When spring rolls around each year, I know it is my turn to invite the nine other women in my book club to my house for dinner and a literary discussion.
Southwestern-style dishes struck my fancy this time, so chilied almonds will begin the evening, followed by a robust tomato-vegetable soup seasoned with cumin, hot peppers and cilantro and garnished with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Homemade bread and a green salad tossed in a honey-lime vinaigrette will complete the main course. To end the night there will be orange and raisin brownies.
Orange and raisin brownies
Makes 16 squares
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2/3 cup raisins
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest (color portion of rind)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Arrange rack in center of oven. Spray 9-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and coat with flour. Shake out excess flour.
Heat orange juice in small saucepan over medium heat just to warm. Place raisins in small bowl and pour warm orange juice over them. Let raisins marinate 8 to 10 minutes.
Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water. Stir often until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat eggs in bowl on medium speed. Gradually add granulated sugar in thin stream and beat until mixture is pale yellow in color and thickened. Add vanilla and melted chocolate mixture. Then, on slow speed, mix in flour, baking powder and orange zest. Stir in raisins with any orange juice in bowl along with walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread top evenly with spatula.
Bake brownies at 350 degrees until top is firm and wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly coated but not wet, 30 minutes. Remove brownies from oven and cool to room temperature in pan. Cut brownies into 16 squares. Dust lightly with powdered sugar.