Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tangerine Dreams or My Darling Clementine

My husband can't resist a farm stand. That is if the farm stand is run by actual farmers or at least their relatives.

A few weeks ago he was in the central valley of California south of Chico when he just happened to pick up 50 (that's right fifty) pounds of satsuma tangerines. They came into my life and kitchen in two very heavy, battered brown paper grocery bags.

Now all four of us like satsuma tangerines. They are sweet with just the right hint of tartness and the kids appreciate their ease of peeling and lack of seeds. But 50 pounds!

The tangerines were a bargain. I think he paid $10 for the lot. They were a mix of sizes and plenty of them didn't look too pretty, but my they were tasty. But 50 pounds! Well, I thought, if we can't use them all, I can always ask the food blog world for recipe suggestions. But I never had to. And I never did get to make the couscous with tangerines, the chocolate-tangerine tart or any of the other recipes the satsumas inspired. The four of us just ate them.

We juiced them. Then we would peel them and eat them with dried dates and nuts. Or we just would pack a few for a snack. Then we would juice some more. Then peel more.

I did make a tangy sorbet from their juice, and now that is all we have left of our tangerine dreams. Just yesterday someone ate the last one. I went to the fruit bowl and it was full of apples and pears but no tangerines. I was actually disappointed. I really wanted another tangerine.

Tangerine Sorbet
1 1/2 cups simple syrup (We like our sorbets on the very tart side so I use about 3/4 cup of sugar to 1 1/2 cups or so of water depending on how sweet the fruit is. You might like to use a bit to a lot more. Remember, things taste LESS sweet when they are frozen. Stir and boil until sugar is dissolved in the water.)
1 1/2 cups tangerine juice
ice cream maker

Chill simple syrup. Combine with juice in bowl of ice cream maker. Plug in ice cream maker. Let her rip. When frozen and slushy, remove and freeze for an hour or two. If frozen very solid, let stand 10 minutes or so before serving.

No ice cream maker? Put mixture in a 9 x 12 metal cake pan or similar. Cover with plastic wrap and put in freezer. Beat with a wooden spoon every so often as it freezes to break up the crystals. Before serving, put chunks in the food processor or blender and give it a little whirl. Don't have one of those? Let it soften a bit and then beat again with the wooden spoon.

(about the photo - my camera was borrowed and I made do with an old one around the house with less than sharp results, but it does have a "dream-like" quality)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sili Cups Holiday Goodie - Peppermint Bark Rounds

Blog Appetit, is not as we say of the Christmas persuasion, but it doesn't mean I don't appreciate a festive holiday goodie. My son, Noah, enjoys peppermint bark. I had some new silicon cupcake liners. A treat is born.

I don't have the exact measurements figured out since our peppermint bark rounds came out way too thick (I used about a tablespoon of each chocolate in my overly thick ones and advise using less in the directions below), but I'll refine it and update here when I do.

6 silicon cookie cup liners or six foil cup liners
Semisweet chocolate chips
8-10 round peppermint candies or three to four peppermint candy canes, crushed (You'll want about five tablespoons total, some crushed very fine, other bits somewhat bigger)
White chocolate chips

Place the liners on a small, sturdy tray or plate.
Set aside about 6 teaspoons of bigger pieces of crushed peppermint candies.
Melt the semisweet chocolate chips and spoon a thin layer (maybe 1-1/1/2 teaspoons) in each liner. Tap to smooth. Scatter a pinch of very finely crushed bits of peppermint on top. Put filled liners on tray in fridge to firm up (about 20 minutes).

Melt white chocolate chips. Stir in all but the reserved 2 tablespoons of peppermint bits. Spoon a 1-1/2 tsp of the melted white chocolate and peppermint mixture on top of the solidified semisweet layer. Tap to smooth. Scatter a teaspoonful of the reserved peppermint bits on top, press in a bit so they adhere.
Chill to firm.
Take out of the fridge 10 minutes or so before eating and unmold.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Road Trip - New York - Grill Point

On our way in to Manhattan, we made a detour in Queens to an orthodox Jewish neighborhood. My younger son wanted some Judaica and a relative had recommended a shop he knew.

After Noah had made his purchase we wandered around the area. Even though we are Jewish, we are not very observant and the businesses that served the community seemed somewhat foreign and exotic to us. After a while, I wanted a snack. One restaurant in particular seemed enticing and we went in.

Grill Point is an Israeli-run restaurant serving all manner of Middle Eastern grilled and "kabobed" food. Pretty much if you could put it on a skewer and it met with the Jewish laws of kasruth (kosher) they had it.

The restaurant, which seemed a combination of fast food and full service, was filled with a mix of people from the surrounding community. The smell of the grilling meat was making our mouths drool, we couldn't wait to order. Then we realized the restaurant made its own pita bread to serve with the meats and the bread our kabob would be wrapped in would be pulled hot off the inside of a vase-shaped oven that reminded me of those used to make tandoori and naan. By this time, our anticipation was overwhelming and when the food was handed over to us we just basically attacked it. (The photo above shows a cook forming the pita bread to go into the oven which is in the counter where he is working and a hunk of rotating lamb and turkey shuwarma (something like a gyro.)

The adana kabob, made with ground beef and Middle Eastern flavorings, was great, but the pita bread was awesome. We chose to pay the extra $1 for lafa, more of a flatbread than a pocket bread. Thicker than commercial pitas, it was blistered black in spots and had a chewy yeastiness about it that was divine. We didn't quite understand the ordering process, so we missed out on the vegetable salads, but since we were just after a snack and weren't really that hungry, our sense of loss was not as overwhelming as it otherwise would have been.

Grill Point is not the most convenient restaurant to get to in New York, but it is definitely worth a detour. If you do go, look around the small neighborhood. There is a bakery, a bagel shop, and a spice shop featuring burlap bags full of Middle Eastern herbs and seasonings. Plus a very nice shop with a friendly staff for buying Judaica.



Grill Point Restaurant
69-54 Main St., Flushing, N.Y. (corner of Jewel and Main Streets)
This is in New York City's Borough of Queens
(718) 261-7077
Prices range from $6.95 for a kabob or shuwarma pita to $14.95 and more for shish kabob dinner plates.

Note: Grill Point is closed from Friday afternoon until Saturday after sundown.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Road Trip -- New York

Blog Appetit and family spent the last big holiday in suburban New York with family. It was not a big foodie adventure.

First off, I felt like part of a chain gang. Partly because of the presence of the distinctly non-foodie older son, largely for convenience, we ate in a lot of chains -- Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, TGIF, Ground Round (a regional chain that used to be a funky hamburger pub with free peanuts and lots of peanut shells on the floor, but is now the peanutless home of chicken Caesar wraps in colored tortillas) and the Hard Rock Cafe. (That was where we had our one meal in Manhattan. The ahi tuna sandwich with wasabi mayonnaise wasn't half bad, though.)

Thanksgiving itself featured a beautifully bronzed bird (which I almost forgot to take a photo of, hence the missing slice), home grown vegetables and a fridge full of leftovers for my sister.

Besides the chain food, my other disappointment was the lack of hot chestnut vendors the day we were in New York City. True, we were only in a few neighborhoods and the weather was only chilly and not freezing, but still, I wanted my brown paper bag full of hot chestnuts tasting slightly sweet and nutty with just a hint of acridity where the shells had been blackened on the bottom.

I did get teased by that smoky smell of charcoal braziers which always makes me think I've stepped back in time, haggling with vendors swathed in mismatched padded layers, wearing peaked caps, speaking strange languages and with calloused fingers poking out of knit gloves. But the pushcarts were selling hot pretzels and shish kabob. I wasn't tempted by the dried out pretzels and I just couldn't try the skewered street food, for hours earlier I had just tasted the Middle Eastern grilled food I have ever eaten.
(To Be Continued ...)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Martini Chicken -- Sauteed, Not Stirred

Slashfood's spirited theme of the day got me to thinking about cooking with alcohol. I knew I wanted to make something savory and thought it might as well be something I could serve for dinner when I was done. I had just been thinking about martinis, and well, that’s how the concept for Martini Chicken came about. I thought gin would make a good marinade with its notes of juniper and herbs and that dry vermouth would work well to deglaze the sauté pan. One of my sons suggested that it wouldn’t be Martini Chicken without olives. I often cook with olives, but never the pimento-stuffed olives, which I felt would be the olive of choice for Martini Chicken. They worked well but since they are salty, wait until you taste at the end to season with salt. Top Martini Chicken with skewered pickled onion, olive and lemon twist garnishes and serve on a bed of polenta or garlic mashed potatoes. Bottoms up!

Martini Chicken
Serves 2-4

1½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 half breasts)
½ cup of a gin with strong herbal notes (such as Tanqueray)
¼ tsp coriander seed
2 tbsp plus 2 tbsp of olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (approximately 1 medium onion)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp of fresh, chopped rosemary (or use ¼ tsp dried)
½ cup of sliced pimento-stuffed olives, approx 10-12 queen olives.
¼ cup dry vermouth
zest of one lemon, finely chopped
2 tbsp of fresh minced parsley
Garnish (optional, see below)


Put chicken in a non-reactive bowl. Add gin and coriander seed. Marinate for 15-20 minutes.


Drain chicken.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in large sauté pan. Add chicken and saute on medium high heat until browned on both sides, but do not cook through. Remove from pan and keep warm.

If needed, add additional olive oil to the pan you sautéed the chicken in. Add chopped onion, sauté over medium heat until softened and just starting to turn golden. Stir around as you sauté to be sure browned bits leftover from cooking the chicken are incorporated. Add garlic, sauté for a minute, then add the sliced olives. Combine well.

Slide chicken off the plate and back into the pan with any juices. Sauté until the chicken is just done. Do not overcook. Taste sauce, adding salt and pepper as needed. Remove chicken and onion mixture to serving platter, keep warm.

Pour the dry vermouth into the pan and stir, combining with any leftover brown bits and pan juices. Cook over a medium high heat until the sauce is reduced down to a syrupy consistency and drizzle over chicken.

Scatter chopped lemon zest and parsley over top of chicken.

Garnish (optional)

4 long toothpicks, party picks or similar
4 lemon peel twists
4 whole pimento stuffed olives
4 whole small, pickled cocktail onions

For each garnish, skewer a lemon twist, then an olive and an onion. Stick each finished spear into a chicken breast.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cookie Monster -- Linda's Favorites

Blog Appetit's holiday season always starts with Clark and Linda's early December open house. My kids look forward to it for the plentiful supply of candy Linda stashes around the house, I appreciate it for the chance to catch up with old friends, admire the tree, visit with their family and celebrate the season. Who am I kidding, it's the cookies.

Tray after tray of homemade goodies, a virtual buffet of butter, chocolate and nuts combined in one interesting form after another, all of them made by Linda (with help from her daughter Zoya) and other family members.

Without further ado, here are Linda's recipes and comments. What a great friend!

Scotch Bars--an oatmeal bar cookie topped with chocolate that is easy to make and so delicious.

Cream 1 cup of butter with 1/2 cup each white and brown sugars.
Add 1 egg and 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat well. Add 1 cup each flour and
oatmeal. Mix well. Spread batter evenly into greased 13x9 pan. Bake
20-25 minutes in a 325 degree oven until bars seem fairly firm. (I like
them a bit gooey in the middle, so they have the texture of marzipan
when cooled.) Remove pan from oven and immediately spread 6-12 oz.
semi-sweet chocolate chips on top. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread
melted chocolate evenly. Let cool a bit, then cut into squares before
chocolate hardens.

Spiced Wafers--this recipe comes from my aunt Margaret, who probably got
it from a molasses bottle

Cream 3/4 cup crisco shortening, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup dark
molasses and 1 egg. Beat well. Add 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. each cinnamon,
cloves and ginger, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 t. salt. Beat until smooth. Roll
dough into small balls, roll balls in granulated sugar and place on
greased cookie sheets. Bake 5-8 minutes in 350 degree oven. Watch them
carefully, as they burn easily. I usually take them out of the oven
before the 8 minutes is up and allow them to sit on the baking pan for
another 3 minutes before moving them to cooling racks. They firm up
when cooled, but the middle is still chewy and the spices make them so

Friday, December 16, 2005

Food Blog Award Nominations Close Today

If you haven't already nominated your favorite food blogs of 2005, it's not too late. Click on over to the Accidental Hedonist at Food Blog Nominations to see the categories and add your own nominations.

Even if you don't have any nominations in mind, it's fun to click through the nominations and find new food blogs to check out. I'm doing that and have found a few to post in Blog Appetit's links section soon.

Nominations close at midnight (although, I have no idea in what timezone, since she doesn't specify). So if you have a blog to nominate, the sooner the better.

Technical Difficulty -- Menu for Hope II

As they say, operators are still standing by ....
Our own version of the food blog world telethon (or should I say blogathon?), Menu for Hope II, continues until December 23rd, but Pim of Chez Pim http://www.chezpim.typepad.com/, the organizer of the fundraising effort and raffle for the earthquake business, is having major technical difficulties and her post listing most of the prizes is somewhere in the ozone. While Typepad works on getting her post back, you can still donate and get a chance to win some wonderful prizes. To donate and join the effort that has now raised almost $6,500, click on over to

For an overview of some of the prizes, check out the Blog Appetit post below:
I know Sam of Becks & Posh has updated her prizes, so if you live in the San Francisco Bay area. be sure to check out http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/ for some of her amazing food and other prizes.

Get well soon, Chez Pim. Until then, as they say, operators are standing by.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Joy of Cookbooks - The Six-Minute Souffle

The challenge is to share a cookbook and recipe that started your cookbook collection and share it with the food blogging community. (Check out Alicat and Sara’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge for a round up of treasured cookbooks and recipes across the web.)

Well, Faith Jane’s addiction (yes, the FJ in FJK is for Faith Jane) to cookbooks began with The Six-Minute Soufflé by Carol Cutler. I had other cookbooks before. I learned the basics of white sauces, omelet folding, hamburger shaping and hard boiled egg boiling from circa 1970s versions of Joy of Cooking (volumes one and two) and Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer, but I learned how to become a cook from the Cutler book.

It was only the third cookbook I ever bought (or the fourth, depending how you count the Joy of Cooking volumes), my first hard back cookbook and the first one purchased after I graduated college and hotplates and had my own apartment and an actual stove and oven.

Even today I can recall my sense of discovery and wonder. This woman had lived in France, cooked with the seasons and each of her recipes was preceded by a little story about how it came about. I was charmed. While the combination of tastes and techniques seemed exotic, the directions and ingredients were not intimidating. In some not so subtle ways Cutler forever changed how I looked at food and cooking and creativity. Although I don’t use the cookbook that much anymore, I always keep in near at hand and grab it whenever I just don’t know what to cook. The book became my muse.

I don’t remember the first recipe I cooked out of that book. In those days I was timid about writing in my cookbooks. I made light little pencil marks against the titles of those I tried. I remember a rich cheese and bread pudding cooked inside a pumpkin shell that I served at Halloween, a “one-fish bouillabaisse” which made me feel more like visiting France than any French onion soup ever did, or poulet Yvonne, with it’s page splattered with brandy spills, multiple checkmarks and notes about substitutions and suggestions that now span more than 20 years. The chicken was a revelation to me, moist and rich, each bite partnered with the exotic tang of artichoke hearts and earthy tenderness of mushrooms smoothed by the tomato cream sauce.

The Six-Minute Soufflé went out of print and was repackaged as a paperback called Cuisine Rapide (not to be confused with the Pierre Franey cookbook of the same name).
Over the years I stalked used bookstores and remainder tables, snatching up copies when I found them and always bestowing them as gifts on friends and acquaintances who I would overhear wishing that they knew how to cook. I felt I was giving them a trusted mentor who would show them exactly what to do and not let them down, one who would encourage them to move on and create their own dishes from their own tastes and resources. It’s been years now since I’ve spotted a copy in the dim and dusty crammed aisles of some used bookstore, but I keep looking. I owe it to Carol Cutler and the book.

The Recipe

Supposedly the average cookbook buyer only prepares two recipes from every cookbook bought. I must have prepared dozens from this book. It was hard to pick just one recipe for this challenge, but then I realized that the one I had to share must be the Six-Minute Soufflé. Go back in time with me and remember when cooking a soufflé was exotic and seemed treacherous. Then try this recipe.

Six-Minute Soufflé

“This streamlined soufflé puffs impressively and has none of the notoriously temperamental characteristics of the classic soufflé. It can wait, it can’t fail and it can be held for several hours before going into the oven.” – Carol Cutler

The book actually gives several variations of this method, the one here is my own which substitutes non-fat milk for the cream and adds pesto and sun-dried tomatoes for seasoning. To make Cutler’s cheddar cheese soufflé, use the cream and skip the Tabasco sauce, pesto and dried tomatoes and add ½ tsp prepared mustard and ½ pound of sharp cheddar cheese. The book also has blue cheese and dessert variations.

If you are tempted to devise your own variations, Cutler asks that you “just keep in mind that the basic flavoring ingredient must have some firmness of its own. Spinach, for example is too watery…” I guess the pine nuts and cheese in the pesto in my recipe compensate for the basil’s lack of firmness.

Pesto Soufflé
Serves 6 as a first or main course
Working time, according to Cutler, “6 minutes”
Baking time, 40-50 minutes

1 tbsp butter
6 eggs
½ cup non-fat milk
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Dash Tabasco sauce (optional)
5 tbsp prepared pesto
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
11 ounces of cream cheese (I’ve only ever made this with full fat Philly brand)
5 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Butter a six-cup soufflé dish or six one-cup individual soufflé or baking dishes. Set aside.
Place the eggs, milk, pesto, pepper, salt and Tabasco sauce (if using) in the container of a 6-to-8 cup blender. Blend until smooth.
With the blender running, add the parmesan cheese. Then break off chunks of the cream cheese and add it to the running blender. After all the cream cheese has been added, blend the batter at high speed for 5 seconds or until the mixture is completely smooth. Add the finely chopped dried tomatoes and pulse a few times just to incorporate the bits without pureeing them.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish(es).
Bake the six-cup soufflé for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is nicely browned and the center jiggles if you shake the dish. Individual soufflés should bake 15-20 minutes. If you prefer a firmer soufflé, bake until completely set, about 45-50 minutes and the surface is cracked. Serve while still hot.

Note: Recipe can be prepared up to adding the sun dried tomatoes. Keep in blender jar. If refrigerated, allow to come to room temperature and give it a whirl in the blender before proceeding. The recipe can also be made and poured in the prepared dish(es) and wait for hours before baking.

The Six-Minute Soufflé and Other Culinary Delights by Carol Cutler, 1976, Clarkson N. Potter. I found three copies starting at 50 cents each on Amazon. The later paperback reprinting, Cuisine Rapide, 230 Delectable Recipes for Cooks in a Hurry, was going for $1.27

Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer, 1972, Vintage Books. I recently researched this one for a friend and found it in several locations on the web. The hardcover seems to be a bit of a collector’s item. I found the paperback and hardcover versions at prices ranging from a couple of dollars to more than $30. Great illustrations by Tom Funk.

Joy of Cooking abounds. I prefer the mid-seventies version to the new ones.

I was unable to find a website for Carol Cutler, but while searching for one, I came across this quote from her book Pate, from Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations:

“A pâté is nothing more than a French meat loaf that’s had a couple of cocktails.”

I’d love the opportunity to share some cocktails and pate with her. My treat. It’s the least I can do.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fridge Clean-Out Soup -- Tomato, Carrot and Spinach with White Beans

Last week's soup wasn't my most successful at first, in fact it needed quite a bit of amendments before it was pronounced soup.

This was a fridge clean-out soup and it does demonstrate how flexibility saved the soup.

My key inspirations were 1 pint wrinkled cherry tomatoes and half a medium-sized bag of dried out peeled and shaped carrots. (Note: chop up the carrots first otherwise they take forever to soften.) I also had bought some Oxo Indian Herb and Spice bullion cubes which I thought I would give a try.

I sauteed a half chopped onion and two minced cloves of garlic in olive oil. Added the tomatoes and carrots. Let that brown a bit, then added about 8 cups of water and the bullion cube and then let it simmer until the carrots were soft. I then used my immersion blender to puree until relatively smooth.

I tasted it at this point and wasn't satisfied. (Actually, I thought, yikes, there are way too many carrots in this!) I then added a box of chopped frozen spinach from my freezer and a healthy dose of curry powder, a pinch of ground ginger and a good slug of my own Below the Belt Hot Sauce (see info on post below). Better, but not quite soup yet.

I drained and rinsed off a 15 oz can of large white beans, added them to the pot. The next taste was it! I seasoned everything with lots of sea salt and freshly ground pepper and called it soup.

It wasn't a pretty process, but it sure was a tasty soup!

FYI - The photo is not actually of my overstuffed fridge, which prompted this soup, but of my sister's after our Thanksgiving meal. But you get the idea.
Oxo, recipes and product info: http://www.oxo.co.uk
Below the Belt Hot Sauce: http://clickblogappetit.blogspot.com/2005/11/hot-stuff-at-farm-stand.html

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Two Month Birthday

Blog Appetit is two months old today.

In honor of the event, here is some random Blog Appetit trivia.
Read carefully, there could be a test.

The first posting read "Testing, Testing"
Blog Appetit was named by one of my teen-age sons (ironically, the non-foodie one).
The very first blog I read was Chocolate & Zuchinni.
Blog Appetit has a related blog called I Wanna a Be a Food Writer with my musings on that topic. (see links)
I live in Oakland, California, in the San Francisco Bay area.
In the last year I have traveled to Paris, Vietnam, NY and San Diego. Next year I hope to go to Portugal and Spain.
I have a black cat named Noche.
The first two comments on the site were spam, which have since been deleted.
I don't have a favorite color, restaurant or food, although I'll rarely turn down something pink, chocolate or French. I also have a hard time passing by a taco truck. And champagne. I usually don't pass that up, either. I like my martinis with gin and just because a drink is served in a martini glass doesn't make it a "...tini." (Not that I have an opinion or anything.)
The blogspot address is www.clickblogappetit.blogspot.com because I couldn't get just blogappetit.
Most of my photos were taken with an Olympus Stylus 410.
The giant pumpkin in the photo weighed in at 444 pounds.

Well, that's all I can think of for now.

Introducing ....

... two more links.

A Chip off the Old Block?

David Lebovitz (creator of NY's famed David's chocolate chip and other cookies) at http://www.davidlebovitz.com is a fun site full of chocolate advice, recipes and David's experiences in Paris and on the road in the U.S. teaching cooking classes. It's chocolate bliss without the calories!

Not for Vegetarians Only

Veggie Venture at http://www.kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com is the site I originally wanted to create more than four years ago. I never got around to it but Alanna did. She posts a new veggie-based recipe and/or adventure every day. Her recipes are for omnivores and many include meat, chicken, etc.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Menu for Hope II - Please Read and Donate

Chez Pim http://www.chezpim.typepad.com has organized a wonderful raffle/fundraiser for the food blogging community to donate to the victims of the earthquakes in India and Pakistan.

I hope you will partcipate. Due to my flu, I have just decided to copy and paste her post about the event at Blog Appetit. You can check out her post in its original here. For information on how to participate in the raffle and PICK your prize, please click here

Here is Chez Pim's original post on the event. Thanks, Pim, for organzing this.

From Chez Pim:

"Welcome to the second annual A Menu for Hope campaign. As another year of our blogging adventures draws to a close, and as we are preparing to celebrate the holidays with our families and friends, we would like to take advantage of the season to ask you –our kind readers- for a little favor. Last year, we raised a substantial sum to support the victims of the Tsunami in Southeast Asia. This year, a group of us food bloggers would like to ask our readers -that would be you- to help us raise funds to support the victims of the devastating earthquake in the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan.

"But what fun would it be just to come begging you for some dough, even if it is for a great cause? So, in order not to turn our otherwise fun blogs into the PBS pledge break bore, we've put together a huge list of cool, fun, and personal gifts -like only we could- to entice you to donate. Each of those gifts is offered as a virtual raffle prize. All you have to do is donate $5 and you will be eligible for the raffle drawing for a gift of your choice.
On our menu this year is everything from a chance to have an afternoon tea with the one and only Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini, to a personalized Napa Valley itinerary created by über-wine blogger Alder of Vinography, to a chance to be in the Amateur Gourmet Adventure video with Adam himself, to three very fancy hampers featuring the true artisanal flavors of the San Francisco Bay Area put together by Sam of Becks and Posh, and many, many more.
We are once again using the site Just Giving to collect the donation. In the interest of transparency, Just Giving will do all the collection and forward the funds directly to Unicef, our recipient organization. The fund will be earmarked to support the victims of the Kashmir earthquake.

"Recipe to participate:1. Find the gift you would like on our menu.2. Go to A Menu for Hope II donation page and donate $5 or whatever sum you could spare. 3. Tell us in the comment section of your donation form which gift(s) you would like have. Each $5 donation will give you one chance at winning the prize of your choice. (Yes, if you donate more than $5, you are allowed to specify more than one prize.) 4. That's it!
Our campaign will end on December 23rd, and the winners will be announced and the prizes sent to corresponding winners after January 1st 2006.
(See the entire menu after the jump.)

"Some of our celebrity bloggers are offering personalized gifts to entice their fans to give, and give a lot.

"As I mentioned previously, The One, The Only, Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini is offering up Haute Pâtisserie, a chance to share an afternoon tea with her at Café de la Mairie in Paris, with patisserie of your choice from Pierre Hermé around the corner.
Meanwhile, that Amateur Gourmet Adam is offering a chance at fame, to participate in an Amateur Gourmet video with The Amateur Gourmet and his Amateur Gourmette Lisa.
Our über-wine blogger Alder of Vinography will create a customized Napa or Sonoma Wine Country Tour Itinerary just for you.

"My girl Louisa of Movable Feast, the itinerant chef extraodinaire, offers a personalized Fixer's guide to Paris. Yes, do what Anthony Bourdain did when he was in Paris, have our Louisa create your own personalized guide of Paris for you.

"The adorable Heidi, yes, that Heidi, will give you a one-hour food photography lesson (if the winner is local) and a signed copy of her cookbook Cook 1.0. Have you seen her photos? I'd jump for a chance at that lesson for sure.Flavors of the worldOne of the many wonderful things about food blogs is our amazing diversity. Here are a few samples of our diverse flavors that could be yours.

"Sam of Becks and Posh solicited donations from the best Bay Area artisanal food purveyors and created three very fancy baskets filled to the brim with a sample of the best that the Bay Area has to offer. The Hungry Bay Hopper: with certificates for meals at Tres Agaves, Tabla, and Couleur Cafe, Vodka tasting at Hangar One with 3 bottles of liquors, and classes at Tante Marie Cooking School. The Ferry Building Bonanza, with Purity Organic fruit juice, charcuterie from the Fatted Calf, St Benoit Yoghurts, wine tasting at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants, Marin Sun Farms grass fed beef, cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and a dinner at Tres Agaves.A basket fo food books from the Bay, with Tante Marie Cooking School Book, The French Laundry Cookbook, Chocolate Obsession, and The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

"Fatemeh of Gastronomie offers two gifts, a "ready to cook" Persian dinner "kit". She will measure and prepackage all the ingredients and provide a step-by-step recipe card. If the winner wanted to pay for overnight shipping on ice, she'll even cook it as well. The second gift is her "Persian Pantry" filled with Persian foodstuffs valued at around $50-75. Considering that Persian foods might not be so easy to find in your neck of the woods, this sounds like a mighty tempting gift, no?
Brett of In Praise of Sardines is honoring the culinary tradition of the area we are trying to help by putting together a gourmet basket with ingredients needed to make a traditional Kashmiri meal: a selection of spices (including saffron and difficult to find Kashmiri red chilli) and home-made spice mixtures, a traditional spice box (masala dabba), Basmati rice, Indian tea (for masala chai), some North Indian recipes from his wife's family, and Kashmiri recipes gathered from his own collection of 30 South Asian cookbooks.

"Meg and Brett from Too Many Chefs put together a goodie basket of French products to include foie gras, sea salt, snails and more, and also a copy of the chocolate book by our friend David Lebovitz.

"Shauna James of Gluten Free Girl offers a Seattle food basket: smoked salmon; organic coffee; Fran's gray salt caramels; and a copy of Tom Douglass' cookbook.

"Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking will give a Jin Patisserie 12 Piece Box. The chocolates include: The de Concubine, Passion fruit, The du Hammum, Mango Kalamansi, Caramel Clove, Cinnamon, Pandan, Chrysanthemum, Lavender, Ginger, Café Rhum and Black Roasted Sesame.
Michèle of Oswego Tea, who just recently moved to Paris, will share her favorite recent find, Mariage Frères Tea.

"Keiko of Nordljus is giving a green tea, Matcha, from Japan plus a recipe for one of her own matcha desserts.

"Alice Yamada of Epicurean Debauchery is offering a Make-Your-Own Sushi Starter Kit with roller mats, a shamoji (a rice scooper), recipes, and some seaweed and wasabi.
Eve, the Chocolate Lady offers up a bottle of vodka infused with Buddha Hand Citron
Megan of I Heart Bacon gives a Casina Rossa Truffle & Salt.
Elise of Simply Recipes gives a jar of her delicious (speaking from experience) jar of homemade apple butter.

"Vanessa, she who craves, gives a homemade jar of marmalade. And, in the twist of flavor as only a farm blogger could pull off, our farmgirl Susan is giving a chance to be the honorary owner of the firstborn ewe lamb at her farm next spring."

"Kitchen letters and more letters

"We are offering up a number of books to add to your cookbook collection. David Lebovitz will send you a signed copy of his Chocolate Book. Wena of Mum Mum gives a book on the wonderful Nonya cooking, Foods of my childhood : Penang Nyonya Cooking, by Cecilia Tan
Derrick of Obsession with Food, who occasionally contributes to The Art of Eating is offering a one year subscription to The Art of Eating magazine.

"Melissa of the gorgeous Traveler's Lunchbox offers Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. Amy of Cooking with Amy with give the Very Maple Syrup cookbook and her very special homemade Maple Nut Granola. Owen Linderholm, the publisher of Digital Dish: Five Seasons of the freshest recipes and writing from food blogs around the world, is providing three copies of the book for this menu.

"Stephanie of the Happy Sorceress will give a copy of Giada de Laurentis's new book.
Sweetnicks gives the Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. Faith Kramer of Blog Appetit offers a brand new copy of the Bouchon cookbook. Luisa, The Wednesday Chef, offers Anne Willan's Cooked to Perfection. Clement of the beautiful A La Cuisine! offers The Cook's Book by Jill Norman and three jars of Anton Kozlik's Canadian mustard.

"Anne of Anne's Food gives a wonderful book from her homeland of Sweden, Swedish Cakes and Cookies. Christina, the Medieval mistress of the Thorngrove Table will give Barbara Santich's The Original Mediterranean Cuisine: Medieval Recipes for Today. Laura the red headed chef of Cucina Testa Rossa offers an autographed Jacques Pepin, Fast Food My Way book. Kate of the wonderfully Accidental Hedonist provides us with two books, Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" and "Marcella Says... : Italian Cooking Wisdom". Andrew of Spittoon provides a copy of Cook Until Desired Tenderness, a small book by Cleo Papanikolas.

"Also, throwing in a bit of suspense for good measure, we have one blogger, Jen of Life Begins at 30, pledging a mysterious gift. Check out her blog today to see what surprising gift she has in store for you.

"And last, but not least I should hope, your humble host here on Chez Pim would like to offer up a $200 gift certificate for a meal at Manresa. I don't have to tell you about Manresa, do I? Because if that's the case then you really haven't spent enough time chez moi. I should be so offended!

"Well, so how about it? These great gifts are enticing enough for you to give a few dollars for our good cause? What are you waiting for? Donate! Pretty please. "

Friday, December 09, 2005

Not on the Menu -- Home-Grown Mushrooms

Anybody else have a yard full of juicy looking toxic mushrooms? We have several varieties growing. I have to say they do not inspire me to want to make a mushroom stew.
I feel like my front gate should have a skull and crossbones on it!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Souper New Feature

We here at Blog Appetit, in an attempt not to become BLOB Appetit, have long been making healthy, tasty, easy soups.

I thought it would be appropriate (as in why didn't I think of this before) to share my weekly creations with you. Most times they are not specific recipes, but more like fridge clean-out lists. Other times they are real recipes with measurements and everything. I hope to post these every week or two (since if I am being a good Blog Appetit I make a new batch every week instead of wolfing down grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch every day) and in the future have the foresight to actually have photos.

Last week's soup was great.

Smoky Corn Soup
In a large pot with a little olive oil, saute a small, chopped onion and a few minced garlic cloves and a small, chopped red bell pepper. Add stock or water (maybe 6 cups, you can always add more if it is getting too thick). Add a bag of frozen corn (hey, it's out of season and was in the freezer) and a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice and then simmer.

Here's were you get the smoky part, add a generous teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika. If you don't have that (and you should, it is marvelous), add some Wright's Hickory Liquid Smoke Flavoring. (Be cautious, maybe start with a dash, taste, and work your way up to a slug.) This tasty brew of hickory smoke flavor and I'm not looking to see what else is available in most supermarkets. I also added a pinch of ground cumin, a healthy lashing of ground black pepper and a generous couple of pinches of sea salt.

Let simmer until the corn has softened and correct the seasoning. Serve as is, or do what I did, which was to use an immersion blender to puree about half the soup to make it thicker and creamier. If you don't have an immersion blender, puree in batches in your blender or food processor, curse the mess it makes and go out and buy an immersion blender. (Just kidding.)

Since I hope to post a lot of soup recipes and because the wonderful world of Blogger does not allow for category archives, I've created a new "Blue Plate Special" link for you to view all those soup recipes I am sure I will be posting. Look to the right of this post and check it out by clicking on Blog Appetit Does Soup

Please note since it is actually set up as a separate blog any comments left here won't show up there and vice versa.

One of my food writing classmates was a chef with fabulous soup recipes. I will try to get some of those for you, too.

If you have a soup recipe to share, put the link in your comments or send me an email through the profile feature.

Reource: The Spanish Table is my favorite resource for all things Iberian.

Check out the smoked paprika at http://www.spanishtable.com/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=TST&Category_Code=6882

Monday, December 05, 2005

Blogroll, Please

On most blogs over to the left or right of the main post you'll find a section called something like "links" or "blogs I like" or similar.

Listed under that heading will be a list of blog names that you can click and visit. The assortment of links a blog boosts reflect the taste, interests and friendships (cyber or otherwise) of the blog's creator.

Random link clicking has resulted in some very pleasurable time spent at sites I otherwise would not have known about.

It has always been Blog Appetit's intent to feature a blogroll of it's very own, but I wanted to take my time and introduce my blogs of choice a few at a time so you, my loyal 10s of readers, would understand their selection and inclusion.

Today I unveil my first real links (since I Wanna Be A Food Writer is one of my own blogs, I don't know if it counts as a real link.)

Chocolate and Zucchini is probably one of the best known and most visited food blogs. It was the first blog I had ever visited. Clotilde is a French woman who has lived (and cooked) in America and who gets it -- food, fun and Paris. Her blog made me want to start my own.


Fresh Approach Cooking is a newer blog site must for me. Fun writing style, a real point of view and food, glorious food. Recipes, photos, fun facts and resources. I've decided that Rachael has got to be my new best friend.


So check out these blog food finds. Let me know what you think and if you have any you'd like to recommend to me. Watch for more blogroll introductions.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Book Group Chocolate Report - Espresso Chocolate Cheesecake

Every book group has its specialty. Some read non-fiction, others focus on the classics or contemporary novels written by women. My book group obsesses on chocolate. We meet every two months alternating houses and dessert responsibilities. Our literary taste is varied, our dessert taste isn't. All new recruits learn that right off the bat.

My chocolate tart recipe was a contribution to the furtherance of our obsession last summer. Follow the link below to see that recipe.

At our last meeting, Jeanne (pictured above) made this espresso and chocolate swirl cheesecake. It was creamy with a bite of coffee to cut through the richness and a fudge-like swirl to make your mouth water.

Book Group Vitals:

Dessert: Espresso and chocolate swirl cheesecake. Click below for the recipe from Epicurious.
Comment: Jeanne says to double the cream in the chocolate swirl to make it softer, less candy bar like.
Book: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Macadam/Cage,518 pages, 2003
Book Group Consensus: Well written but some found the time travel device tiresome after awhile. Also, some readers disliked the main character and found it hard to be emphatic. All agreed that the book had lots of topics for discussion and provoked more comments and debate then most books we have read.

Our next book is Birth of Venus. Check back in January for a book (and chocolate) report.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Really Bad Food Photos

Rachel of the recipe and resource packed blog Fresh Approach asked for entries in her bad food photo event. I thought of declining, since there are no bad food photos, there are just photos you don't know how someone else managed to take on your camera!

I submitted these two. The bread photo was taken in Paris and I'm not quite sure how I got that "artistic" angle on the baguettes. The second was taken of banana blossom salad at the Hotel Metropole cooking school in Hanoi. It was before I discovered my camera had a cuisine setting to reduce glare.

Check out Fresh Approach at http://www.freshcatering.blogspot.com
I think it's worth clicking on regularly.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Vietnam -- Soup with Lemon Grass

This vegetable stall is in Hanoi's December 19th market. The food is all fresh and beautifully arranged. The market is also housed indoors and a bit less rustic than the "Wet Market" in old town and much smaller and more manageable than the Central Market (which has many offerings other than food).

These incredible vegetables show up in much of the food in Vietnam. Even the herbs that you sprinkle on your soup are some how more full tasting and delicious than the herbs we are used to, even here in California.

While I took lots of market and vegetable photos during my visit to Vietnam last summer, I kept forgetting to take a picture of lemon grass to illustrate my "faux" pho recipe. So here's just a food photo I like and a recipe I hope you'll enjoy.

Asian Noodle Soup

About Eight Servings

This soup came about after my husband came back from his first trip to Vietnam. He asked me to cook “something” with lemon grass, a traditional Vietnamese flavor. I began to experiment with the citrusy, woody stalks, looking for a way to enjoy its fresh taste in a clean, vibrant, low-calorie way. A trip to the local produce store inspired this soup, which I nicknamed “faux pho,” after the Vietnamese noodle soup. Most pho soups are beef based, but my favorite was a lighter seafood and vegetable version. (If you can’t find lemon grass, add the extra lime juice, the soup is still wonderful.) Don’t forget to add the toppings to the individual bowls, they really make the dish special.

Soup Stock
· 4 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken stock or light vegetable broth
· 4 - 6 cups water (depending on how thin or thick you want your soup)
· Fresh ginger root, the size of a walnut, peeled and cut into thin slices
· 2 stalks of fresh lemon grass (do not substitute dried), trimmed with root end cut off, outer leaves peeled off and darker top stems discarded, leaving two approximately 8 - to - 10 inch stalks. Slice each stalk into half lengthwise creating four half stalks.

“Hard” Vegetables
· 1/4 cup chopped shallot or red onion
· 1 large red bell pepper, cut into ½ inch to ¾ inch dice
· 3 cups of chopped Asian (such as bok choy, baby bok choy, Napa cabbage) or green cabbage. (I used baby bok choy, saving the green leafy part for use later in the recipe and just using the white stalks for this part.)
· 8 to 12 fresh or reconstituted dried shitake mushrooms or 8-12 medium large white button mushrooms stemmed and cut into quarters. (I think the flavor and texture of the fresh shitake are really special in this soup. To use dried, soak in hot water for 30 minutes until soft.)
· 2 large carrots, cut into thin slices

· 3 cups of Asian greens or spinach leaves, chopped. (I used the tops of the baby bok choy here as well as pea sprouts, which look like miniature spinach leaves with a long thin stem. Produce and specialty markets have a variety of Asian greens such as pea sprouts and mizuna.)

· 4 tablespoons of Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce (sometimes labeled nam pla or nuoc mam), available in large supermarkets and specialty stores. If you don’t have it, see soy sauce.
· 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. If you are not using fish sauce, increase to 4 tablespoons
· Juice of ½ of a fresh lime. If you are not using lemon grass, increase to juice of a whole lime
· Fresh small hot red pepper (such as Thai, serrano or jalapeno), cut into thin rings, optional

The Noodles
1/2 pound of dried rice noodles

Look in the Asian or regular market for dried rice noodles about the width of fettuccine noodles (about ¼” wide). In Vietnamese they are called banh pho, but often they are packaged for Thai dishes as pad Thai noodles. If you can’t find rice noodles, fresh fettuccine is a good alternative. Cook before using.

· Bean sprouts
· Chopped mixed herbs – basil, cilantro and mint (mandatory)
· Lime wedges
· Hot sauce, chili paste or other red pepper based sauce
· Hoisin sauce (optional – but I really enjoy it)
· Chopped green onions

Combine soup stock ingredients and simmer for a half hour or until the mixture has picked up the lemon grass and ginger taste.

Add hard vegetables and simmer until almost soft. Add the greens and simmer two to five minutes until they begin to soften. Add seasonings, stir well and cook until greens are cooked through. Discard lemon grass stalks and ginger slices before serving.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and put in the rice noodles. Cook for about five minutes and drain. Rinse in cold water.

To serve, add a portion of the noodles to the bowl before adding the hot soup, which will warm the noodles through. Ladle soup into bowl, top with a handful of bean sprouts and about ¼ cup of chopped mixed herbs. Pass the other toppings so every one can season to taste. A small spoonful of the hot chili paste or hoisin sauce will flavor a big bowl of soup, so add condiments a bit at a time.

Note: The chopped herbs are an important component to the taste of this soup and the bean sprouts add a very satisfying crunch. I urge you not to skip them.

Make it a Meal – Make it more substantial by trying one or both of these options.

1. Add small cubes of firm tofu after the hard veggies have been cooking a few minutes. Try about 4 to 6 ounces if using the shrimp below, or use 8 ounces if just using the tofu.

2. Add in some peeled, deveined shrimp. Add after the greens have simmered a minute or so. Simmer soup just until shrimp are pink and barely cooked through. The shrimp will continue cooking in the hot broth and will toughen if overcooked. Use about a half pound if using the tofu. If not, try a pound or so.

How They Did It -- Chocolate Eiffel Tower

I heard back from the folks at Sweet Earth about their chocolate engineering marvel (see photo and post below). Here is how Tom Neuhaus describes the process:

"It took me 2 months to make. I downloaded a graphic of the tower and then converted all the dimensions to ratios, then used those ratios to make a 4 1/2 foot tower. It was made of solid 49% semisweet, Fair Trade Organic chocolate. The basic structure was the separation of slabs of thick chocolate (the "stages") by small chocolate girders (1 foot long). Everything was glued together with melted, tempered semisweet. I piped the crisscross design on parchment and glued that to the surface of the girders. The whole tower came apart into 5 pieces which we
schlepped up to San Francisco in boxes. The base was made of plywood. I surrounded the tower with white/semisweet trees."

Thanks, Tom.

So while it looked too good to eat, it was totally edible.
Any children reading this -- see, it does pay to learn math.
Be sure to check out Sweet Earth's chocolates and website at

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Photo de Tour Eiffel aux Chocolate

Chocolate. The Eiffel Tower. A grand ball for a good cause. It all came together recently for our friend Alona, who helped coordinate the 55th annual Bal de Paris for the Egliese et Ecole Notre Dame des Victoires in San Francisco. Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates created the tower for the fundraiser. I heard about it and begged Alona to provide Blog Appetit with a photo for all our enjoyment.
Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pumpkin Weight Posted

Did you take a guess at the pumpkin's weight (see posting below)? If so, the answer is posted under the comments section.

Haven't guessed it's weight yet? Take a guess before you click on the comments and see how close you came.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Road Trip -- Down the Pacific Coast to Santa Cruz

Friends of ours from the Midwest were visiting and Gary and I took them sightseeing for the day. These friends know the San Francisco area well and have already seen many of the traditional sights and sites, so Gary decided a road trip down the coast in search of sea otters, seals and sea lions was in order.

As we headed from downtown to the Great Highway, our first detour was to view the tasteful renovation of the Cliff House overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Seal Rock. There were no seals there, however. We gave our friends a history lesson about the long-gone Sutro Baths and Playland, instead. It was a good thing the bar wasn’t open yet, or I think Catherine and I would have voted to stay and try out the cocktail menu and drink in the view.

We didn’t get far. Just down the Great Highway is the Beach Chalet with its magnificent WPA murals. We chose to ignore the brew pub that now occupies the top floor of the building and concentrate on art, culture and history.

Our odyssey continued as we loaded back up in Gary’s van and wended our way down the spectacular Northern California coast line, stopping at a few of the rugged beaches to admire the pounding surf, wind blown trees and craggy coastline and looking in vain for our marine mammal friends.

Just above Half Moon Bay we stopped at the harbor at Princeton by the Sea. The majority of boats here are working fishing vessels of one sort or another and there are several fish related businesses on the pier. We poked around a bit and decided that since we didn’t have a cooler buying raw fish was not a souvenir we should consider when I declared I was hungry and I wanted fish. Now. We tried a colorful café overlooking the harbor. Barbara’s Fish Trap had fresh fish from rockfish (which Ferrol craved) to calamari. Preparations were simple, portions were huge. The four of us gorged ourselves on broiled fish with coleslaw, fish and chips (the fried fish was perfect, the chips less so), fried calamari rings (incredibly tender and moist with just the right crisp from the fryer) and the largest shrimp and crab louie that I have ever encountered. (The copious amounts of seafood were fresh and steamed until cooked through and not a second more, with a clean taste and a good texture, but I am sorry to say the sauce was a glop of sweet thousand island dressing and the lettuce was rough chunks of iceberg. I ate every bite, however.)

Satiated for now, we shoved off, continuing to explore the twists and turns of Highway One, past fields of Brussels sprouts growing on their stalks, looking like they would be harvested just in time for the nation’s Thanksgiving feasts. We stopped at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and from the wind-whipped deck at land’s end we finally saw our marine friends frolicking in the waves – a sea otter and a harbor seal.

Mission accomplished, the decision was made to turn inland and head back via a faster (and straighter) highway. We had barely turned onto Pine Flat Road when Catherine, Ferrol (a big wine enthusiast) and I all yelled at Gary to stop. We had spotted the Bonnie Doon Vineyard Tasting Room. Luckily, Gary decided to be our designated driver, so we could imbibe to our hearts’ content. I’ll post more about our wine tasting experience in the future, but let’s just say after a full flight of wines that included a raspberry desert wine in a dark Belgian chocolate cup, I was ready for a nap or a mug of something caffeinated.

Now our route took us through the redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains and when we popped out we were in the little town of Felton, which reminded me very much of a rustic Berkeley. We stopped at the White Raven Café, where they take their chai seriously. Their chai deserves a post of its own and will get one soon.

Then, somehow to our surprise, we were back on a major highway and on our way back to San Francisco. We’ve promised to visit them in Minnesota. They have a friend who keeps them supplied with fresh white fish and a friend who owns a Vietnamese restaurant. Sounds like it will be a great trip!
Barbara's Fish Trap, 650. 728.7049, no web or email, 281 Capistrano Rd., Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Beach Chalet – http://www.beachchalet.com/
Bonnie Doon Vineyard Tasting Room: http://www.bonnydoonvineyard.com/tasting/bonnydoon
Cliff House -- http://www.cliffhouse.com/

Pigeon Point Lighthouse – http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=533

White Raven -- http://www.awhiteraven.com/

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Contest

Can you guess the weight of Big Bertha over there?

Leave your best guess in the comment section below.

Answer will be posted on November 28th.

I suspect that it is not a great eating pumpkin, but bonus points for figuring out approximately how many pumpkin pies this behemoth would make.

(If you are a food or other blogger and have a related link you would like to share, such as one to pumpkin recipes, pie crust tips, thanksgiving thoughts, etc., please include it in your comment.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hot Stuff at the Farm Stand

Just what the world needs, another hot sauce.
When we were driving back from a family vacation in Yosemite National Park, we stopped at Fisher Farms, in Ripon, California, absolutely one of the best farm stands in the world.

The owners of FF only sell seasonal produce they grow themselves at prices that make us city slickers drop our jaws. Their season starts in May with three different kinds of cherries, and continues through September with five kinds of apricots, 11 types of plums, 28 of peaches, 19 kinds of nectarines, as well as plentiful varieties of pluots, almonds, walnuts, grapes, apples, Asian pears, heirloom tomatoes and vegetables.

Since we were coming through in late October, the pickings were a little thin, but there were piles of tempting little baby bell peppers, supple looking jalapenos and cheery little red lantern-like peppers I’ve never seen before.

The red peppers turned out to be Caribbean reds, supposedly twice as hot as their incendiary orange cousin the habanero. (One source quoted 450,000 scovilles for the Caribbean red, 250,000 for the habanero. Burpees’ seed catalog just lists them as 12-alarm chiles.) We pirated away a big handful of these red devils and some of their (relatively) tamer cousins and drove away, already speculating what to do with our plunder.

Eventually, we decided on a hot sauce. So one night when Gary was out of town, Noah and I sterilized a few glass bottles (we had visions of our creation eating through the plastic Tupperware) and got to work.

First, I took out my Mexican griddle and charred the outside of the jalapeños for a smoky flavor. Then I seeded the baby bells (which packed a bit of heat with their sweet), the jalapeños and the Caribbean red. (I wore rubber gloves.) I can’t give exact quantities, since we were experimenting, but maybe two of the small baby bells, five to six of the smoky, blistered jalapeños and about the same number of the Caribbean reds. Once cut the Caribbean reds had a fruity smell, which I decided to balance out with some citrus.

We pureed the peppers with a few garlic cloves, put them in a pan with about a cup and a half of white vinegar and the juice of a lime and cooked them until the little bits of pepper were softened and our eyes were watering from the fumes despite my industrial strength hood fan. We then cooled, decanted and refrigerated. Then we waited for Gary to come home to try the stuff, we sure weren’t going to.

Noah and I also had fun naming our creation. Our winner: “Below the Belt Hot Sauce.”

The tasting report was that the sauce had moderate heat (I was a bit disappointed, I really wanted that baby to burn, but honestly Gary can really take it hot so our moderate could be your forest fire) and full, balanced flavor (which was exactly what I was aiming for). I used it in a vegetable recipe a few days and found it added a nice flavor but needed to use a good slug of it to add the heat. Next time, more Caribbean red, less bell! I’ll name that one Aargh, because it will make you walk the plank.

Resource:Fisher Farm – no web or email, 17747 E. Highway 120, Ripon, CA 95366, (209) 982-4184
From Labor Day to Memorial Day, hours vary, call in advance. During the season Monday –Thursday and Saturday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Sunday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Update: 8.26.10 -- The sauce aged well and definitely got hotter the longer we kept it (we refrigerated the bottles) until it was quite hot. FYI - New post on Fisher Farm here.

It's My Blog and I'll Post a Photo of My Cat if I Want To

Noche the Cat Sends Get Well Wishes to Clare of www.eatstuff.blogspot.com.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

What Did I Learn at Food Writing School Today?

Well, I learned a lot of people have a lot of really good ideas for food articles and that many of them are more motivated to get published than I am.

Of yeah, I talk a good talk (write a good write?) about being busy with the kids, the business, the volunteer work and the messy details of life (remind me to tell you of the Kafkaesque run-ins I have had with several bureaucracies this past week), but are they just excuses? Am I afraid to confront my dream?

Will I fail? Do I not want to work that hard? Will it cause conflict with the other demands on my time and attention? It is not just am I good enough, but am I smart enough to figure out what will sell and where and I am persistent enough to get through to the decision makers and convincing enough for them to buy what I want to write?

Hey, that sounds a lot like sales. I thought I wanted to be a food writer! Starting this blog has been so fulfilling -- I am actually writing more and getting more ideas. I had thought Blog Appetit would be enough, but now I am not so sure.

Wouldn't it be great, if some editor spotted my blog and said, "get me her email address, I want that blogger?" Yeah, and my dishes will start washing themselves.

Anyway, I invite you along for FJK's wild ride as a wannabe food writer. Follow my adventures in the new blog (see the links section): I Wanna Be a Food Writer. Click on over to www.iwannabeafoodwriter.blogspot.com to check it out. I'll have some posts from Blog Appetit, but I will also be chronicling my efforts to crack the world of publication for pay. Maybe I'll change the names to protect the guilty. The innocent can use the press.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Pressing Need

What would you get if you were a food blog writer in a Williams-Sonoma store?

That’s the question that was put out there by Jennifer from Taste Everything Once www.tasteeverythingonce.blogspot.com who is the lucky recipient of a generous W-S gift certificate. Well, when I was recently confronted with the same problem, I bought myself a fancy scale to weigh ingredients, or if I overdo the baking, portion sizes for Weight Watchers!

Jennifer, however, is looking for “entertainment must haves.” While I entertain quite a lot, I would call my style rustic at best or family style at my most accurate, so beyond a pretty and practical really big casserole dish (and a few nice trivets to put it on) I’m out of ideas.

But I thought of my current favorite kitchen gadget, and thought if Jennifer is willing to expand her concept a bit, I could heartily recommend a nice size panini press/grill.

I resisted one as long as I could, but when I finally succumbed it was love at first grill mark. Not only can you make yourself fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches when you just need that comfort hit, you can use it to grill all kinds of bits and bites of carbs, proteins and vegetables for yourself and company.

If you need to justify it for “entertaining,” I do find no one can resist a properly grilled panini. Make some minis for appetizers, or use it to grill bread for bruschettas. Plus you can use it to make the main course, too.

My recommendation is to get one with removable plates (much easier to clean) and one that has a slight slant so that the grease and juices drain into a reservoir (preferably removable for easy cleaning.)

I’d also check into the hinge and see if it floats a bit to accommodate thicker ingredients.

Those are the basics I’d recommend. My grill also came with waffle plates (which I didn’t need) and quesadilla plates (which I believe no one needs). I’ve seen more expensive ones that convert into open grills and have other features. I do admit, heat control might be nice.

Now, here’s the true confession part – I got mine for $30 at Costco. It’s made by VillaWare, a company that also makes much bigger and more elaborate grills. Plastic bits and pieces have already broken off. A few springs mysteriously fell out with no apparent place to replace them. It is a little small for entertaining; I have to make sandwiches in batches. But it works well and I’ve learned its idiosyncrasies and it has earned its right to counter space. I had wanted one of the fancy presses from Williams-Sonoma or Sur la Table, but I couldn’t justify the expense until I knew if I’d use it. So I bought the cheapie and now can’t justify replacing it with a more expensive one.

Pass the grilled Portobello mushroom and red pepper, goat cheese and pesto sauce, I feel a panini coming on!


My grill is no longer offered by Costco.
Williams-Sonoma offers a nice range of panini presses and grills at:

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Channeling Julia Child?

In a recent post I wrote about the tart experience. Part of that was teaching my friends how to make lemon curd. Now lemon curd can be a wondrous thing to eat, but an intimidating or even tortuous experience to make. Since my friends were curd neophytes, I thought I needed a simpler recipe than the one I had been using which I thought could sour them on the whole process since it involved roughly 15 separate steps, two separate strainings and a huge chunk of time.

After a bit of research, I picked a recipe from Baking with Julia (see below) which seemed very straightforward but still classic.

I knew I had picked the right resource when I made a mistake in completing the recipe (I had my friends add the butter too early) and the recipe turned out just fine.

A bit embarrassed in front of my friends (after all I was playing teacher), I started to get flustered but then I flashed back on to those old French Chef shows where the chicken would go flying and Julia would pick it up with aplomb and just carry on.

You know what, that’s what I did, just carry on. We all laughed and my friends learned an important truth about cooking. Most recipes don’t include perfection as an ingredient.

Thanks, Julia.

Lemon Curd ala Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (you are going to all this effort, don’t cheat now)
Grated zest of a lemon
½ stick of unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into eighths.

Put water in the bottom of a double boiler or large pan and bring to a simmer. In the top pan of the double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl that will fit on top of your pan for an improvised double boiler, beat eggs and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, add in the lemon juice and zest. Put pan with mixture on top of pan with simmering water. (There should be no contact between the bottom of the top pan and the water.)

Whisk the mixture by hand. Constantly. Sing songs to your self. Take a mental inventory of your spices. Keep whisking. The curd WILL thicken and be so delicious it will be worth all this time.

Once it has thickened, use oven mitts and transfer top pan/bowl to the counter and whisk in the butter piece by piece. Then, press plastic wrap directly on top of the curd and refrigerate until well chilled and set.

Hocus Focus -- Food Writing

I had a blog entry all written to post for today (see above), but I just got back from a class sponsored by the Writing Salon for people who love food and would like to learn food writing and I felt the need to “blog” about it. It is a small class with a good mix of writers and food enthusiasts taught by my friend, Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food, an excellent handbook for aspiring food writers.

We were working on the concepts of first person essay and memoir and Dianne was coaching us to write about the usual that people can relate to but to add context and meaning to make it unusual.

That got me to thinking about blogging and the food blogs I enjoy. The ones I like best are blogs whose creators offer points of view that give a special focus or context to what they are writing about. Which makes me wonder, what is my focus, how do I filter things differently or give the mundane context that you, the reader, find insightful and valuable? If I am writing for myself, should these issues matter?

But am I indeed writing this blog for myself? As more of my friends know about this site, they ask me why I am doing it. My sister-in-law (an excellent writer herself) called it “will write for praise.” Maybe not praise, but to take advantage of technology to be heard in a direct way unfiltered by the vagaries, filters and delays of query letters, book proposals, publishing contracts and marketing concerns. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound? If I write for others and no one ever reads it, how can I have an impact? What obligation to I have to myself and what do I have to my “readers” (who at this point probably number in the 10s)?

I don’t really have an answer for this, but I have been more than subliminally aware that Blog Appetit is a bit of a generalist food blog, kind of more like a Fanny Farmer cookbook rather than one of those slim books focused on lemons or olives or the like. Maybe that will be okay, maybe it will need to change. Right now I guess my blog has a dual emphasis – one is to help me find my voice, my context, my focus as a writer, the other is to help me find a readership who finds value in what I write.

Bringing Up Blog – I’ve figured out how to create special interest links to keep some Blog Appetit favorites at your finger tips. Watch for the tentatively named “Blue Plate Special” section coming to a Blog Appetit near you soon (or as soon as I can find time to finesse the coding).


Dianne Jacob and Will Write for Food

Writing Salon

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Can You Bake a Berry Pie? (Or, Oh, You French Tart!)

What happens when you get four friends and one hot recipe together?

You get a lesson in pie crusts, almond cream filling, lemon curd, new cars, teenagers and semi-precious jewelry.

Maureen, Laurie and Teresa envied me my easy, no fuss pie crust, which I learned in Paris last May at the cooking school of Paule Caillat.
(See http://www.promenadesgourmandes.com/ for more information.)
I debuted my latest Paris fashion at a mutual friend's Memorial Day barbecue. Laurie, in particular, has been anxious to mix it up since then.

So after much schedule juggling, we finally got together the other day at my house. I supplied the nine-inch tart pans, the imported French butter, the French roast coffee and the pastry treats. They brought a lot of enthusiasm and a new cookbook as a pre-thank you present.

After discussing the new car, husbands, kids and the jewelry, we finally got down to business by starting with lemon curd. Personally, I agree with Laurie, a good lemon pie is even better than (dare I say it) the ch-word. I don't believe such goodness can come out of a can, bottle or pudding box, and my friends would have to feel the burn of hand whisking the lemon nectar over an improvised double boiler until it turned into custardy bliss.

While the lemon curd cooled and congealed in the fridge under its plastic wrap skin, we went to work on the uncursed crusts. These require no rolling, no crumbling of butter and flour between your fingers while you try to convince yourself pea size really means the size of an overgrown edamame.

We went to work on the almond cream filling after our crusts were patted into place in the tart pans. One of our three crusts was sacrificed to the lemon pie so one crust was fully baked until golden with edges just beginning to brown. After it cooled the lemon curd was ladled on, smoothed out and zealously guarded from eager tasters to be topped at home by the lucky baker with red, ripe strawberries.

After a 14 minute bake in the old Viking, the other two crusts were ready to pull out of the oven to be filled with the almond, butter, egg, sugar and rum filling. They baked for about 25 minutes more until the filling was set and puffy. After oohing and aahing and a discussion about our general sense of self-satisfaction, sliced strawberries were inserted on top of these open-faced wonders, completing their transformation into true berry tarts.

The berry tarts were loaded in the back of a cherry red roadster, the lemon pie went home in its less colorful but equally able conveyance and plans were made for the next cooking session. Something about spring rolls. I think I said yes.

Almond Tart with Berries
A special thanks to Paule Caillat, who gave me permission to use her recipes.

This is a very adult tasting tart, not too sweet, with lots of flavor. You can also use the tart shell with other fillings. I have used it with a lemon curd filling and Paule, whose family originated this tart, spoke of having made it with a chocolate ganache filling as well. For 6-8 servings

8 1/2 inch to 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom


Please note: your butter must be French or European style and unsalted. These butters are available at specialty supermarkets and sometimes at Trader Joe's. Regular American butters such as Land of Lakes or Challenge (although I haven't tried Challenge's European style) have too high a water content and the crust shrinks and cracks too much when baked.

80 grams (about 3 ounces) unsalted European-style butter
1 tablespoon of a neutral tasting oil
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons of water
Good quality white flour, preferably unbleached, unsifted.

Pre-heat oven to 410 degrees.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl combine the butter, oil, water, sugar and salt. Melt together in a microwave until the ingredients are well melted and mixture is close to a boil. I recommend covering the bowl with waxed paper or a vented top to avoid splatter. If the butter is cold or frozen it would take longer. (I have used frozen butter, but I cut it up into smaller pieces.)

Remove bowl from microwave. Be very careful, the ingredients will be very hot.

Add flour by tablespoons to the butter mixture and stir with a fork. Keep adding and stirring until the mixture forms a ball. Keep adding flour until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. It should not look wet or slick or greasy and have some resistance to your touch, almost like squeezing your earlobe, but still keep together and not crumble.
Press the dough into the ungreased tart pan. Make sure you cover the bottom and sides evenly. Pierce the bottom all over with a fork and press the back of the fork tines against the sides of the tart. Place the tart pan on a baking tray.

Bake at 410 degrees for 10 or 15 minutes. The crust should look lightly browned and show fine cracks.) If you are making a recipe that needs a completely baked crust, bake for additional time until golden overall and the edges have begun to brown.

Almond Cream Filling

100 grams of unsalted butter, softened. (That's about a half cup of butter. American style will work here, but I find that European butter is conveniently sold in sticks of 199 grams, so there is enough for both crust and filling and a small pat leftover.)
Half cup (100 grams) sugar
Half cup (100 grams) almond meal (also known as powdered almonds. If you try to make your own, used blanched almonds and grind it very fine and powdery without turning the mixture to nut butter.)
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon rum

In a bowl, mix the sugar with the powered almonds. Add the butter and thoroughly blend using fork, pastry blender or fingers until the mixture is evenly combined.
Add the egg, flour and the rum. Mix well.

Assembling the Tart

Pre-baked crust
One recipe of almond cream
Approx. 1 pound of strawberries (or other berry)
Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees if you are making right after baking the tart, or preheat to 350 degrees if starting fresh.

Spread the almond cream evenly in the pre-baked tart shell.
Bake in the oven on baking tray for 20 minutes. The filling should be set and have risen up a bit. Cool a bit on a rack.
Wash, drain and remove stems on 1 pound of strawberries. If they are large, you may need to slice them in half or even quarters. Arrange berries on top of baked tart when it is just out of the oven, slightly sinking each berry piece into the almond filling
Let cool a few moments. Sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar (if using).
Remove outer tart ring and serve.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Check the Archives

I just noticed I've now had enough postings for some of the older ones to move off the page. Fear not, they are still available in the October Archives. Sorry, Blogger.com does not offer category archives, so if you are searching for one of my occasional dispatches about Vietnam, or any other topic, you'll need to use the search function located at the top left of the page. Be sure you click on the "search this blog" button to find your treasure at Blog Appetit.

UPDATE -- I figured out how to change the number of postings that will show on my main page. Now items will be on the front page for 30 days. But older posts will be available as described above. (FJK Nov.5 2005)

Marcia's Mom's Cheesecake Cups

At the gym this morning, Jan and I started to chat about food, family, kids, Yosemite National Park, and well, food. She mentioned that she likes to make several kinds of small desserts rather than one big one and offer smaller servings of each.

I said I have just the recipe --Marcia's Mom's Cheesecake Cups

Helene, my friend Marica's mom, would bring these to every dinner, open house, party or whatever. She topped hers with with slices of kiwi fruit or berries. Never one for leaving well-enough alone, I often play with the flavor, cookie and topping combinations. I put some of my variations below the main recipe. Put your suggestions into the comments. I am always looking for a new way to play with this recipe. (How about topping them with some kernels of candy corn and swirling in some caramel syrup for a Halloween cheesecake cup?)

Makes 24

3- 8 ounce packages cream cheese. Okay to use light. I recommend Philly Brand Cheese. Cheese should be at room temperature and broken into large chunks. Use brick style, not whipped. Sorry, the natural style cream cheese doesn't seem to work well here.

3 eggs, beaten

Cup sugar

½ tsp lemon juice

1 and 1/2-tsp vanilla

24 Vanilla wafers (Nabisco, Sunshine or Mother brand recommended) more if you intend to nosh.

Line cupcake tins with paper liners. (If you don't have enough tins, use metal cupcake liners on a cookie sheet.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl, mix eggs and sugar into lemony in color with a hand or stand mixer. Add cream cheese and mix into well combined and very smooth. Add extract and juice and mix well.

Put a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Fill each cupcake liner two-thirds full. Wipe up any drips, which will burn.

Bake for 20 minutes. Center of cheesecakes should be puffed up but they should still be very pale. Turn off oven. Let cheesecakes stand in oven with door open for 30 min. Take cheesecakes out of pans and let cool on rack. Refrigerate or store in freezer.

Just before serving, top with berries or some other fruit.

Here's some variations: Replace the cookie with a chocolate wafer and add chocolate chips to batter, top with chocolate shavings. Use an amaretto cookie or ginger snap and replace vanilla extract with almond, sprinkle with toasted, chopped almonds. Replace the vanilla flavoring with lemon extract and add some finely grated lemon zest to the batter. Try making marbled cheesecake: after filling the cup with the batter, drop in a teaspoon or so of jam, preserves, Nutella, caramel topping, etc., and drag a knife through the batter.

Helene was a warm and wonderful woman. Every time I make this recipe I think of her and generosity to us "kids" (her daughter's friends) far from their own mothers during their turbulent twenties and settling down thirties. I take great pleasure in passing along this recipe and I hope you will, too.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

You Read It Here First

A big thank you to Slashfood for selecting Blog Appetit's pair of pumpkin postings (see below) for it's Editor's Choice Award in the Great Pumpkin Day competition.

To see the award winners or to surf the other (delicious looking) entries, go to http://www.slashfood.com/ and search under pumpkin.

In other Blog Appetit news, I've enabled the "email me" function. Got something to tell FJK? Click on my profile and then the email me selection and your words will be in my inbox before you know it!

Still to come: I hope to figure out how to link directly to posts such as The Great Pumpkin Day Contest at Slashfood and add links to the blogs I know and love and want you to know about. Remember this is just a baby blog, not even a month old. Got suggestions for it's care and feeding? Leave a comment on this post or use the new email me feature.

Update:  I did indeed eventually figure out how to create a link -- so here's the link to my Slashfood editor's choice award for my pumpkin posts.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Local Cake, Well, Takes the Cake!

The owner of my local bakery, Cheryl Lew of Montclair Baking, took home a $10,000 prize for winning the Food Network Challenge for Spooky and Scary Cakes. I stopped by her bakery today hoping for a peek at her prize winning Haunted Harbor Cake. But not a crumb of the prize winner was in evidence.

I've long admired her cakes which not only look good but taste great. So the visit wouldn't be a total loss, I did have a berry scone, the kind that is all crunchy with sugar on top.

I do wonder if all this emphasis on elaborately decorated cakes is bad for us. Not just the sugar issue, but to me it kind of feels a bit like our society's current emphasis on thinness and beauty. These kinds of role models set up impossible standards for those of us who are not genetically blessed while diminishing the value of what's inside. Or in terms of cake, how it looks versus how it tastes. There are those of us who can bake a delicious cake but achieving a smooth crumb coat, never mind sugar roses, is beyond our ability or time constraints.

In terms of the Food Network cake challenge, what was inside was plain, dense, sponge cake. These cakes are made for viewing, not eating. (A beauty pageant for pastry? As long as my cupcakes don't have to measure up, I can live with it, I guess.)

In the case of the very talented Cheryl Lew, I can speak from happy experience that her cakes are beautiful inside and out.


To see the schedule for the spooky cake challenge, go to
and click on TV and then look for the episode and schedule.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Vietnam -- Pyramid Power

In Hoi An, Vietnam, students at this primary school get a colorful visual of what it takes to eat healthy.

This food pyramid poster is at the main gate. In front of it is a vendor selling the students and other passersby some of the fruits illustrated on the chart.

Hoi An is at the mouth of a river and on the South China Sea.
Centuries ago it was an important trading port and Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese influences can still be seen in town and are reflected in the food. "White roses," a kind of dim sum that seems Chinese in origin, are a local favorite. Also, a type of cracker bread was served at most meals at local restaurants instead of or in addition to rice.

We had some of our favorite meals in all of Vietnam in Hoi An at the Mermaid and Cafe des Amis restaurants. Watch this blog for more about the food and cultural heritage of Hoi An and Vietnam.

Hereee's Chocolate!

Today is Sugar High Friday #13 -- The Dark Side. The challenge, as proposed by host http://www.lovescool.com/ is to find something new and different to do with dark chocolate.

I think we here at Blog Appetit have met the challenge. Behold our creation:

Chocolate and Cacao Nibs Tart with Almonds (and Peaches or Pears)
This is a very adult tasting tart, not too sweet, with lots of flavor. It features a dark chocolate crust, cocoa nibs in the filling and dark chocolate shavings for garnish.

For 6-8 servings

Chocolate Crust

Please note: your butter must be French or European style and unsalted. Regular American butters such as Land of Lakes or Challenge (although I haven’t tried Challenge’s European style) have too high a water content and the crust shrinks and cracks too much when baked.

Three ounces unsalted European-style butter
Two ounces of bittersweet chocolate broken into a few pieces (I used Schaffen Berger Bittersweet, one fifth, or one section, of a 275 gram bar, just under two ounces. A semisweet chocolate would work, too.)
1 tablespoon of a neutral tasting oil (I use grapeseed, but any bland oil will work)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
Good quality white flour, preferably unbleached, unsifted.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl combine the butter, chocolate, oil, water, sugar and salt. Melt together in a microwave until the ingredients are well melted and mixture is close to a boil. (Stir after a minute or two to help the chocolate melt more evenly.) I recommend covering the bowl with waxed paper or a vented top to avoid splatter. I found the mixture using softened butter took about four minutes on high.

Remove bowl from microwave. Be very careful, the ingredients will be very hot.

Add flour by tablespoons to the butter and chocolate mixture and stir with a fork. Keep adding and stirring until the mixture forms a ball. Keep adding flour until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. It should not look wet or slick or greasy and have some resistance to your touch, almost like squeezing your earlobe, but still keep together and not crumble. It will have stopped absorbing additional flour.

Press the dough into the ungreased 9-inch tart pan. Make sure you cover the bottom and sides evenly. Pierce the bottom all over with a fork and press the back of the fork tines against the sides of the tart. Place the tart pan on a baking tray.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. The crust should look “set” and firm and have some fine cracks. Remove from oven.

Almond Cream Filling with Cacao Nibs
Half cup of unsalted butter, softened.
Half cup sugar
Half cup finely ground blanched almonds (almond meal)
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ to 1/3 cup of Scharffen Berger’s Cacao Nibs. (Cacao nibs are leftover bits of roasted, shelled cacao beans and add texture and a distinctive flavor. Nibs are available at many gourmet style markets. Check http://www.scharffenberger.com/ for more information.)

In a bowl, mix the sugar with the ground almonds. Add the butter and thoroughly blend using fork, pastry blender or fingers until the mixture is evenly combined.
Add the egg, flour and the extract.
Mix well and add the nibs. Combine until the nibs are evenly distributed throughout.

The Fruit
4-5 medium size, firm, fresh peaches or ripe but not soft pears
½ cup sugar
Fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb, peeled (the ginger, not your thumb)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Plunge the peaches in a large pot of boiling water for a minute, remove to a bowl of cool water. Peel, half and remove pit. If using pears, peel, core and half.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, ginger and vanilla with enough water to just more than cover fruit. Allow to cook over a medium high heat until the mixture reduces a bit and becomes a bit syrupy. Add the fruit halves and lower heat to medium. Add more water to cover if the syrup mixture does not cover the fruit. Poach peaches for 10 minutes or so, or until the peaches are soft, but not falling apart. The pears will need to be poached for another 10 minutes or so until they are soft.
Remove fruit from poaching liquid and let cool a bit. Slice each half into thirds. Discard ginger and poaching liquid.

Assembling the Tart
Pre-baked crust
One recipe of almond-nibs cream
One recipe of poached fruit
¼ cup to 1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings

Preheat to 350 degrees if starting fresh.

Spread the almond nib cream evenly in the pre-baked tart shell. Arrange poached fruit slices on top.
Bake in the oven on baking tray for 20 minutes. The filling should be set and have risen up a bit. Cool a bit on a rack. Sprinkle liberally with chocolate shavings before serving. (Note: use a spoon, the shavings will melt on your fingers if you try to do it by hand and you will be forced to continually lick your fingers.) Remove outer tart ring and serve.

(The technique for this crust and almond cream are variations based on ones taught by Paule Caillat at http://www.promenadesgourmandes.com/ at her cooking school in Paris. Merci, Paule!)