World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Month: October, 2005

San Francisco in Jello

Playing with your food just got more interesting!

National Chocolate Day – Morton’s

“Nine out of 10 people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.”  John Q. Tullius

Today is, National Chocolate Day. The candy wizards over at the National Confectioners Association, celebrates it every year on October 28.  And since the most recent SHF #13 is all about chocolate, well what’s one more recipe. 

Morton’s , the temple to steak houses, is well know for their Godiva Hot Chocolate Cake (photo).  The cake is served 31,000 times a month in its restaurants worldwide, proving that everyone does in fact love chocolate.  This cake has 1 1/2 ounces of hot, gooey chocolate hidden in its center.  It is also served with Haagan-Daaz vanilla ice cream and raspberries.  But I promised a recipe didn’t I?  This recipe was torn from a newspaper from some business trip taken long ago so I can’t source it properly. 

Morton’s of Chicago Godiva Hot Chocolate Cake
Source: Morton’s of Chicago, Phoenix, Arizona

Seek out Godiva chocolate liqueur in the small, 3-ounce bottle, it’ll be all you need.

Butter and granulated sugar to coat pan
8 ounces semisweet chocolate squares
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon Godiva chocolate liqueur
5 egg yolks
5 whole eggs
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour

Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and generously coat an 8-inch soufflé dish with butter, then dust with granulated sugar.

Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Stir in chocolate liqueur. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and whole eggs with an electric mixer set at low speed. Pour chocolate-butter mixture into bowl while beating.

In a medium bowl, sift the confectioner’s sugar and flour together. Gradually add this to the chocolate mixture. Mix at high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Pour cake mixture into soufflé dish. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until cake tests done with a wooden pick.

Serve hot with ice cream .

IMBB #20 – Souffles


Illustration: Philippe Weisbecker

Too many technical difficulties that made time evaporate.  I  can’t figure out tags, my JumpDrive is not being recognized or is it that my USB port is not reading my card reader and my flash drive? So photos, are forthcoming.

IMBB round #20, hosted by Kitchen Chick, is all about soufflés.  To begin with, the French word soufflé means ‘breath’ and can also mean ‘to be inspired’ as in avoir du soufflé. I would say that by the end of this IMBB challenge the effort did just that and more. What I always thought I couldn’t do I see that I can. 

Many more experienced cooks, magazines and cookbooks suggest that soufflés aren’t as tough to prepare as the less experienced seem to think they are. This is what I kept on saying as I worked quickly in the kitchen this morning.

Soufflés, from what I can understand are made from two basic elements, a base of flavored cream sauce or purée and beaten egg whites providing the elevation. Some of the tips I picked up in doing my research for this first-ever outing into souffles, include separating the eggs while cold, as it’s easier, but they will beat to a larger volume if they are allowed to come to room temperature.


When, the moment came to remove the soufflé it was golden, puffy and fluffy, however it feel rather quickly.  My understanding is that it takes 20 or 30 minutes. So I wonder if I did something wrong.  The inside was perfect, the outside was a bit chewy, a bit like a popover in taste.

NockerlnNo matter, I’m inspired.  Next a chocolate soufflé, eventually the Austrian version called Salzburger nockerln, (Salzburg Dumplings), a sweet soufflé or omelette that resembles three or more golden church domes in a baking dish.. The puffy baked eggs, are served simply with whipped cream  Ah, avoir du souffllé

Tagged with: <a href="; rel="tag">IMBB # 20</a> + <a href="; rel="tag">Souffle</a>

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The Un-Frugal Gourmet


"Shopping bores me, except when it comes to food. I feel about fruits and vegetables the way Carrie Bradshaw feels about shoes. An oyster mushroom the size of a tree stump? I must have it. Those exquisite French Breakfast radishes that taste so good with butter and salt? Two bunches, please. I can easily walk away from a farmers’ market with far more food than I can use—no simple feat, since I have a family of five to feed. So it’s really no surprise that I find myself, every few weeks, throwing away wilted, rotten things from the depths of my refrigerator. As I sheepishly march the shriveled parsnips and soupy bags of decomposed dill from the crisper to the trash can, I can hear a familiar voice chastising me—a voice that sounds remarkably like my mother’s."

Excerpt from October 2005 personal essay from Celia Barbour in Organic Style

Illustration: Organic Style

SHF #13 – Jacques Torres Mudslides


October’s SHF, #13, hosted by Kelli over at Love’s Cool, was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, well, as it relates to baking anyway!  What chocolate-themed sugar indulgence should I share with all of you?  Well, after tossing and turning in my sleep, I decided to bake a standby in my kitchen.  Now this is no standard standard this is a brownie and a cookie all wrapped up by one of my favorite food fantasy guys–Mr. Chocolate himself, Jacques Torres.  A while ago I read that since he only bakes them on Saturdays people line up an hour or two at his Brooklyn pastry shop before they are due to come out of the oven. 

Now bear in mind that this is a rich cookie–in taste and price.  There’s so much chocolate in these it will please the fussiest chocoholic out there.  I made these and shared them with my favorite office folks and now I have several orders. My time for them is I’ve sent them out to buy the ingredients as payment.  It’s simplicity and intensity all in one–and that’s heaven!

Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Mudslide Cookies

This recipe originally appeared in the New York Times.

Makes 20 cookies.

1 1/2 cups unsweetened chocolate, in chips or chunks

8 cups bittersweet chocolate, in chips or chunks

3/8 cup unsalted butter

2 cups sugar

5 eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup walnuts (optional).

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Melt the unsweetened chocolate and 4 cups of the bittersweet chocolate over a double-boiler (a simple double boiler can be set up by putting a metal bowl over a simmering pot), stirring periodically.

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy and add the eggs one at a time, blending until mixed.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture and mix just until combined.

Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined and stir in the nuts and remaining chocolate pieces. Pour the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet or tray. Put the mixture into a refrigerator for 5 to10 minutes until slightly, but not completely, hardened.

Reverse the sheet or tray onto another piece of parchment paper on a hard surface. Use a knife to divide the mixture into 20 squares. With your hands, roll each of the squares into a ball and evenly space them on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets (leave room for them to spread).

Bake the cookies for 15 to 25 minutes, until crusty on the outside (they should still be gooey on the inside). Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before eating.

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Small Farms – Ben & Jerry’s

Life is ironic and if you get really good at it you become cynical.  If you work in marketing while working on your life skills in this area you become jaded. Which brings me to the new Ben & Jerry’s ad campaign.  The $5MM campaign strategy is designed to revive its socially consciousness tradition beginning with its first TV ad campaign in a decade. The ads focus on issues, not ice cream.

The first of five tv spots is airing now. That I saw it at all in this dismal TV season is something. The TV spot is focused on saving small family farms. My heartstrings (cynics and marketing people believe it or not can also be manipulated if you hit their core personal values) were sufficiently pulled.  I may have even applauded at the close of the first viewing as I thought of all those in America who would now be enlighted to look for small, local farms and farmers markets.  In the ad, a diary farmer, who it turns out is one of the 520 farms in the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery that supplies milk to B&J, talks about his farm in Addison, Vt., where he and his wife and kids operate a 50-cow dairy.  It also reveals that the farm is losing business due to government subsidies to big factory farms.

Then I saw it again, and again and again.  Something started to bother me.  Oh right, I thought, B&J was bought by Unilever (in 2000), a  ginormous food conglomerate.

USA Today, had an interview with the current B&J’s CEO, Walt Freese, stated, "Our social mission is built into our business. We’re focused on making the best ice cream, a fair financial return and being a force for social and economic justice and the environment. That’s as important to us as profitability and product quality."

In an WSJ op-ed piece by Stephen Moore, who is a member  of their editorial board, he writes that their factor , "is a monument to the efficiencies of capitalism and technological progress: Several dozen giant computer-operated machines churn out hundreds of thousands of cartons a day." He continues: "I half expect the massive energy-gulping freezers to be solar-paneled or powered by green-friendly windmills, but no, they use lots and lots of conventional electricity. It turns out that if you want really good ice cream, you just have to tolerate a little more global warming," adding: "That’s a trade-off that I personally am willing to make."

And damn it while I believe in the message that is being sent, ultimately I’m being manipulated. But is this image manipulation? Should I be just OK with the fact that they are raising awareness of the very real problem of dwindling numbers of small family farms?  Is it enough for a socially conscious business who says it advocates for the environment not be investing in improving their ecological footprint? Is this greenwashing now that they are own my a huge corporation.  Does Unilever really care about small family farms?  Are they craftily manipulating all of us with this issue with the B&J brand?  Should I not worry that by building demand for their ice cream through this campaign they’ll be selling more ice cream at the expense of the environment?  Certainly Daddy has the bucks for them to become the model ice cream factory. How much is enough and when is enough not enough?   And this someone who cares about the small farm, the environment and works in marketing.   Well the message is out there either way.  It’s a fact that small farms are in trouble.  said the optimist.  Well, I think it’s all very ironic and conflicted, said the cynic.

View the "Small Farms"commercial  (bottom right hand corner)

Cooking Light-er


I’m not of the food blogger ilk to post on "what I ate last night."  No one’s that interested, right?  BUT I need to make an exception for dinner last night.  After a two hour walk along the waterfront in what can only be described as a picture postcard afternoon I "went the extra mile" in the health department and decided to make something special but healthy for dinner. 

Best of Cooking Light, published by the magazine earlier this year, contains 500 "all-star" recipes.  This recipe serves two which is perfect as although I cook for myself more than most, a lot of recipes serve 4, 6 or 8.  (When will magazines start reflecting their demographics?  half of the US population is single!).  I am one woman who will eat leftovers for one, maybe two meals. Also, having grown up in thrifty New England, I hate wasting food.  So this recipe looked tasty (it was) and was fairly simple and needed less than 30 minutes from start to finish. 

This recipe is a keeper.  It’s all in the sauce.  Scallops were a good source of protein but if you are watching your pennies you will enjoy the dish without it.  Although I’m still trying to reconcile a "healthy recipe" that contains heavy cream.

Bestofcl Pan-Seared Scallops on Linguine with Tomato-Cream Sauce
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tbsp. whipping cream
1 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup chopped seeded plum tomato
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 cups hot cooked linguine
Cooking spray
3/4 lb. large sea scallops
1/8 tsp. salt
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium skillet; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Drain mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, reserving liquid; discard solids.

Return wine mixture to skillet. Add cream, and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Add butter, stirring until butter melts. Stir in chopped tomato, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Add linguine, and toss well. Cover and keep warm.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle scallops with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Arrange scallops in pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Add scallops to pasta mixture; toss gently to combine. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.

Yield: 2 servings (about 3/4 cup pasta and 5 oz. scallops)

Note:  Cilantro was not included in my dish as it was not available at my local market, Real Foods.

Barbie Doll Cake Gallery


This cake seems to be a "standard" choice for little girls and their birthdays.  I’ve never seen them so that’s why I feel an overwhelming fascination with this impressive cake. 

Photo Gallery of Steps

Instructions:  How to make a Barbie Doll Cake

Via Sun-Sentinel

Other examples:

Martha Stewart’s Hoop-dee Do

Fratelli Bakery (Vancouver area)

Rich’s Barbie Doll Cake

Lively & Lemony

Up until a few months ago I had an unexplained fear of lemongrass. My anxiety  was, I will admit, ridiculous and once I realized that it was bordering on xenophobia I set out to overcome it, and fast.

Lemongrass An aromatic tropical grass-family herb  lemongrass, or citronella root, is highly valued in Southeast Asia particularly in Vietnam and Thailand. It’s refreshing, stimulating and contributes a subtle, delicate citrus tone to a dish. The thin but sturdy stalk looks like a super-sized green onion or a miniature leek. Originating in India it is cultivated today in China, Brazil, Guatemala, Africa and Haiti. Its scent, without stating the obvious, reflects its name.

Most of the stalk is woody and fibrous. It is best to use only the moister bottom third. To do this lemongrass is often steeped in a hot liquid to release the flavors or it can be minced and used in marinades. The first time I used lemongrass I was confused as to where the bulb actually began.  Here’s how I figured it out–as you look at the stalk you will see that the leaves begin to branch–this is where the bulb begins.  Confidence begins to swell.  Peel away the outer tough layer until you reach the tender core, it will be lavender or light purple in color. In dishes calling for minced lemongrass, you’ll chop up only the bottom four inches or so. The rest of the stalk can be used as skewers for grilled meats or split and cut into short pieces for infusing stocks or teas. Bruising the lemongrass with the side of a knife, will aid in releasing the fragrant, flavorful oils.

Most urban markets carry lemongrass in their specialty produce section. However, an often-suggested substitute is lemon zest with a bit of grated fresh ginger.  Fresh lemongrass should be firm and pale to light green. Avoid stalks that are dried out at the top or yellow as this suggests that the whole stalk is not ideal. Fresh lemongrass can be stored in a plastic bag and frozen.

Other fascinating facts include the use, in Africa, of the matured root ends as toothbrushes. The root keeps the teeth white and offers a refreshing clean feeling. In homeopathic and aromatherapy circles it’s said to stimulate thinking and concentration so a few drops of essential oil on a tissue and a deep breath should help you out when you need to do some tedious office work such as filing or talking to the office slacker.

This herb has inspired me—there are so many uses for it. Naturally it is ideal for Thai and Vietnamese dishes but it can elevate other fixings such as this simple vinaigrette all the way from the exotics of Maine.

Arrows Citrus and Lemongrass Vinaigrette

The Arrows Cookbook by Clark Frasier, and Mark Gaier

Makes about 2 cups

Excellent as a salad dressing but can be used as a marinade for scallops, shrimp, or chicken.

1 cup vegetable oil

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

1 stalk lemongrass, yellow part only, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon chile paste

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 limes

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon fish sauce

Kosher salt

Freshly grated black pepper

Warm 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium stainless steel saucepan over low heat.  Add the shallots, lemongrass, and chile paste and cook, stirring until the shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes, do not brown.

Add the citrus zest and juice, sugar and fish sauce and simmer over low heat until the liquid is reduced by roughly one-third, about 10 minutes. 

Whisk in the remaining ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Use at once or cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Pastrami – What is it anyway?


Years and years ago, when I lived in New York  my Saturday routine involved a purposeful late afternoon meal.  This meal  took care of lunch and dinner on a young and budget conscious eater while also fueling me for a very long evening of dancing and reveling. The meal of choice was a pastrami sandwich with mustard on rye usually at Second Ave Deli.  Lately I’ve been nostalgic for  this sandwich and the East Coast–fall does it, it’s the one time of year that it breaks my heart not to be there.  Baseball, football, apples, cheddar, foliage, crisp air…sigh–so my inclination for this sandwich has only grown stronger.

Since moving to the other coast I have lost all hope of finding that sandwich of days gone by.  But life has a way of presenting you with gifts. On Saturday I found myself at the SFFP market a bit later than I like to be.  I have a very low threshold for tourists and crowds. The last stop was Golden Gate Meat Company where I decided to feed my melancholy by ordering a pastrami and spicy mustard sandwich for $7.00.  The sandwich, served on a soft torpedo roll with just the right amount of pull and chew was the perfect balance of fattiness and spicy mustard.  Mekhaye!

But as I savored every bite I began to wonder, what, exactly is pastrami? To make pastrami, you start by making corned beef.  This cut is a beef brisket soaked in brine and a bit of sugar and spice. If you decide to smoke the corned beef, it becomes pastrami. And as we all know smoking elevates meat and adds flavor. Pastrami is traditionally made from the forequarter of the animal from a cut known as the deckle or plate, but is sometimes made from brisket. 

So what’s the corn got to do with the name ‘corned beef’ anyway? Well it is called "corned" because the grains of salt used in the brine in days of yore were referred to as corns. And the word pastrami is derived from the Romanian word pastra, "to preserve." Pastrami is thought to have originated in Eastern Europe and the Levant. Here the meat was preserved by a combination of salt rub and air drying.

It’s still not like home but that’s OK.  Food is as much about place as what you are eating.  This sandwich is damn near close!