Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Asparagus, Pepper and Peanut Buckwheat Soba

I love buckwheat soba. They have such a rich nutty taste. Buckwheat actually has nothing to do with wheat at all; buckwheat is actually a fruit. It is a dicot in polygonacea family, which includes rhubarb and sorrel (the Landscape Architect comes out!!!). I can find both fresh and dried buckwheat noodles which are very good but I am really tempted to make homemade noodles soon which I hear are even better tasting. Buckwheat noodles sometimes will contain whole wheat flour because the addition of the whole wheat flour creates a sturdier noodle. If you can't find buckwheat noodles whole wheat spaghetti noodles are a good alternative and they are much less expensive.

The sauce in this dish is very tasty and simple. I like the recipe as is but you can for sure add different vegetables and shrimp or tofu. I did not have a red bell pepper so I had to use a green one which makes the dish not quite as pretty but still good. I also intended to add shrimp but totally forgot which probably shows that they were not really needed.


Serves 2 (can easily be doubled)

For the sauce (quantities approximate):

  • 2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp sriracha or other hot chili sauce (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 bundles (approximately 6 ounces) soba noodles, prepared according to package directions, rinsed under cold water and drained

  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 lb fresh asparagus, woody parts of stems removed, tender part cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, dry-roasted and unsalted, roughly chopped

In a small bowl, combine sauce ingredients; adjust to taste with more agave or lime, and set aside (can be made days ahead of time, and stored in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid).

Place the soba in a mixing bowl.

In a wok or skillet, heat the oil. Stir-fry asparagus, scallions, and bell pepper until vegetables are crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes. Add the vegetables to the soba. Pour in the sauce, and stir well to combine. Transfer to individual serving bowls, and top with chopped peanuts. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Recipe courtesy The Perfect Pantry

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Favorite Chocolate Cake

It's In Fine Fettle's 1st Birthday this month! I posted my first recipe on February 24, 2009. I'm so glad I have kept this up and I really enjoy sharing recipes and keeping a record of what I have made. To celebrate I thought it would be appropriate to share my favorite chocolate cake recipe.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake is my favorite chocolate cake recipe. My sister was the first to make it a few years ago and I have been sold on it ever since. We got the recipe from watching an episode of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network one day. The recipe is actually from one of Ina's friend's aunt Beatty. I also love the buttercream recipe. It has a hit of espresso in it which tastes amazing but don't feel like you have to stick to that, you can use any frosting you wish. The photo above it of the cake I made last month for my dad's birthday. I used this cake and frosting recipe but I used homemade pastry creams (milk chocolate and berry) as the filling between the layers. It was awesome! My dad still tells me that he misses his cake. :) So feel free to play around with this cake but if you wanted a rich and very moist cake use Beatty's recipe. (Sorry about the caps...it is not letting me change it!)

Beatty's Chocolate Cake


  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting:

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Recipe courtesy of Barefoot Contessa of the Food Network.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One-pot Chicken and Brown Rice

This is a really simple and healthy dinner recipe. I really like it. The brown rice is fantastic and has so much flavor. And oh do I love one pot meals....so easy! This recipe calls for chicken thighs with the skin on. I keep the skin on for flavor but because the lid is put on to steam the rice, the skin does not stay crispy so I just remove it before eating. Because of this, you could for sure use skinless thighs or breasts. I like a little moist dark meat once and awhile however.


Serves 4.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots (I add more carrots), cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup brown rice


1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place, skin side down, in pot. Cook until golden brown on both sides, 10-12 minutes total. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot; add onion and celery. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 20 minutes.

2. Add carrots, bay leaf, and 1 3/4 cups water; stir in rice and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until rice is absorbs almost all the liquid, 40-45 minutes. Let stand, covered for 10 minutes before serving. You can also bake dish in the oven at 350 degrees for the same amount of time.

Recipe courtesy, Everyday Food January/February 2010 issue.

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