Ingredient: balsamic vinegar

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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Have a Go To Appetizer

It’s getting to be that time of year. Soon the invitations will start filling your inbox and mailbox. It may be dinner or a cocktail party or even a fancy holiday party. Invariably you will be asked to bring something; either you’re given an assignment or you’ll be asked to come up with something on your own. I will tell you a secret. I get a little stressed out when this comes up. I always hope for dessert. It’s my thing. So to help ease my mind I make sure to have a nice bottle of wine or Champagne available, to bring. I also, have the ingredients to make a great appetizer; that travels well.

I keep cherry preserves, balsamic vinegar, Brie cheese and crackers. If all else fails you can take just cheese and crackers with some wine. However, here is a recipe that will dress it up and impress your host. Have a festive holiday season!

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Cherry Preserve Balsamic Reduction
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I serve this over Brie cheese with a whole grain cracker. It is a real crowd pleaser.
Cherry Preserve Balsamic Reduction
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I serve this over Brie cheese with a whole grain cracker. It is a real crowd pleaser.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, reduce balsamic vinegar by half.
  2. Stir in preserves and cook until melted and thick. Stir in salt and pepper.
  3. Spoon over Brie cheese and top with warm chopped pecans. Serve with crackers.
Recipe Notes

Extra preserves mixture can be cooled and stored in refrigerator up to two weeks.  Its great over lamb or pork, too.

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The Last Hold of Summer

 

Chicken Pallard with Rustic Corn, Tomato Salsa
Chicken Pallard with Rustic Corn, Tomato Salsa

I love to be the first one at my local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. There is a coolness to the morning air that lets you know Fall is on its way. Sometimes the farmers are still setting up and your chat will be more relaxed than when they are trying to make a quick sale and onto the next “neighbor”. This past weekend as I was strolling through my Farmer’s Market, I was in awe of the beautiful corn and tomatoes. Then the gorgeous fruit of the summer struck me too. Even though, I know some things have already peaked, it sure felt like everything was leaping off the table as if to say “pick me!”.

So I bought those beautiful tomatoes, some sweet fresh corn and the last of the summer blackberries. I also bought some avocados and peaches. As I am writing this I can smell all the freshness. YUM!!! The truth is we don’t spend a lot of time canning and preserving, since we have beautiful produce, year round. Nonetheless, I wanted to feature this beautiful bounty as a slow goodbye to summer.

I grilled chicken, which I had pounded thin (pallard) with just a little bit of lemon, lime, olive oil, salt & pepper. Then I made a rustic corn and tomato salsa to serve over it. The greatest part of the salsa was grabbing whatever I had in my kitchen to add to it. This type of cooking is perfect for using up herbs, vegetables and even leftovers.

I was so excited to share my bounty that I grabbed a shawl; a few friends and we sat outside, on a slightly cooler evening and enjoyed the flavors of the season. Don’t forget a glass of crisp white wine, too!

Rustic Salsa
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I call this a "dump" salsa. You can really use whatever you have leftover. The recipe calls for corn, tomatoes and avocado but I had some leftover peas so those got thrown in there too. This is great for extra herbs too.
Rustic Salsa
Print Recipe
I call this a "dump" salsa. You can really use whatever you have leftover. The recipe calls for corn, tomatoes and avocado but I had some leftover peas so those got thrown in there too. This is great for extra herbs too.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. The truth is mix it all together in a bowl and serve it over any kind of meat. As I said above I pounded chicken thin and gave it a squeeze of fresh lemon and lime juice with a little olive oil , some salt and pepper and grilled fro about 3 minutes on each side. You could easily do fish or steak too.
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