Category: tips

Valentines Day Chocolates!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I know you are still wondering what to do. We all spend a lot of time looking for something new and creative to do. We all want to “keep it fresh”. Well, I’ve been married for almost 20 years and let me tell you it gets hard. I am a devotee of the classics. Let’s do a romantic dinner. That’s not to say we can’t shake things up a little bit. If you or your significant other are certified chocoholics, like me, how about a meal that has chocolate in every single course?

There is so much to love about chocolate but what you need to know here is that it starts out as cacao, which is mouth wincing bitter. Don’t be scared, that gives you control. That bitter cacao nib is a chameleon. Once add sugar, fat and cream, with a little mixing, you can have the sweet Hershey Kiss from your childhood or a complex and award winning delicacy.

In a typical three-course meal, you’ll start with salad. Let’s make milk chocolate vinaigrette. The milk chocolate is an emulsifier that creates a welcome creaminess. Serve the vinaigrette it over greens that included purple radicchio. Radicchio is a little bitter so it cuts the sweetness. Spinach adds necessary balance. To round out the salad add Asian pear for a tart crunch and diced cranberries for their sweet chewy flavor.

The star of the main course is a fennel seed and cacao nib rubbed pork tenderloin. The secret really is the rub. The rub is a blend of cacao nibs, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cayenne with cocoa powder and brown sugar bounces all over your mouth. The recipe calls for grinding the nibs and seeds in a mortar and pestle. The result will be quite coarse. If you’d like a finer texture you can use a coffee grinder or food processor. Remember though, the finer the rub, the less pungent the flavor. Is the rub sweet or spicy? The rub will seal your juices in while cooking so you won’t need any other sauce than the glorious juices as they pour out when sliced.

In keeping with the play on sweet and spicy the pork is served with a charred cauliflower in a picada sauce. Picada is similar to a pesto. This recipe uses; bitter dark chocolate, Marcona almonds, garlic, parsley and a touch of sweet sherry. The cauliflower should be tender, almost creamy, inside and just charred on the outside. There are so many great textures in your mouth.

In moments of humility and mistakes often come our greatest success and sweetness. Dessert comes from one of those moments. I misread a recipe that called for teaspoons of flour and sugar as tablespoons and the result is more like a rich, incredible brownie than cake. It won’t look so pretty when you first turn it out, so decorate with abandon. You can try whatever fresh berries in season. For a more elegant presentation, sift some powdered sugar through a lace doily and add some fresh herbs. I always say if it smells good together it will taste good together so get creative; how about some tarragon or thyme? If you are short on time a dollop of fresh whipped cream will work too.

Here’s the truth, I did not take pictures the last time I made this and don’t want to use stock pictures from the internet. I promise to post pictures as soon as I can. Finally, it appears I can only do one recipe per post so I will send the recipes one after the other.

I wish you and your loved one a very meaningful Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate and stir until smooth. Whisk in vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. While whisking continuously, drizzle in oil until thickened and combined.
  2. Divide arugula/spinach among plates. Top with pear, cranberries and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
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Winter’s Colorful Citrus

Winter knows how to hook you. That first nip of cold air gets you excited and all the sweaters come out. When you are sick of rain the snow starts and when you think you can’t handle the grey skies anymore, Peonies show up and the citrus is ripe for the picking.

The Peonies I had to find in NYC while looking at colleges for my daughter. They were a welcome sight on a slushy, grey street in Chelsea. The citrus, in the form Cara Cara oranges greeted me when I came home to Los Angeles. They were bursting with juice and practically leapt off their trees when I went out to pick them.

Cara Cara oranges are wonderfully sweet and have specks of dark red hinting of a relationship to blood oranges. You can juice them and cook with them. This year they were too sweet not to use in everything! First, I peeled, sliced and served them on a beautiful platter on their own. Delicious! Then I tried a variation on lemon curd. It is literally sunshine is a jar. You can use any way you would lemon curd or, like me, just eat with a spoon.


Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Bring the orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan, over a medium high heat and reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in zest. Cool to room temperature.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cooled juice mixture. Once combined, pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken and it reaches a temperature of 180°. This should take 6 - 8 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl and stir in butter, until it is completely melted. Cool completely and place plastic right on surface of curd, to prevent skin forming. Place in refrigerator until well chilled.
  4. Store in airtight in refrigerator for 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator, before use, if frozen.
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Baked Kale and Rice

Baked Kale and Rice
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This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Baked Kale and Rice
Print Recipe
This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Cook the kale in a large pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Then immediately drop in ice water.
  2. Squeeze dry and chop. Make sure all moisture is removed before you bake.
  3. Using the same cooking water, for flavor, boil the rice for 10 minutes. Drain and spread out to let cool. I use a baking sheet lined with paper towels. When cool, transfer to large a bowl.
  4. Preheat over to 375° and butter a baking dish. Dust baking dish with 2 Tbs. of parmesan.
  5. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter in a small sauce pan and add almonds. stir until golden and add to rice bowl. Season with Salt and pepper lightly.
  6. Add remaining parmesan, ricotta, jarlsberg, nutmeg, lemon zest, thyme an sage to rice. Add chopped kale and toss well. I use my hands to get every thing mixed in well.
  7. Transfer to baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes until browned.
  8. Serve immediately.
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Try Something New! Marinara Sauce

I have so much I want to cover this week so I am going to get right into it. It is the end of the month and I want to give you something new to try. I also had a question that came up during the week about asparagus soup and finally I have a tip to share.

When I first wrote about trying something new, I said that recipes don’t have to be difficult to have the wow factor; making your own marinara sauce falls into this category. I know quite a few women, who make their own sauce on a regular basis. A mother or grandmother or even an auntie taught most of them. Even Clemenza taught Michael Corleone how to make sauce.

The recipe that follows has a lot of wow factor for small effort and if you put in a little more effort you can really amp it up. The recipe calls for a 28-ounce can of plum tomatoes. Use the San Marzano’s. They have a sweeter and richer taste. Further down the recipe calls for a chopped, sweet red bell pepper. Try using a roasted red bell pepper. It will give your sauce a richer depth of flavor. I promise to post several easy methods for roasting peppers; for now just use a raw bell pepper or store bought roasted.

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I was at dinner with some friends and was asked about why one’s asparagus soup had turned brown. The flavor was good but the brown color left it less appealing to the eye. Why did that happen? I immediately went to lemon. Had she added lemon to the recipe? This will sometimes stop the browning process. She had. Had she used an aluminum pot? Acid will interact with aluminum and cause discoloration. Nope, the pot was ceramic. I turned to my foodie gurus from my writing class. What we came up with was to try blanching the asparagus before you use it in the soup. This process uses boiling water to submerge the asparagus just long enough to see that bright green color appear, then submerging the asparagus in ice water to stop the cooking process. The other idea was to add the acid, in this case a lemon rind, just at the last moment so as not to cook it too long at high heat; another process that can cause discoloration.

Finally, today at the Farmer’s market I bought beautiful berries. I want to share a tip that I use often. Rinse your berries in a solution of one part white vinegar and two parts cold water. Let them swirl in the water for a couple of minutes. Rinse them thoroughly in cold water and lay them out in a single layer on paper towels to dry. Store them layered with paper towels in a covered container in the refrigerator. They will last at least a full week. I have to be honest I don’t remember where I heard this tip but it works like a charm.

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I hope you will make the marinara and try something new. Let me know how your marinara tastes. Use the hash tag #trysomethingnew. Send me your tips, too!


Marinara Sauce

1 28 ounce cans whole plum tomatoes *

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

5 cloves garlic, sliced. Reserve 1 for mincing

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 large red bell pepper, chopped *

2 Tablespoons sundried tomato paste

4 large fresh basil leaves, whole

Put tomatoes in a medium bowl and crush with your hands or scissors. Rinse the can with ½ can of water and add to tomatoes.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil, sliced garlic and ½ teaspoon salt in a dutch oven, over medium heat. Heat until garlic starts to sizzle, slightly. Watch carefully, you do not want the garlic to burn.

Add bell pepper and cook until soft. This should take about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the crushed tomatoes and the liquid. Add the whole basil leaves and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer. Stir occasionally until the sauce is thickened, approximately 45 minutes. Be sure to check and stir, you don’t want the bottom to burn.

Once it is thickened, use an immersion blender to puree to desired consistency. I like mine a more coarse but you can have it smooth if that’s your preference.

You can serve immediately over pasta. Garnish with chopped fresh basil. You can also cool completely and put in jars. Store in refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for up to 3 months. This recipe will make about a 32 ounces of sauce.

*see notes in the body of the post.

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