’t even own the 8x8 pan the recipe called for, so I used a loaf pan. Although I was nervous that I’d end up with a crumbly, over-baked mess, the narrower pan made for a thicker, very fudgey brownie, which I was more than happy to sink my teeth into.

Classic Brownies (serves 16)
Adapted from Ghirardelli

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (or
1 Ghirardelli bar)
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons flour
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8x8 pan (or a loaf pan, if need be). Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan, or in 30-second intervals in the microwave, stirring inbetween until smooth. Let cool until room temperature. Stir in sugar and vanilla, followed by eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing well.

Pour batter into pan, and bake 25 to 30 minutes. Avoid over-baking – no one likes a dry brownie!

Chana Masala

{ Thursday, February 18, 2010 }
Having just moved to New York City two weeks ago, I’ve had to tweak my spending habits. Gone are the days of vanilla lattes from Starbucks and impromptu purchases of Marie Clare and Glamour during my waits for the train. I’ve also had to kick my tendency of thinking, “oh, I’ll just grab something from that vending machine/street cart/cute bistro,” when hunger strikes. To try to save money in one of the most expensive cities, I’ve started making a more concerted effort to plan ahead when it comes to meals. My weekly grocery list focuses food that is easy to make, easy to eat at desk, and, more importantly, delicious.

Smitten Kitchen recently posted a Chana Masala recipe. The pictures alone made my mouth water. Although the initial investment in spices was steep (I might have inadvertently cringed as I slid my $20 over to the cashier at Spice Corner, it was well worth it. My formerly empty pantry is now beginning to fill with cooking essentials, and the spices gave an authentic heat to my first attempt cooking an Indian meal.

Chana Masala (serves 4-6)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 tablespoon oil (I used sesame)
2 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and diced
1 tablespoon coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon amchur powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 15 ounce can whole tomatoes, diced, juices reserved
2/3 cup water
2 15 ounce cans of chickpeas
salt, to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced
Rice or yogurt, for serving

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno pepper, cooking over medium heat until lightly browned. Reduce heat to medium low. Add spices, and cook for a minute, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes and juices, then water and chickpeas. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, uncovered. Stir in salt and lemon juice. Serve over rice or topped with plain yogurt.

My trusty wooden spoon, after meeting turmeric for the first time.