Tag Archives: food

Spring Review

13 Mar

springreviewIt’s time for a Spring Review since beginning my blog in 2010. I’ve written more than 300 entries and wanted to share the best with you. Because of instantaneous access to one another via the Internet, the “world’s table” is now on public view. It is my goal, then, as a journalist, chef, author, restaurant consultant and food trends junkie, to help set the table with decades of perspective. When Vladimir Nabokov got around to writing his memoir, he called it “Speak, Memory.”  When writing my blog, I issue a similar command to myself:  “Taste, Memory!” I seek ways to connect the reader emotionally to his or her own gastronomic wavelength.

Just as Anna Quindlen writes about her keen observations about life – tying together politics, family, and one’s inner experience, often with whimsy — I have written my voice into daily, and weekly, connections to food, dining, cooking, history, biography and memoir. Each entry is a deliberate serving of the past, present and future – whether connecting the uprising in Egypt to my respect for Naguib Mafouz and my fondness for Egyptian cooking (with a contemporary photo of a young man preparing an ancient dish of ful mudammas); or experiencing the soul of Philadelphia-chef Marc Vetri through his singular approach to food and cooking and told his story by deeming him a “culinary bodhisattva.” A posting about “white carrots” informs the misinformed (which at times can be most of us), with an observation backed up with a bit of history, some speculation, and a few recipes to make the point. Included is a mesmerizing photo of carrots.

I believe that a younger generation of “food passionistas” – a term I coined for the group of dedicated, enthusiastic, and obsessively curious types about the world of food, chefs, and cooking – are in need of less hype, and more information, in an accessible  way. Inspired by the daily experiences of life in my kitchen, life in other people’s kitchens, learning at the hands of some of the industry’s most influential tastemakers, the purpose of my blog is not to attract advertisers or lure masses of readers; rather, it is an intimate, highly personal, often funny view of the world of food. Every blog posting puts my readers in-the-know about something timely. As a bonus, there’s always a “goody bag” in which one finds original recipes, ways to use new ingredients, food and wine pairing ideas, tips for entertaining, news about the coolest chefs and hottest restaurants. Or something more personal – a taste experience (ever try bitter chocolate, Parmigiano-Reggiano and sweet red grapes?); a mind stimulant (what about making marmalade from carrots?), or a new technique (like my deconstructed “wined-and-brined turkey,” or making cream cheese via “drip irrigation”).

Cooking is not merely about measurement and temperature, and the culinary world is not merely about gastronomy or nutrition. Food has deep historic and emotional resonances, and profound historical connections — think about “feast” or “famine” or “bread riots.”

Food is familial and simultaneously social: We break bread together and then divide the world into pig-eaters or pig-shunners.

When one writes well about food, all these factors come into play, consciously or not. One should know that The Gleaners in Millet’s famous painting reach backward historically to biblical injunctions not to harvest to the corners of the field, but to leave food for the poor. One should know that without the discovery of the Americas, there would be no tomatoes in Naples, no paprika in Budapest, no chocolate in Zurich. One should know something about why certain foods connect to certain religious festivals – why, for example, we serve lamb at Easter and also at Passover, and why both “feasts” relate to activities around the table.

What my mother cooked for the her family is different from what my readers’ mothers did then or do today, but they all set standards for how we view not just what’s on our plate, but how we will relate to a larger world – one in which even the present seems to vaporize in an instant.

Please take a moment to enjoy the posts below, and I encourage you to search the archives for others that may be of interest to you.

Cooking in Silence

Chocolate Dirt: Is it Art or is it Dinner?

Insanely Delicious Fresh Figs

Oscar Gold: Red Carpet Recipes

1 Mar

Whether you are hosting an Oscar party tomorrow night or simply want to make yourself a festive feast, here are some recipes that I put together for Lenox that are sure to delight.

tumblr_mhv3ppzdQt1rsdtszo1_1280SMOKED SALMON HORS D’OEUVRES

Here, three simple ingredients become bite-size luxuries: smoked salmon rosettes and smoked salmon pinwheels. Festive and sophisticated, these are the perfect match, in flavor and color!

ROSETTES

- 1 hothouse cucumber
- 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon
- 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese

Wash cucumber but do not peel; slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds, about 24. Slice the smoked salmon into 24 strips that are 1-inch wide by 3-inches long. Roll each piece loosely. Curl back the edges and flatten slightly so that it begins to look like a rose. Spread about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese on each cucumber slice and place rosette on top. Arrange on a platter.

MAKES 24

PINWHEELS

- 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 4 kirby cucumbers, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Put 2 slices of smoked salmon slightly overlapping. Spread with a thin layer of cream cheese to cover completely. Roll up like a jelly roll (beginning with short edge) and place in a piece of plastic wrap. Twist the edges so that you have a small tight sausage shape. Chill well. Slice thinly and place a slice on a cucumber round.

MAKES 24

SEARED SCALLOPS ON SWEET PEA PUREEtumblr_mhv48ztfEe1rsdtszo1_1280

This is great any time of the year as frozen peas are always available. Trendy pea shoots can be found at this time of the year in many farmers markets. You can make the pea puree ahead of time and reheat while you’re cooking the scallops.

- 2 10-ounce packages of frozen petits pois
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 18 very large sea scallops
- 6 tablespoons dry vermouth
- Handful of pea shoots or microgreens

Put the peas in a saucepan with salted water to just cover. Boil 2 minutes. Drain well and save 3/4 cup cooking liquid in a blender. Process until very smooth and thick (adding more liquid if necessary.) Add salt and pepper and return to saucepan.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan. Season scallops with salt and pepper and sear over high heat for 2 minutes per side, until golden and cooked through. Reheat pea puree until hot; spoon a mound onto each of 6 warm plates. Arrange 3 scallops on puree.

Add the vermouth and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the pan. cook 30 seconds over high heat until syrupy. Pour over scallops and top with pea shoots.

SERVES 6

tumblr_mhv5pluiI81rsdtszo1_1280FILET OF BEEF WITH WASABI-GARLIC CREAM

Kiss your butcher and ask him (or her) to cut you a nice 3-pound filet of beef and tie it like a roast. You can buy wasabi paste in a tube in most supermarkets and Asian food stores.

Serve with black rice tossed with a bit of grated ginger and your favorite vegetable: I’ve chosen diced carrots sauteed in sweet butter with fresh thyme.

- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-pound filet of beef, tied
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 very large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 tablespoon prepared wasabi

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle the oil on a rimmed baking sheet and toll the beef in the oil. Combine the sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Rub into the top and sides of the filet (but not the bottom or it will burn.) Roast 25 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 125 degrees for rare. Meanwhile, bring the cream and garlic to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and cook stirring until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Push the softened garlic through a press; whisk back into the sauce. Add the wasabi, cook 1 minute, and remove from the heat. Add salt. Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Let rest 10 minutes. Gently reheat the sauce. Remove the strings from the beef and thickly slice.

Serve with the sauce.

SERVES 6

AWARD-WINNING CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKEtumblr_mhv7mjvQM21rsdtszo1_1280

This is the world’s simplest and moistest cake: just be sure to remove it from the oven while the center is still quite soft. Edible gold leaf is available in food stores specializing in Indian food products and in specialty baking shops.

- 10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 extra-large eggs
- 16 ounces best-quality semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, espresso powder, or fresh orange zest
- 2 pints fresh raspberries, washed and dried
- A few sheets of edible gold leaf, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. butter the sides of the pan with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt until tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Melt the chocolate with the remaining 10 tablespoons butter slowly over low heat in a medium saucepan; stir until smooth. Fold the chocolate mixture into te egg mixture with a flexible rubber spatula until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla (espresso or orange zest). Pour into the pan. Bake 18 minutes; the center will be quite soft. Let cool. Arrange the raspberries side by side on top of the cake. Top with gold leaf, if using.

SERVES 8

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 3)

30 Jan

wingsRosemary-Lemon Chicken Wings (From Little Meals, Little, Brown 1993)

Move over, Buffalo; here’s a Tuscan-style recipe for chicken wings bathed in olive oil, rosemary and garlic, resting on a bed of escarole. The marinade makes a quick dressing for the crunchy, bitter greens.

16 chicken wings (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup fruity olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons whole fresh rosemary leaves
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 head of escarole
8 thin lemon slices

Remove wing tips and discard. Cut chicken wings in half. In a bowl, mix oil, lemon juice, bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, salt, and Tabasco sauce for marinade. Add chicken wings and cover. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove wings from marinade. Pat dry. Put on baking tray and cook in oven for 25 minutes. Put under broiler for 5 minutes until golden brown.

Heat marinade just until it boils.

Line platter with escarole leaves. Pile chicken pieces in center. Drizzle platter with warm marinade and garnish with lemon slices.

A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas: Day 4

19 Dec

prime-rib-roast-beefHere’s a wonderful, upscale recipe that is lovely for Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. The editors at Gourmet magazine once said this simple roast was one of the best they had ever tasted. It is “cured” in the same way that fresh salmon is for gravlax, literally buried in a mixture of coarse salt, sugar, fresh dill and cracked black pepper.  It is radically simple to prepare and radically delicious served with a silky potato puree and roasted winter vegetables. Open a bottle of full-bodied red burgundy or syrah.  The next day: Serve the world’s best roast beef sandwiches topped with a horseradish sauce made from crème fraîche, white horseradish, and a splash of sherry.

1/4 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper
3-1/2-pound boneless rib roast, rolled and tied
1 cup finely chopped fresh dill

Stir together the salt, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl; rub all over the beef. Put the dill over the salt mixture. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Make a small hole in the bottom of the plastic so that any accumulated liquid can drain. Place in a small roasting pan and weigh down with a baking sheet topped with a few large heavy cans.  Refrigerate 24 hours, pouring off liquid from time to time. Unwrap the beef; let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrape the coating off the beef and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a roasting pan. Roast in the middle of the oven 1-1/4 hours, until an instant-read thermometer registers 130 degrees for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil; let rest 15 minutes. Carve as desired. Serves 8

Day 3: Countdown to a Radically Simple Christmas

18 Dec
ham

Photo: Kate Whitaker

One week to go before Christmas Eve, so it’s a good time to start planning your menu. Here is a favorite glazed ham that I make year after year. Served hot on Christmas Eve with mashed rutabagas and caramelized shallots, the morning after I sauté leftover bits with soft-scrambled eggs (delicious with toasted panettone and warm maple syrup). The next day I use the meaty bone to make fragrant lentil soup. Leftovers might also appear in a custardy quiche with sharp cheddar and cumin seed or as an honest ham sandwich, thinly sliced and piled high on rye bread. It’s mouthwatering any way you choose. (adapted from Christmas 1-2-3, Stewart,Tabori & Chang).

Glazed Christmas Ham
House-filling aromas will trigger mouthwatering anticipation. Its flavors — salty meat, sharp mustard, sweet crust — hits your palate like a harmonious chord. Simple cooking techniques keep it moist and succulent.

10-pound smoked ready-to-cook ham, shanks portion
1 cup coarse-grain mustard
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon garam masala

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place ham in a shallow roasting pan and add 1/4 inch water to pan. Cover ham with foil and bake 2-1/2 hours. Remove ham from the oven and pour off most of the fat. Raise oven temp to 450 degrees. Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, remove the skin and most of the fat. Score the remaining fat by cutting diagonal slashes in a diamond pattern. Spread the ham thickly with mustard. Stir together sugar, cinnamon, and garam masala and sprinkle the surface of the ham heavily with the mixture. Return to the oven until sugar melts and hardens, about 25 minutes. It will become a bit crackly. Serves 12

Ten Radically Simple Days of Christmas

16 Dec

photo 2(2)Recipe countdown:  For the next 10 days I will share a main course recipe from Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease. After all, it is the time of year where we all crave abundance without the burden. A nice holiday gift? A copy of the book from Amazon. For me, I’d love a fruitcake.

Salmon & Mint in Crispy Grape Leaves
This is an unusual fish dish for this time of the year but it’s one of my favorites. Serve it on a mound of couscous mixed with orzo — a new combo for me.  I invented it this morning!  Add a side dish of tiny roasted Brussels sprouts with a drizzle of walnut oil, sea salt and lemon zest.  What to drink?  Open a great bottle of pinot noir from Oregon or France, depending on your mood. This recipe is easily doubled, or tripled, and so is quite desirable for a holiday menu.

1/2 cup crème fraîche (I love the one from Vermont Creamery)
1 small garlic clove
4 thick salmon fillets, 7 ounces each, skin removed
2 medium bunches fresh mint
8 large grape leaves in brine, rinsed and dried
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix the crème fraîche with the garlic, pushed through a press. Add salt to taste. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Top each fillet with 6 mint leaves. Wrap each piece of fish tightly in 2 overlapping grape leaves, tucking in the ends as you go. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the packets and cook over high heat until crispy, 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the fish to a rimmed baking sheet and scatter with mint sprigs. Bake 8 minutes, until the fish is just firm. Serve with the crème fraîche and crispy mint. Drizzle with additional oil, if desired. Serves 4

The Gaza Kitchen

30 Apr

GK_2ndPrt__94234.1360079498.826.1280It was with an open mind and a touch of sadness that I read the riveting, and sometimes provocative, new cookbook, The Gaza Kitchen, written by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. El-Haddad at her book party launch last month in New York at the sublime restaurant ilili – whose Lebanese cuisine is a distant cousin to the flavors, aromas, and politics found in the Gazan kitchen. Ms. El-Haddad, who is a social activist, blogger and author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between, felt like an old friend. After all, there was a time, long ago, when it was possible for Jews to have Palestinian friendships in the Old City of Jerusalem and share meals, and the culinary history, which has existed between us for thousands of years. Now there is a wall, both literal and metaphoric, that shields us from the realities of everyday existence in Gaza, where home kitchens are prey to the exigencies of conflict and deprivation: sporadic electricity, unaffordable ingredients that were once kitchen staples, and the rationing of food and fuel.

While I know the food of Israel well, having served as the unofficial spokesperson for Israel’s food and wine industry for years, and also as one of a delegation of “Four Women Chefs for Peace” on a culinary mission to Israel in 1996, I was fascinated to learn about the cuisine of Gaza, a tiny strip of land (25 miles long and 2-1/2 to 5 miles wide) sandwiched between the desert and the sea. What immediately jumped out was the presence of fresh dill and dried dill seed, the use of fiery hot chilies, and a totally new ingredient to me “red tahina.”

Red tahina, made from roasted sesame seeds, is to Gaza what pesto is to Genoa. It is virtually impossible to get it anywhere and I have asked a friend from Israel to try to find some and bring it to me when she comes to New York at the end of the month. How to use it if you can’t find it? The authors suggest adding a bit of dark sesame oil to the more familiar blond tahina to approximate the taste in several of the book’s recipes.

The cuisine of Gaza is Palestinian (home to 2 million people) “with its own sense of regional diversity,” according to author and historian, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who wrote the forward to the book. In Gaza, she points out, stuffed grape leaves are uniquely flavored with allspice, cardamom, nutmeg and black pepper, and that chopped chilies, both red and green, and verdant fresh dill make Gazan falafel both personal and unusual.

Food there, no less than here, is a passionate subject. The cooks at home are always women while the cooks in restaurants and outdoor stalls are always men. But it is the zibdiya that unites them in the preparation of their lusty cuisine. According to the authors, “a zibdiya is the most precious kitchen item in every household in Gaza, rich or poor.” It is simply a heavy unglazed clay bowl accompanied by a lemonwood pestle used for mashing, crushing, pounding and grinding. Made from the rich red clay of Gaza, in larger forms they are also used as cooking vessels.

Their cuisine may lie at the intersection of history, geography and economy, but in The Gaza Kitchen, one is made acutely aware of how geo-political struggles find themselves revealed in a single dish. It’s hard not to swoon over the description of the “signature” dish of Gaza called sumagiyya, a sumac-enhanced meat stew cooked with green chard, chickpeas, dill, chilies, and red tahina, or not to be curious about fattit ajir, a spicy roasted watermelon salad tossed with tomatoes, torn bits of tasted Arab bread, and a lashing of hot chilies and yes, fresh dill. It is a repertoire of dishes that feel like a secret…but no longer.

Now only if there was a recipe for peace. One can always hope.

The Most Sensual Diet

28 Feb
Photo Credit: Elena Paravantes

Photo Credit: Elena Paravantes

The health benefits of the lusty Mediterranean diet have been touted for years but perhaps never as persuasively as in the recent New York Times article written by Gina Kolata. A regime of olive oil, fish, nuts, beans, vegetables, fruit, and wine (a glass a day), has been proven to reduce heart attacks and strokes among people at high risk for them in a statistically significant way in a study conducted by Dr. Ramon Estruch, a professor of medicine at the University of Barcelona. The magnitude of the findings was so illuminating that the study ended five years earlier than anticipated. The study affirmed that following a Mediterranean diet as described above had enormous benefits while, quite astonishingly, following a low-fat diet “was not shown in any rigorous way to be helpful.” In addition to eating fish, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, the 7,447 participants in the study were also advised to reduce their intake of dairy, processed meats, and commercially processed sweets.

The Mediterranean plan is not so much about weight loss as it is a formula for living longer. It is also so much easier and enjoyable to maintain than many other diet plans which eliminate large swaths of fresh food groups. It is “inclusive” rather than extreme and faddish. This cuisine naturally exists in areas whose coastlines hug the Mediterranean, including Spain, Greece, Cyprus, parts of Italy and France, and many Middle Eastern countries. And it would behoove us all to take a look at Nancy Harmon Jenkins seminal book called “The Mediterranean Diet,” written almost 20 years ago. It is as valid as ever and the most sensual way I know to take charge of your health every single day.

Interestingly, at the same time the results of this study are circling the globe, we are reading Michael Moss’s new book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Mr. Moss is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who implores us to fight back from the pernicious addictiveness of processed food created by big food companies. Moss demonstrates how food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the “bliss point” of sugary drinks or enhance the “mouthfeel” of fat by altering its chemical composition. Personally I find a pile of fat asparagus grilled on rosemary branches and doused with extra-virgin olive oil far more enticing than any bag of chips or doodles. And a sweet ripe pear with a handful of walnuts (also in the news this week) make a pretty alluring alternative to Ring Dings.

Mixed-up Menu Trends

23 Feb
JB

Photo Credit: Krishna Dayanidhi

Every month or so I look forward to receiving the “events publication” from the James Beard House in New York City. Part booklet, part magazine, not only is it a gastronomic “look-see” into the minds of chefs and what they’re thinking, but also a good indication of what may be cropping up on menus in your own zip code. Keeping in mind that cooking at the Beard House requires a certain amount of performance art and culinary high-wire acts, the offerings are complex and sometimes over-the-top. Yet, I’m fascinated by the ingredients I’ve never heard of (yes, I just admitted that), grateful for a new technique or idea, and sometimes baffled by some of the crazy-mixed up combinations.

Nonetheless, a read of the menus to be cooked by myriad chefs from all over the country provides an “instagram” sweep of America’s culinary landscape. There’s almost a dinner every day at the Beard House, with chefs telling their stories through the narrative of the menu, somewhere in the USA.

First, the ingredients: You’ll be seeing mutton, geoduck, banana leaves, lamb tongues, mantequilla enojada (I must look this up), beef heart, gizzards, lotus leaf, finger limes, lotus root, barberries, nettles, cara cara oranges, red verjus, headcheese, shimeji mushrooms, green strawberries, buttermilk, sugar cane, scrapple, lamb neck.

A few new ideas: There’s “lambcetta” (I imagine that’s a riff on pancetta but who knows), white barbecue sauce, cold fried chicken torchon, cider aspic, black sesame panna cotta with yuzu, sweet chestnut-filled ravioli with warm English custard, brisket bourguignon (with lamb belly confit and quinoa).

Some nice menu language: Foraged mushrooms of the moment, fresh-churned butter, Chocolate Study=Soft, Crunchy, and Nutty.

Most curious? Coffee malt crème and soda bread parfait with frozen parsnips.

I am struck by the lack of cheese in the dishes or their presence on the menus. Instead most menus were chock-full of mystery words and only a handful showed a kind of elegant restraint. It was refreshing to see the word “fumet.”

What does it all mean? Some of the wanton (not wonton!) creativity that began in the 1970s was expressed on menus in language that read like shopping lists, where every ingredient in a dish was revealed. The trend continues today. And while it is a way for chefs to differentiate themselves from others, the menus have a sense of gastronomic sameness — with little sense of place, identity or ethnicity. This is merely an observation and not a judgment for it is what we have come to expect of our chefs and their menus. “Wow me,” we say. And for the most part, this is what the chefs are doing. Frozen parsnips, anyone?

If you’re lucky enough to be in New York in March or April, or anytime really, you should try one of the Beard House dinners. You’ll be dropping into a wondrous food community and share a bit of the past… and the future.

Wines for Valentines

12 Feb

wineWhoever came up with that catchy phrase about ‘the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach’ was mostly right. Add wine into the mix and you’ve really got it made. This is especially true when sipping these spectacular wines that come from premiere producers with stellar pedigrees. This fabulous list, made exclusively for me for you, was created by Carol Berman, founder of Class in a Glass and Take Home Sommelier. I’ve known her for years and have always trusted her smart picks. Romance begins at the table. Where it ends, you decide.
SPARKLING
CA’DEL BOSCO, PRESTIGE BRUT, FRANCIACORTA, LOMBARDY, ITALY
Franciacorta wines are going to be the next big trend in the sparkling category. This amazing, elegant blend of Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay will make your heart beat faster! Average retail price $35.00

RAVENTOS I BLANC, BRUT ROSE ‘DE NIT’, CAVA, PENEDES, SPAIN
Romantically pink and quite gregarious! It seduces sip-by-sip. Average retail price $23.00

WHITE
CANTINA TERLAN, PINOT BIANCO RISERVA, VORBERG, ALTO ADIGE, ITALY, 2009
Voluptuous and insouciant. Average retail price $24.00

RED
J.L.CHAVE, CÔTES DU RHONE, MON COEUR, 2010, FRANCE
From one of the most masterful wine makers in the Rhone region, Chave’s seductive, gripping blend of Syrah and Grenache, Mon Coeur is appropriately named (my heart). Average retail price: $22.00

DESSERT
ALBA VINEYARD, RED RASPBERRY DESSERT WINE, MILFORD, NJ
Valentine red in color and enticingly sweet, tart and lively! Average retail price: $16.99 (375ml)

***

And here’s a Valentine from me: A recipe for Insanely Simple Chocolate Mousse. Adapted from my book, Cooking 1-2-3, it is virtually fool proof, and good for fools in love.

Insanely Simple Chocolate Mousse

10 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup brewed espresso, at room temperature
5 extra-large egg whites

Chop chocolate into small pieces. Put in a heavy saucepan with espresso. Over very low heat, melt chocolate, stirring constantly until smooth; cool slightly. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff. Slowly add the slightly warm chocolate mixture, beating on low for a moment, then folding gently with a flexible rubber spatula until thoroughly incorporated. The whites will deflate dramatically but the mixture will become smooth and creamy. Do not over-mix. Spoon mousse into four wine glasses. Refrigerate several hours before serving. Serves 4

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