The Violet Bakery's Rye Chocolate Brownies.

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Hey there, I'm getting my cholesterol checked today, which you may find funny as a reader of this newsletter. I mean, here I am about to share a recipe for the brownies I made this weekend (they were pretty incredible) and then show you all of the rich meals that we ate all week, how can I even look my doctor in the eye? Well the truth is I'm actually pretty healthy most of the week: lately I've been running three miles at the gym three days a week and drinking a smoothie for lunch. And when I make something like brownies, I have one or two of them, and give the rest away. Which is all to say that my cholesterol will probably be higher than it should be, but not off the charts high... right? I'm supposed to fast this morning, but I already ate a piece of toast. Let's hope writing about last week's meals gets me through the rest of the day (the appointment's at 4:20)....

What I've Been Cooking:

1. The Violet Bakery's Rye Chocolate Brownies.

We had our friends Jim and Todd over on Friday, and so I started with dessert: pulling out my Violet Bakery Cookbook (which I haven't ever used, even though it's beautiful; they made the cake for the royal wedding!) and realizing that I had rye flour in my refrigerator from my last trip to Monsieur Marcel, so I could make the rye chocolate brownies without having to buy any more ingredients.

This recipe is slightly more involved than my usual brownie recipe. It starts the same way: melting chocolate (I used Valhrona, also from Monsieur Marcel) and butter in a double boiler.

The newer part for me was whipping eggs and sugar with the whisk attachment in the Kitchenaid until they were light and fluffy... usually I just add the eggs by hand, but this step made the brownies lighter. The final new thing was using rye flour instead of regular flour. I can't say that I really tasted rye in the finished brownies, but I do think it altered the texture: they were a little rougher, if that makes sense. Or I could just be talking out of my butt. The point is: these were excellent brownies and I'll put the recipe at the bottom of the newsletter so you can form your own opinion about them!

2. Big Pasta Shells with Sausage Ragu and Ricotta.

Sausage ragu is my own personal Bolognese. By that I mean, there are certain cooks who pride themselves on their ability to slowly coax flavor out of ground meat, milk, nutmeg, white wine, and tomatoes. There's a lot of subtlety in a Bolognese. Me? I'm not such a subtle person. I like the loudness of a sausage ragu: you can pump things up by really browning the sausage first (I take that step really far; until the sausage is almost crispy, it's so golden brown all over), browning the tomato paste, toasting the garlic, adding lots of chili flakes, and then cooking down with tomatoes until you have a pot of sauce that's feisty, the kind of sauce your parents warned you about.

I served this up with giant pasta shells, finished in the sauce, and then topped everything with fresh ricotta because I thought that would temper the intensity of everything and add a creaminess to the proceedings. Plus basil for freshness. I could eat this every night (but then I'd never be able to get my cholesterol checked...)

3. Eggs with Ricotta, Toasted Bread, and Basil.

This isn't a recipe I'd normally share with anyone, especially because it's kind of ugly, but it was really delicious and this is a newsletter, so who's going to see it except for us? The morning after sausage ragu night, I had some leftover ricotta. I got to thinking: wouldn't ricotta be good in eggs? I also had some leftover bread from the night before. So here's what I did: I tore the bread into pieces, melted some butter in a skillet, and added the bread to it with some salt and tossed all around, allowing the croutons to brown all over. Then I lowered the heat and added six beaten eggs. To that, I added big dollops of ricotta and some shredded basil.

Here things got tricky because I didn't want to break up the ricotta too much, so I just left it on the heat and lifted a flap of the eggs to let the wet stuff run down to the bottom of the pan. What I'm trying to say is that I didn't flip it or stir it around. I just finished it like this and served it the way you saw it at the top. I told you, it's not very pretty. But it was very good to eat. (Oh: I also added some Parmesan, in case you attempt this at home.)

4. A Big Pot O'Beans.

Whenever McCall's, my local butcher, sells smoked ham hocks, I buy one and stick it in the freezer for when I make beans. I suggest you do the same: if ever there were a marriage meant to happen, it's the marriage between a smoked ham hock and a big ol' pot of beans. On this particular night, I used Rancho Gordo's Ayocote Morado beans and cooked them along with onions, carrots, lots of garlic, and a red Fresno chile, not to mention the ham hock which I just plopped in straight from the freezer. The biggest trick to cooking beans is to salt them halfway through. I know that some people will tell you to wait for the very end, or the salt'll make the beans tough, but usually if you do that, you wind up with flavorless beans. So I say: add the salt halfway. You won't regret it.

Where I've Been Eating:

1. Brunch at Ostrich Farm.

My good pal Marcos and I met up on Sunday at Ostrich Farm in Echo Park, which has a delightful brunch: delightful because (1) you can make a reservation; (2) there's lots of sunlight; (3) they have these incredible ricotta pancakes.

We shared those and also shared a carafe of mimosas which, c'mon, you have to get, it's gay brunch.

My entree was a healthy-ish lentil dish with eggs (it needed salt) but those pancakes and Marcos's company made up for it.

2. The Wolves.

Eater LA was giving a lot of coverage to this new bar that opened up downtown called The Wolves and since Craig and I were going to the Disney Concert Hall last Thursday (more on that in a bit), we decided to do pre-dinner drinks and snacks here.

The room is really stunning; it has this old, glamorous, speakeasy vibe.

(Yes, that's me making a rare cameo in my newsletter.)

The drinks are all made with house-made concoctions; so the amaro's made in house, as are most of the liqueurs that they use in the drinks. My cocktail had carrot and passionfruit and was tasty and had a unique fresh-flavored-ness to it:

As for the food, it was mostly fine: we shared a charcuterie plate that weirdly had hummus and bean puree on it, instead of mustard (which would've made more sense with the meats).

The grilled cheese was very good and it was served with these adorable pickled baby vegetables on top.

3. Cape Seafood.

Craig and I have both separately fallen for this soy tuna bowl at Cape Seafood on Fairfax next to Coffee Commissary. It's a perfect light lunch (especially when you're getting your cholesterol checked in a few days). In case you've never been, Cape Seafood is owned by Chef Michael Cimarusti who's the chef of L.A.'s most celebrated restaurant, Providence, as well as Connie and Ted's. The fact that you can go there and grab lunch as well as shop for ingredients that Chef Cimarusti uses in his restaurants is pretty great (it's not just fish; they sell produce too).

Links and Things:

* The 19 Best Cookbook of Fall 2018, The New York Times
* 18 Cozy Fall Cakes To Bake This Weekend, Food52
* Loteria is closing at the Farmer’s Market at The Grove? (This was one of my favorite places to eat when I first moved to L.A.), Eater L.A.
* Is Amex’s Gold Card the New Sapphire Reserve? (Just applied for this card because I spend so much on food and you get 4X the points!), Eater
* Why Don’t You Own This Cooking Thermometer Already? (I use a dirty old probe thermometer that still works; my cheapo Thermapens, which aren’t Thermapens, all broke… or I just have to change the batteries. Sorry, I’m lazy.), Eater
* Thomasina Miers’ recipe for pear tart, The Guardian

So as the picture above suggests, Craig and I finally made it to the Disney Concert Hall to see Dudamel conduct Beethoven and two newer pieces last Thursday. I can't believe we've lived in L.A. for seven years and it took us this long to get there: it was an absolutely wonderful experience (we're going back a few more times; I used their "make your own season" feature on the LAPhil website to get a discount on a package). Here's a picture I snuck of Dudamel and the orchestra at the end of the concert:

Otherwise, I watched the Mr. Rogers documentary last night, Won't You Be My Neighbor? (now available on iTunes), and I was sobbing. What a kind, soulful man; and so refreshing to see a documentary about goodness in our present climate. Finished Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jessmyn Ward which was harrowing, but an important read. Now I'm reading Less by Andrew Sean Greer, which won the Pulitzer Prize this year and is an absolute tonic. I'm also halfway through Wesley Morris's article The Morality Wars, which is a relevant read if you're wondering where the line is between loving art for the art itself or loving it for what it represents.

OK, that's all for this week, folks!

Until next time....

Your friend,

The Violet Bakery's Rye Chocolate Brownies
from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak
Makes 12 Brownies

[Note from Adam: I used my scale to make this and it made it so much easier. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can get a cheap one on Amazon and it'll change your baking game forever!]

150g / (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing the pan
300g (10 1/2 ounces) dark chocolate (at least 60 to 70 percent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
50g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
200g (1 1/3 cups) whole grain rye flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
200g (1 cup) unrefined sugar (I just used regular white sugar)
200g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) light brown sugar
200g (7 ounces) eggs (4 medium)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (e.g., Maldon), for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 180C/355F. Butter (or spray) an 8 by 12-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper. (I sprayed the parchment paper too.)

In a heatproof bowl, melt together the butter and the chocolate over a pan of water that has been brought to a boil and then taken off the heat. Allow the mixture to rest, stirring occasionally as it melts.

In another bowl, whisk together the cocoa, rye flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the sugars, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Slowly add the melted chocolate, followed by the dry ingredients. Mix just enough to combine, then pour into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the top with an icing spatula or rubber spatula and sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of nice big flakes of sea salt.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the brownies are set but with a slight wobble. Lave to cool completely in the pan before cutting into 12 thick but smallsih squares. These are best eaten on the day of baking.