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Archive for Valentine’s Day

RECIPE: Naked Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

Naked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

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Audra’s magnificent naked cake: chocolate and peanut butter. We’re about to eat the computer screen. Photo courtesy TheBakerChick.com.

 

Oh, how we love you Audra, The Baker Chick. Your emails with such beautiful photos of your recipes make the day better. Even if we don’t have time to make them, just looking at them is sheer satisfaction.

In time for Father’s Day, Audra created one of our favorite cakes*: a rich chocolate naked layer cake with peanut butter filling and a brush of frosting. Thank you, thank you!

A naked cake is related to a stack cake. Both are layer cakes, and are so newly trendy that the terms are used interchangeably. A stack cake has zero outside frosting; a naked cake can have a light swath of frosting on the outside with some naked cake showing through, like this one.

And now…to the kitchen!

RECIPE: NAKED CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER LAYER CAKE

Ingredients For 10-12 Servings
 
For The Cake

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder*
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 2¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 4½ tablespoons safflower or canola oil
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  •  
    For The Frosting

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  •  
    For The Ganache

  • 4.5 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: mini peanut butter cups, halved
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350F. Grease and flour two cake pans, lining with a circle of parchment paper. You can use 6-, 8- or 9- inch pans; of using 6-inch pans, make at least 3 layers.

    2. WHISK together in a large bowl the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in the water, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and eggs, continue to stir until batter is smooth.

    3. DIVIDE the batter among the pans and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

    4. MAKE the ganache: Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer on the stove top and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Allow to cool and thicken before using (you can pop it into the fridge or freezer).

    5. MAKE the frosting: Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Cream together the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar until well combined. Fold in the whipped cream until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.

    6. ASSEMBLE: Using a serrated knife, level each cake layer, slicing off the “dome” to make the layers even. Place the bottom later on a piece of parchment paper, on a cake turntable (you can use a pedestal cake stand, but invest in an inexpensive turntable). Spread a layer of ganache over the first layer of cake, sticking it into the fridge or freezer as needed between each frosting layer, to firm it up.

    7. CONTINUE with a layer of frosting, then another layer of cake, more ganache, more frosting etc. Add some frosting to the outside of the cake, smoothing with a spatula. Top with chopped peanut butter cups.

     
    _____________________
    *She adapted the base cake recipe from a Martha Stewart cake.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Dutched Cocoa Powder

    Top: Sweet and salty, chocolate and caramel: How can you resist? A recipe and photo from The Baker Chick. Bottom: Dutch process, or Dutched cocoa, is processed with alkali to neutralize cocoa’s natural acidity. It is milder in flavor and lighter in color than non-Dutched cocoa powder. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    Thanks to The Baker Chick for helping us celebrate National Chocolate Caramel Day, March 19th. We made her wickedly good Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies.

     
    RECIPE: SALTED CARAMEL PRETZEL BROWNIES

     
    Ingredients For 24 Brownies

    For The Pretzel Crust

  • 4 cups small pretzels, crushed into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
  •  
    For The Brownies

  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • 1 cup salted caramel sauce (purchased or homemade)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Fit a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment paper. Overlap two sheets, including two tabs that hang over the sides, so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan.

    2. ADD the crushed pretzels to the bottom of the pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Set aside while you make the brownie batter.

     
    3. WHISK together the cocoa powder and boiling water in a large bowl, whisking quickly until just combined. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Add the oil, melted butter, eggs, yolks and vanilla, whisking after each addition. Add the sugar, mix until well-combined. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the batter and then fold in, mixing until smooth and well incorporated while not over-mixing.

    4. POUR the caramel sauce over the batter in lines going vertically, then horizontally. Use the tip of a knife or skewer to swirl the batter back and forth.

    5. BAKE for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into squares.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Tricolor Jello Fingers For St. Pat’s, July 4th, Halloween, Christmas & More

    Green Jello Squares

    Jell-O Treats

    Tricolor Jello Mold

    Top: St. Patrick’s Day themed Jell-O from TheModernRoost.com used food color to create the darkest green layer. Center: The recipe for this Halloween Jell-O from SomethingNewForDinner.com. Bottom: Christmas Jell-O from Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    You’re never to old to enjoy a fancy Jell-O dish. Call it retro, call it Jell-O art; just call it to the table.

    Multi-layer jello finger food (no fork or spoon required), called finger Jell-O, ribbon Jell-O or Jell-O squares, is the type of food fun that the family can look forward to with each holiday. Simply match the colors to the occasion.

    You can make as many layers, and as many colors, as you like. The Pioneer Woman makes an even snazzier version. So does the Brown-Eyed Baker.

    You can slice this into what is known as “finger Jello,” because you can pick it up and eat it with your fingers. Extra gelatin is added to the Jell-O to create a firm texture.

    You can make it in any colors; for example:

  • Green and white for St. Patrick’s Day (one layer of Lime Jell-O, one layer of Melon Jell-O)
  • Red white and blue for Memorial Day and Independence Day
  • Blue and white for Chanukah
  • Orange and Peach or Black Cherry for Halloween
  • Black Cherry red and Raspberry red for Valentine’s Day
  • Team colors for the Super Bowl (use food color to tint as needed)
  •  
    Check out the different flavors and colors of Jell-O.
     
    You can make a diet version with sugar-free Jell-O, and swap the sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk that you sweeten with a non-caloric sweetener.

    RECIPE: JELL-O SQUARES

    In this recipe, adapted from Taste Of Home, the Jell-O is firmed into “finger Jell-O” or “Jell-O squares” with the addition of extra gelatin. Prep time is 30 minutes, plus 90 minutes chilling/firming time.

    Make the recipe on a day when you can let each mixture come to room temperature at its own pace, and firm up each layer in the fridge for more than 30 minutes. Don’t skimp on the cooling and firming times, or you won’t be pleased with the results.
     
    Ingredients For 32 Pieces

  • 1 box (6 ounces) Lime Jell-O
  • 1 box (6 ounces) Melon Fusion Jell-O
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • Boiling water, cold water
  • Preparation

    1. SPRAY a 9×13-inch baking pan (ideally Pyrex) with nonstick spray.

    2. MAKE the bottom layer: In a medium bowl, mix the green Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    3. MAKE the center layer: In a clean bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup boiling water. In a separate small bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin over ½ cup cold water. Let the gelatin stand for 4 minutes and then add ½ cup boiling water to dissolve it. Add to the condensed milk mixture and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature and pour over the bottom layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    5. MAKE the top layer. In a medium bowl, mix the red Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour over the middle layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    6. SLICE into individual pieces, plate and serve.

     

    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O

    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the dawn of commercial gelatin. It was very difficult to prepare, relying only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. But the concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an American inventor named Peter Cooper. Cooper patented a dessert product that was set with gelatin, but it didn’t take off.

    In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy, New York (Genesee County), experimented with gelatin and developed a fruit flavored dessert which his wife May named Jell-O. The first four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.

    Wait tried to market his product but lacked the capital and experience. In 1899 he sold his formula to a townsman and manufacturer of proprietary medicines, Orator Frank Woodward, for $450. The Jell-O itself was manufactured by Andrew Samuel Nico of Lyons, New York.

    Alas, sales were slow and one day, Wait sold Sam Nico the business for $35. In 1900, the Genesee Pure Food Company promoted Jell-O in a successful advertising campaign, and by 1902 sales were $250,000. In 1923 the owners created the Jell-O Company, Inc., which replaced the Genesee Pure Foods Company. The purpose was to protect the Jell-O trade name and to keep it from becoming a generic term.

    That same year, the Jell-O Company was sold to the Postum Cereal Company, the first subsidiary of a large merger that would eventually become General Foods Corporation. Lime Jell-O was introduced in 1930.

     

    Old Strawberry Jello Box

    Strawberry Jello Box

    Top: A box of strawberry Jell-O from the 1890s, courtesy eBaumsWorld.com. Bottom: Strawberry Jell-O today. Photo courtesy Kraft Foods.

     

    Today Jell-O is manufactured by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, which acquired both Kraft and General Foods in the 1980s and ultimately merged the two companies. There’s a Jell-O Gallery Museum in Le Roy, New York.

      

    Comments

    HOLIDAY RECIPE: Frozen Cherry Margarita

    February 22nd is National Margarita Day. It’s also the day George Washington was born (in 1732).

    Decades ago, it was established that George Washington never cut down his father’s beloved cherry tree.*

    But the tradition of cherry pie on his birthday existed for many years before scholars uncovered the reality. So this year’s contribution to our cherry recipe collection is a Cherry Margarita.

    While a cocktail made with puréed fresh cherries would be divine, we’re a few months away from cherry season. So let’s default to the next-best thing: frozen tart cherries.

    RECIPE: FROZEN CHERRY MARGARITA

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1/2 cup frozen pitted tart cherries
  • 1-1/2 ounces blanco tequila
  • 2 ounces cherry juice*
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce Cointreau or other orange liqueur
  • 2 cups ice
  • Optional: coarse salt for rim
  • Optional garnish: 1 stemmed maraschino cherry†, lime wheel, or both
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Our favorite is Knudsen’s, but any brand will do.

    †The absolute best maraschino cherries are the all-natural ones from Tillen Farms. They’re great for gifting, too.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE alt rim.

    2. COMBINE the tequila, cherry juice, lime juice and liqueur in a blender; then add the ice (the order is important so the ice doesn’t jam the blades).

    3. PURÉE until the drink is thick. If it’s too thick, add more ice to achieve the desired consistency.

    4. POUR into a glass, garnish and serve.

       

    Frozen Cherry Margarita

    Cherry-Margarita-createdbydiane-230s

    Top: A frozen Cherry Margarita from IngredientsInc.net. Bottom: A conventional-style Cherry Margarita from Made By Diane, who uses fresh cherries in season. Here’s the recipe for her Fresh Cherry Margarita.

     

    MORE

  • Margarita History
  • Different Types Of Orange Liqueurs
  •  
    __________________________
    *The legend of George Washington and the cherry tree was an invention of book agent Mason Locke Weems, in his 1800 biography, The Life of Washington (click to buy a copy). The cherry tree has been associated with Washington ever since. Washington’s Birthday was declared a federal holiday by Congress in 1880,* the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen.

    Initially the holiday was for government offices in the District of Columbia. It was expanded to include all federal offices in 1885. State government offices, including schools, followed suit, followed by banks and other businesses (in private businesses, the day off is not mandatory). The holiday was celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22, until 1971, when it was shifted to the third Monday in February and combined with the Lincoln’s Birthday celebration to allow federal employees a three-day weekend.

     

    Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

    Although it’s only a garnish, the cherry can
    turn a Manhattan cocktail into a
    Washington’s Birthday toast.

     

    NOT A TEQUILA PERSON? BELLY UP TO SOME BOURBON.

    Even though it’s America’s favorite cocktail, not everyone likes a tequila or the sweetness level of a Margarita.

    Instead, consider Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Presidential Manhattan, a twist on the classic Manhattan with a cherry for Washington’s birthday.

    Seeking something else? George Washington was a big fan of eggnog. He also brewed his own beer, including pumpkin ale.
     
    RECIPE: PRESIDENTIAL MANHATTAN

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1-1/2 parts Basil Hayden’s bourbon
  • 1/2 part sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 part dry vermouth
  • 1/2 part maple syrup
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Garnish: maraschino cherry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STIR together the bourbon, vermouth, maple syrup and bitters over ice in a rocks glass.

    2. GARNISH with a cherry and serve.
     
    MORE FUN RECIPES

  • Blue Cheese Salad With Dried Cherries
  • Cherry Home Fries
  • Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Cherry-Topped Brownies
  •   

    Comments

    HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

    Valentine Beet Soup

    Valentine soup. Photo courtesy Mowie Kay.

     

    HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY
    FROM THE NIBBLE

     
     
    If you’d like to celebrate with this Valentine soup, the recipe is at Mowielicious.com, a fine-food blog.

    The website has the most beautiful professional food photography, but no “About Us” information.

    So we did a quick search and found that the blogger is Mowie Kay, photographer and food stylist, which led us to find his professional website.

    Mowie, THE NIBBLE wishes you an especially delicious Valentine’s Day.

     

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Make Beet Yogurt For Your Valentine

    Beet Yogurt - Samin Nosrat

    pita-wedges-thepioneerwoman-ps

    Top: The secret ingredient is popped
    mustard seeds. Photo courtesy Samin
    Nosrat. Bottom: Serve either recipe with
    homemade pita wedges. Photo courtesy
    The Pioneer Woman
    .

     

    Our supermarkets are filled with cooked, packaged, ready-to-eat beets brought in for Valentine’s Day. While we love fresh-roasted beets, they’re the most time-consuming root vegetables to prepare.

    We got the message. We’re using the pre-cooked beets to make Valentine dips and spreads. If you want to roast your own, we salute you.

    This recipe, by California chef and author Samin Nosrat, is adapted from one published on BonAppetit.com (and further adapted by us). We received it from Good Eggs in San Francisco, an outstanding grocery delivery service.

    Good Eggs recommends it as an addition to a composed salad, a spread for a cheese board or a tangy addition to a sandwich. “Once you start stirring popped mustard seeds into your savory cooking, you’ll never stop,” they assure us.

    RECIPE #1: MASHED BEETS WITH MUSTARD SEEDS

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 pound red beets (you can use other colors for other occasions)
  • Salt
  • Cooking oil of choice
  • 1 teaspoon brown or yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 lemon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT a small pan over medium heat for a minute. Pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the mustard seeds. Swirl the pan until the mustard seeds begin to pop, cover the pan so the seeds don’t escape, and reduce the heat to low. After about 30 seconds, you’ll hear the popping slow down.

     

    2. REMOVE the pan from the heat and let the seeds cool, uncovered, for a minute or two. Cut the beets into large chunks and place them in the bowl of a food processor, along with the garlic. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. You can use a potato masher if you prefer it to a food processor: The mashed beets will be a much rougher texture (like hand-mashed potatoes) but still fine for all purposes.

    3. ADD the popped mustard seeds, yogurt, a big squeeze of lemon juice, and some salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.

     

    RECIPE #2: BEET YOGURT DIP, SPREAD OR TOPPING

    This is the yogurt to whip up for Valentine’s Day. You can make it with any color of beets, but save the orange and yellow for another occasion and use red beets. You can make the recipe a day in advance.

    Use beet yogurt as a dip, a spread, or as a topping—for baked potatoes, cottage cheese, grains, veggies, sandwiches, etc.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 pound beets (about 3 medium)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (your choice of 0%, 2% or full fat)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon*
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Crudités: cucumber slices, carrots, anything good for scooping
  •  

    Beet Yogurt Recipe

    A very romantic dish of yogurt. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

  • Whole wheat pita, cut into triangles and toasted (recipe below, or substitute pita chips)
  • ____________________
    *If you don’t like the licorice notes in tarragon, substitute basil or chervil.
     

    Preparation

    If you want to roast your own beats, follow the first three steps. Otherwise, skip to Step 4.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F.

    2. SCRUB and trim the beets, but leave the skins on. Place them in a small baking pan or casserole and fill it with 1/2″ hot water. Sprinkle with salt, cover with a piece of parchment paper, and then cover dish tightly with foil.

    3. ROAST the beets until tender, about 1 hour. Remove them from the baking pan and let them cool until they are comfortable to grasp. Then, using a paper towel, rub off the skins.
     
    4. GRATE the beets coarsely with a box grater, Microplane or the grating disc of a food processor. Blend with the yogurt, mint, tarragon, olive oil, and vinegar. Taste and season with salt and vinegar as desired.

    5. COVER and chill the yogurt for 3 hours or overnight for the flavors to meld.
     
    RECIPE: TOASTED PITA WEDGES

    Ingredients

  • Whole wheat pita
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (optional)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT each pita round into 6 wedges and place them on a baking sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt as desired.

    2. BAKE for 5 minutes or until crisp.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE’S DAY: Fruit & Yogurt Or Smoked Salmon For Breakfast

    fruit_kabobs_siggis-230

    Smoked Salmon, Dill & Yogurt

    Valentine Toast

    Top: Yogurt and “Valentine fruit” for breakfast. Center: Smoked salmon for more sophisticated palates. Photos and recipes courtesy Siggi’s Dairy, producer of artisan yogurt. Bottom: “Valentine toast.” Photo courtesy SmellOfRosemary.Blogspot.com.

     

    Following our recent article on chocolate pancakes for Valentine’s Day, one reader tweeted, “Got anything for health-conscious eaters that fits into the schedule of a busy working mom?”

    Beth, this one’s for you and the kids. You can easily make one or both recipes.

    RECIPE #1: FRUIT SKEWERS WITH VANILLA YOGURT DIP

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 container (5.3 ounces) vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Fresh fruit (kiwi, melon, pineapple, etc.) sliced 3/4-inch thick
  • Optional: grapes or raspberries for “spacers”
  •  
    Plus

  • 1-inch heart cookie cutter
  • Ice pop sticks or skewers
  • Valentine toast (see below)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the yogurt and honey in a bowl; mix well and set aside.

    2. CUT the fruit with a small heart-shaped cookie cutter. Assemble the skewers, using grapes and/or raspberries between the hearts as desired.
     

    RECIPE #2: SMOKED SALMON & DILLED YOGURT

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 container plain fat-free yogurt
  • 3 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt & fresh-ground pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: lemon zest or thin lemon quarter*
  •  
    Plus

  • Valentine toast (see photo)
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Cut a thin wheel of lemon, then cut the circle into quarters.
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT the smoked salmon into large but bite-size pieces.

    2. BLEND the yogurt and dill, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.

    3. SCOOP the yogurt into a bowl and top with the smoked salmon.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve.

     

    VALENTINE TOAST

    Make heart-shaped whole wheat toast with a heart-shaped cookie cutter of any size.

    Toast both the original slice of bread and the cut-out heart.

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Strawberry Brownie Skewers

    We love this idea from Sugar Bowl Bakery: strawberry skewers with marshmallows and brownie bites.

    They’re quick and easy to put together. Let the kids do it as their contribution to Valentine’s Day.

    WHAT YOU NEED

  • Brownies
  • Fresh strawberries (ideally a similar size/width to the marshmallows)
  • Marshmallows
  • Skewers
  • Optional: Smucker’s Magic Shell chocolate sauce (or other flavor*)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the stems and leaves from the strawberries; wash and pat dry. Slice off the tapered bottoms so there will be a flat edge against the brownie bites and marshmallows.

    2. CUT the brownies in a size that matches the marshmallows. Squares are O.K., but circles cut with a small cookie cutter are better.

    3. ASSEMBLE: Place strawberries on each end of the skewer, with a marshmallow and brownie bite in-between.

     

    strawberry-brownie-skewers-sugarbowlbakery-230

    Fun snack skewers for Valentine’ Day. Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Bakery.

     
    4. GARNISH as desired with Magic Shell chocolate sauce. You need a sauce that hardens, or things will get messy.
     
    ____________________________
    *Magic Shell is made in six flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Chocolate Fudge, Chocolate Mint Cookie, Chocolate Pretzel and Funfetti Vanilla Cake.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Savory Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Top: Savory chocolate gazpacho from Chef Mat Schuster. Bottom: Savory chocolate gazpacho with strawberries from GoodToKnow.co.uk. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Chef Mat Schuster of San Francisco’s Canela Bistro & Wine Bar offered us this Chocolate Gazpacho recipe, which we like for Valentine’s Day. It’s a savory chocolate counterpoint to all the sweet stuff.

    When most people think of savory chocolate dishes, Mexican mole comes to mind. You may have made a chili recipe with cocoa powder. It’s a popular ingredient in Mexican dishes.

    (And why not? Cacao cultivation was begun by the Olmecs, the first major civilization in Mexico, located in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco; and furthered by the Mayas of the Yucatán Peninsula. When the Aztecs learned about cacao from the Mayas, they made it a drink for noble or wealthy Aztecs and their warrior heroes).

    If you’ve ever had an all-chocolate dinner (chocolate used in every dish), you know that it can be included in every course, from cacao nibs in the salad to cacao chèvre for the cheese course. Here are more examples, with the recipes available at Saveur.com.

  • Asado de Bodas, pork in red chile sauce with Mexican chocolate
  • Charred Cauliflower and Shishito Peppers with Picada* Sauce
  • Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
  • Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs
  • Enchiladas in Chile Chocolate Sauce, with Mexican chocolate
  • Gascon-Style Beef Stew (Daube de Boeuf À la Gasconne), made with
    Armagnac, chocolate and Madiera wine
  • Triple Chocolate Beef & Bean Chili
  • Turkey in Mole Poblano
  • White Chocolate Baba Ghannouj
  •  
    RECIPE: SAVORY CHOCOLATE GAZPACHO

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (substitute red wine vinegar)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup seedless or low-seed cucumber (Armenian, English,
    Persian, etc.), diced
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup to 1 cup cold water
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Garnishes: shaved chocolate (70% cacao to 100% cacao)
  • and/or croutons†

    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients into a blender; blend until smooth.

    2. ADD enough water to make the consistency you prefer, but be sure not to dilute the flavor.

    3. TASTE, season with salt and pepper and chill the soup. Before serving, garnish as desired.
     
    WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT CHOCOLATE?

    Take a look at our Chocolate Glossary and other articles in THE NIBBLE’S Chocolate Section.

     
    _______________________
    *Picada is a Catalan-style pesto made with almonds, parsley and chocolate.

    †These can be American-style croutons—small squares—or French croutons/Italian crostini, slices of baguette or similar bread, grilled or toasted with olive oil, seasonings (herbs, spices, salt and pepper) and/or optional toppings (for this gazpacho recipe, try fresh goat cheese and chives). You can float it on top of the soup or serve it on the plate under the bowl.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Valentine Cheese Plate

    To celebrate Valentine’s Day, some cheese lovers make the traditional Coeur à la Crème—sweetened mascarpone cheese in a heart-shaped mold—for dessert.

    It’s very rich, a kind of “French cheesecake.”

    Others serve a cheese course with their favorite cheeses.

    Still others assemble a plate of delicious heart-shaped cheeses. If you’d like to do the same, head to the best cheese stores in town. They’re certain to offer a few limited edition, heart-shaped delights for the big day.

    You can find both domestic heart-shape cheeses like Amour from Coach Farm, a semisoft, bloomy-rinded goat cheese made in New York State; and imports like Godminster Cheddar from the U.K.

    Others you may find include:

  • Capriole, a fresh goat cheese heart with pink peppercorns, made in Indiana.
  • Coeur de Bray, a heart-shaped Neufchâtel cheese from the Normandy region of France.
  • Coeur du Berry, a goat cheese from Fromagerie Jacquin in France, available in a plain heart or with an ash coating.
  •  
    Plus these three bloomy-rinded goat cheeses from Oregon’s River Edge Chèvre:

  • Petit Bonheur, studded with pink peppercorns (the name means “petite happiness”).
  • Heart’s Desire, coated with Spanish paprika for smoky flavor and reddish color.
  • Old Flame, a silky cheese without additional accents.
  •  
    THE HISTORY OF HEART-SHAPED CHEESE

    Heart-shaped cheeses are not a recent invention for Valentine’s Day (the history of Valentine’s Day). They originated more than 500 years ago in the little town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, in the Haute Normandy region of France.

    Most of the maidens in town worked as milkmaids and cheese makers. When some fell in love with the occupying British soldiers during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), they started to produce heart shapes from the local soft cheese (Neufchâtel), to give as gifts to their sweethearts.

    Note that American Neufchatel is very different from its French namesake. In the U.S. it is a name given to a lower-fat type of cream cheese.

     
    THE VALENTINE CHEESE PLATE

    Decorate the plate with fresh raspberries and strawberries or a scattering of pomegranate arils.

       

    Valentine Cheese Plate

    Coeur de Bray Neufchatel Cheese

    Coach Farms Amour Cheese

    Top: This gorgeous cheese and charcuterie plate from Flora Artisanal Cheese in Charlottseville, Virginia has pink, purple and red color accents that are spot-on for Valentine’s Day. Center: An aged Coeur De Bray Neufchâtel Cheese from Cheeses Of Europe. Bottom: Amour, a soft goat’s milk cheese from Coach Farm, available at Dean & DeLuca.

     
    Or, take inspiration from the gorgeous cheese and charcuterie platter in the top photo, created by Flora Artisanal Cheese in Charlottesville, Virginia. There’s enough for a party, but you can scale it down to your needs.

    Flora has created the Valentine’s Day platter with:

  • Rose-colored salume
  • Pink ham, especially thin-sliced prosciutto or serrano
  • Red raspberries
  • Red grapes, plus green grapes for a bit of contrast
  • Purple olives with green gherkins
  • White cheeses
  • Marcona almonds
  • Fancy crackers
  •  

    Godminster Heart Shaped Cheddar

    Baby Beets

    Top: Godminster makes a heart-shaped
    British Cheddar for Valentine’s Day. Bottom:
    Pickled baby beets from Sainsbury.

     

    MORE IDEAS TO ACCENT YOUR VALENTINE CHEESE PLATE

    To decorate your cheese plate for Valentine’s Day, here are more pink, purple and red garnishes:

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Pickled baby beets (we like Aunt Nellie’s, or you can pickle your own with the recipe below)
  • Pink dragonfruit and lychees
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Purple figs
  • Purple grapes
  • Radicchio
  • Red cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Red radishes
  • Strawberries
  •  
    RECIPE: PICKLED BABY BEETS

    This recipe saves time by using jarred or canned baby beets.

    Ingredients

  • 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups water
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons sugar*
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spices or juniper berries
  • 20 baby beets, drained
  •  
    Variations

    For a spiced beets profile, substitute for the pickling spices:

  • ½ cup sliced fresh ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 4-6 pieces star anise
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  •  
    Another variation we like: rice wine vinegar, coriander and cardamom. Let your palate be your guide.
     
    __________________________________
    *You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.In either recipe, you can substitute agave, honey, maple syrup or noncaloric sweetener for the sugar.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients, except the beets, in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

    2. ADD the beets to an airtight container and cover with the pickling liquid, which should cover the beets.
    beets. It will easily peel off with your fingers. Cut the beets in half or leave whole if they are very small.

    3. REFRIGERATE for one day to two weeks.
     
    WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHEESE?

    Check out the different types of cheese in our picture-packed Cheese Glossary.

      

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