Tag Archives: Dessert

Chocolate + Tahini

6 Feb
Photo by: Jonelle Weaver

Photo by: Jonelle Weaver

I was among the first to make ganache from chocolate and tahini (instead of cream) and invented a recipe in 1999 for a Gourmet magazine cover story.  I created a chocolate petits fours for a kosher-style meal where the mixing of meat and dairy was not allowed.  This idea is now a hot new trend and lots of chefs are exploiting tahini (sesame seed paste) to the max.  Here’s my recipe from Gourmet for Chocolate-Tahini Cups.  They are radically simple to make and taste like a sophisticated Chunky bar.  A great idea for Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate-Tahini Cups
1/2 cup dried currants
1 cup boiling-hot water
8 ounces best quality semi-sweet chocolate (like Valrhona)
3-1/2 tablespoons tahini (Middle Eastern sesame seed paste)
vegetable cooking spray
18 – 1-inch candy papers/liners

Soak currants in hot water for 5 minutes.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Melt chocolate with 3 tablespoon tahini in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth, and stir in currants.  Lightly spray liners with cooking spray and spoon chocolate mixture into candy paper liners.  Cool 5 minutes. Decorate candies by dipping tip of a skewer or toothpick into remaining 1/2 tablespoon tahini and swirling over tops.  Chill until set.  Makes 18.  Will keep, covered and chilled, for 1 week. 

Radically Delicious Figs: Two Recipes

9 Jun

Photo Credit: Judd Pilosoff

Fresh Figs in Nightgowns
On one of the hottest days of the year, in my air-conditionless pantry, my Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread) had become the consistency of molten chocolate. As it is quite sweet, I mixed it with yogurt, and one by one dipped a whole basket of fleshy purple figs into the mixture. I placed them in the refrigerator, whereupon the coating firmed up to make a very seductive dessert. My husband named them. Almost all of the fresh figs grown in the U.S. come from California.

12 large ripe purple fresh figs
1 cup Nutella
1-1/2 cups plain yogurt


Wash figs and pat dry. Set aside. Put Nutella in a warm place so that it is easy to spoon. Or place the jar in a bowl of very hot water. Spoon yogurt into a clean bowl. Whisk in 1 cup Nutella until completely smooth.  One by one, dip each fig into the mixture, holding it by its stem.  Cover each fig completely or almost completely with a thin coating. Place on a large plate lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate until very cold. Serve with a few tablespoons of plain yogurt alongside. Present on fresh fig, grape or lemon leaves. Serve immediately with a fork and a knife.  Serves 4


Photo Credit: Quentin Bacon

Fresh Figs & Shaved Halvah with Warm Honey Syrup
Here’s an unorthodox but compelling combo of luscious fresh figs and thin slices of nutty halvah, a dense confection that resembles, at times, shards of cheese.  This dish offers a good opportunity to try an interesting variety of honey such as wild thyme, linden or leatherwood honey (from Australia.)

1/2 cup fragrant honey
12 ripe large black or green figs, or a combination
6-ounce chunk of pistachio, or other flavor, halvah
handful of fresh red currants, chopped pistachios, or slivered spearmint

Combine the honey and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Wash the figs and cut them in half, lengthwise. Arrange, cut side up, on 4 large plates. Cut the halvah into paper-thin slices. Drizzle the honey on the figs and scatter the halvah on and around the figs. Garnish with currants or nuts, or spearmint.  Serves 4

A Radically Delicious Recipe for Mother’s Day

13 May

This is an unusual cake: It’s eggless, dense, and “fudgy” in a macaroon-y way. However improbable, it is a cinch to make and tastes delicious with a quick strawberry-rhubarb compote, with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, or a dollop of creme fraiche showered with freshly grated orange or lime zest. It’s a large cake that serves 16 or more and a great cake to make in advance as it “ages” well. You might thoughtfully garnish it with a handful of edible flowers. I adapted the recipe from a New Zealand winery called Gillan Estate.  Since it’s Mother’s Day, you might want to serve a glass of Sauternes or a special dessert wine. My friend, wine expert Carol Berman, suggests you try Niepoort, a 10-year tawny port from Oporto, Portugal; Quady Essencia, an orange muscat from California, or Lustau, Capataz Sherry, Jerez, from Spain.  Carol adds, “they are all wonderfully balanced with apricot and berry aromas, hints of orange peel and nuttiness.”  The average retail of each is under $25.00.  Here’s to mothers everywhere and love all around.

Coconut “Macaroon” Cake

15-ounce can sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons grated zest and juice from 4 large lemons
4 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream of coconut, dried coconut, yogurt, and oil.  Add the lemon zest and 2/3 cup juice. Mix well. In another bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and baking powder until combined. Add a large pinch of salt.  Stir the flour mixture into the coconut batter, 1 cup at a time; the batter will be very thick. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake on the center rack for 1 hour and 20 minutes, until firm and dark brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Turn out onto a large plate; cool completely. Serves 16 or more

A Radically Delicious Recipe: Torta Caprese with Espresso, Served with Lemon Mascarpone

4 May

Photo: Terry Brennan

 

Sweet Friday

I often write for a wonderful magazine called Real Food.  It is not available on newsstands but instead can be found in some of the best upscale supermarkets across the county. In the summer 2012 issue, out now, I created a cover story based on our trip to the Amalfi coast last summer.  Included in the story are recipes for a white bean, mussel and red onion salad made with a dressing fashioned from sliced lemons, another salad of grilled romaine with Roma tomatoes, chicken breasts with black olives, lemon and fennel, and little potatoes with sun-dried tomatoes baked al cartoccio.  The final touch is a a famous cake from Capri called Torta Caprese (adapted from Arthur Schwartz’s wonderful book, Naples at Table.) My version has added espresso powder and a hint of almond extract added to the chocolate-ground almond batter. I gild the experience with an unorthodox helping of mascarpone (Italian cream cheese) whipped and flecked with bits of lemon zest. Limoncello, anyone?

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
12 ounces almonds
6 extra-large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon espresso powder
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
8 ounces mascarpone
1 large lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using 1 tablespoon butter, butter bottom and sides of a 10-inch removable bottom cake pan.  Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper. Melt the remaining butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring often. Process the almonds in two batches, each with 2 tablespoons sugar, until very fine and powdery. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in espresso powder. Set aside.

Beat yolks until light and thick, about 3 minutes. Add ½ cup sugar and beat 2 minutes longer. Add the melted chocolate and the almond extract to the yolks. Stir well. Stir in the ground almonds until thoroughly mixed. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt and ¼ cup remaining sugar until very stiff. Add beaten whites to the batter in 2 batches until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake on a rack placed in the bottom third of the oven for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until the cake is just firm. Cool and invert. Remove paper. Dust with 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar pushed through a sieve.  Serve with lemon mascarpone:  Beat mascarpone with 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar. Grate the lemon zest and add to mascarpone with 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice and a large pinch of salt. Serve with cake. Serves 10 to 12

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake, Your Way

23 Nov

Photo Credit: Terry Brennan

So here we are, one day before Thanksgiving, and I urge you to count your blessings and be mindful of the tangibles, and intangibles, in your life for which you are grateful. Someone recently told me they are grateful for this recipe (below)! But if your gratitude has more to do with the people you love and care for, then why not consider making it for them? This one-bowl, crustless cheesecake sets beautifully after a day in the fridge and actually improves with age. The topping can be done your way — I like to use a medley of pecans, white chocolate chips, and candied ginger, but you can use chopped-up Heath Bars, granola, crushed chocolate wafers, gingersnaps, tiny marshmallows, shredded coconut, dried cherries, or glacéed fruit. And whilst I make it in a 10-inch removable-bottom cake pan, it can also be made in a large square pan and cut into brownie-like pieces (as it’s done in the photo. It’s from an article I wrote for the fall issue of Real Food magazine.)

Wishing you all a happy and nourishing Thanksgiving Day.

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake
Having the cream cheese at room temperature is key to a smooth and creamy texture.

24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 extra-large eggs
15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
soft butter for greasing pan

Suggested toppings:
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
3 tablespoons candied ginger, finely minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, crème fraiche, and cornstarch until smooth. Add eggs, pumpkin puree, all but 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Heavily butter a 10-inch, removable bottom cake pan. Pour in batter. Bake 30 minutes. Top with pecans, white chocolate chips, and ginger (or toppings of your choice) or the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake 40 minutes longer until firm. Remove from oven and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.  Serves 12

Nice to sip with bourbon or brandy or Drambuie.  (It’s in the back of your liquor cabinet.) Enjoy!

Watermelon Seeds

11 Aug

So, what does Italy have that America doesn’t? Watermelon seeds! For years now, I’ve been in search of scarlet watermelon studded with the black seeds that informed my youth. They were the polka dots on white fabric, the visual cue of summer, the pop art work of nature. They have simply gone missing. Whereas seedless grapes were a welcome idea, seedless watermelon is not. Today’s watermelon looks toothless and dull, lacking a certain life force. In short, it is without whimsy and sense of purpose. A picnic table lacking black seeds on red-stained paper plates is almost un-American. Still-life masters of fruit bowls would look sickly without the majesty of these ebony seeds.

In Italy, on the other hand, watermelons have black seeds. It doesn’t hit you right away, but it accounts for a good measure of drama at fruit stands and makes the ending of a summer meal feel complete. I can’t imagine how unsatisfying it would have been to gaze upon slices of seedless watermelon on the tables of Ravello or Atrani, Naples, or Rome. Black seeds are the visual reward of the watermelon experience. Why would anyone want to take that away?  Black watermelon seeds are nature’s beauty marks, like the tiny adorable black dots that made us fall in love with kiwi; some things should be as they are.

In some parts of the world, watermelon seeds are “food.” They are eaten in China and made into soup in Nigeria. In other parts of the world, like in America, spitting out watermelon seeds is a sport. Like so many other questionable ideas, the proliferation of seedless watermelons is about convenience.  People here mostly eat watermelon cut-up in fruit salads.  In Italy, they still eat it out of hand.

That said, here is a recipe for delicious, refreshing, “Watermelon Ices with “Seeds.”   The seeds may be chocolate, but they make you smile, and remember.

Watermelon Ices with Chocolate “Seeds”  (adapted from Kids Cook 1-2-3)
The riper the watermelon, the more delicious this tastes.  Watermelon and chocolate taste great together.

4 heaping cups diced ripe watermelon
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Remove any white (or black!) seeds from watermelon. Put watermelon in a food processor and process until very smooth.  Add the sugar and a pinch of salt and continue to process until sugar is dissolved.   Transfer mixture to a metal pie pan and place in the freezer.  After 30 minutes, break up ice crystals with a fork so that they are of uniform size.  Continue to break up ice crystals every hour until the mixture is frozen, about 3 hours.  When ready to serve, chill the bowl and blade of food processor.  Put frozen slush into processor and process until very smooth.   Conversely, the mixture can be chilled and made in an ice cream maker. Spoon into chilled glasses or dessert dishes and top with chocolate chips.  Serves 4

Technicolor Ice Pops

15 Jul

I was reminded of how much I loved ice pops as a kid the other day when I saw the cover of the magazine “Where” New York.  On it was a plate of frosty-looking, colorful ice pops, beckoning me on a very hot day in the city.  The image also reminded me of an article I did for Bon Appetit years ago, secreted in a computer folder called Old Docs (documents).  The recipes were devised for the “new” Williams-Sonoma ice pop molds.  But when I was a kid, we made ice pops in 3-ounce Dixie cups.  But I do love the molded forms you can buy (some classic, some torpedo-like) and dare say you can add some booze and serve them to adults at a midsummer night’s dinner.

There are ten amazing flavors from which to choose and a startling array of hues to match.  Not quite the color palate of the rainbow, but close.  You will want to make a different version every week to last way into Indian summer.  If you add liquor of any kind, the ice pops will take longer to freeze.  Don’t add too much — but a hint of peach schnapps or rum or bourbon will add untold megabites of pleasure.

If you’re using ice pop molds, the rule of thumb is that in order to fill 8 molds, you will need 2 cups of mixture.  If using Dixie cups, put 2 ounces of any mixture into each cup; cover with foil; make a small slit in center of foil and insert wooden stick.  Another tip for either procedure is to freeze the mixture 30 to 60 minutes before inserting sticks.

Frosty Lemon-Mint
Color:  bright green

2 large lemons
2 tablespoons green crème de menthe
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1-1/2 cups water

Grate the rinds of lemons to get 1 tablespoon zest.  Squeeze lemons to get 6 tablespoons juice. Whisk all ingredients together until sugar dissolves.  Pour mixture into molds.  Freeze 3 to 4 hours. Makes 8 ice pops.

Summer Sunrise
Color:  two-tone orange and coral

2 cups orange-peach-mango juice
¼ cup corn syrup
3 tablespoons grenadine

Put juice and corn syrup in a bowl. Stir until dissolved. Pour half of the mixture into 8 ice pop molds.  Freeze 1 hour.  Insert sticks.  Freeze until mixture is frozen.  Add grenadine to remaining mixture and pour this into molds.  Freeze 3 hours longer.  Makes 8 pops.

Royal Blueberry
Color:  Purple-blue

1 pint fresh blueberries
8-ounces blueberry yogurt
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup water

Wash blueberries and put in food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process until very smooth. Pour mixture into ice molds.  Freeze 3 to 4 hours. Makes 8 ice pops.

Tropicali
Color:  light orange with green flecks

12 ounces mango nectar
1 cup cream of coconut
2 large limes

Place nectar and cream of coconut in bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  Grate rind of limes to get 1 tablespoon zest.  Squeeze to get 3 tablespoons juice.  Add zest and juice to mixture.

Stir.  Pour into ice pop molds. Freeze 4 hours.  Makes 8 ice pops.

Strawberry Blast
Color:  bright red

6 ounces strawberry daiquiri mix
12 ounces pineapple juice
3 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon rum extract

Place ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until smooth.  Pour mixture into ice pop molds.  Freeze 3 to 4 hours.

Lemon-Buttermilk (“tastes like cheesecake”)
Color: white (with yellow flecks)

2 large lemons
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1-2/3 cups buttermilk
pinch of salt

Grate rind of lemons to get 2 tablespoons zest.  Squeeze lemons to get 5 tablespoons juice.  Put zest and juice in a bowl.  Add sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve. Add buttermilk and stir until smooth. Pour mixture into ice pop molds. Freeze 4 hours. Makes 8 ice pops.

Watermelon Lemonade
Color: pale red

2 packed cups finely diced ripe watermelon
6-ounces frozen lemonade concentrate
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
pinch of salt

Place ingredients in bowl of food processor and process until very smooth. Pour mixture into ice pop molds. Freeze 3 to 4 hours.  Makes 8 ice pops.

Honeydew Kiwi
Color:  jade green with little black seeds

2 packed cups finely diced ripe honeydew
2 medium kiwi, peeled and diced
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons lime juice

Place ingredients in bowl of food processor and process until very smooth.  Pour mixture into ice pop molds.  Freeze 3 to 4 hours.  Makes 8 ice pops.

Fudgy Ice Pops
Color: chocolate-y brown

8 ounces vanilla yogurt
½ cup corn syrup
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ cup water

Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor and process until very smooth.  Pour mixture into ice pop molds. Freeze 4 hours.  Makes 8 ice pops.

Cranberry “Tea-sicle”
Color: clear dark ruby

2 Red Zinger tea bags
3 tablespoons sugar
6 ounces frozen cranberry concentrate
optional: 1-2 tablespoons red wine

Boil 1-1/2 cups water and put in bowl.  Add tea bags and let steep 5 minutes.  Remove tea bags.  Stir in sugar to dissolve.  Add cranberry concentrate and wine.  Stir.  Pour mixture into ice pop molds.  Freeze 4 hours.  Makes 8 ice pops.

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