Classic Chocolate Mousse

Image of classic chocolate mousse in a stemmed serving bowlIt Mousse Be Love
When I was a kid, I would order chocolate mousse whenever it was an option on the dinner menu. I thought it was the height of sophistication until my eight-year-old eyes were opened to the wonder that is a well-caramelized crème brûlée.

Strangely, chocolate mousse is not a dessert option you see all that often anymore, at least not as a standalone. It is out there in the wild. But, you have to look for it. Sure, there are chocolate mousse cakes—but a single dish of chocolate mousse? Not really. And a Pot de Crème is not the same thing.

Perhaps it is time chocolate mousse made a comeback?

The hot summer months are a great time to give Classic Chocolate Mousse a try because all that is needed is a microwave and a hand mixer. No hot oven (or even stoves) is required. What is required is good quality chocolate. Not the stuff you eat in the afternoon that I like to refer to as rescue chocolate. Good quality baking chocolate like Guittard or Valhrona is key.

While I do like my chocolate mousse straight up, I will from time to time add flavor, like a little espresso or something boozy. Just be careful not to add too much or your chocolate will seize and become grainy and/or greasy.

Real legit chocolate mousse is rich and decadent. Real chocolate mousse is not melted chocolate combined with whipped cream. If you make it the right way, Classic Chocolate Mousse contains butter and eggs which give the mousse its silky fluffiness. Don’t be afraid of the fact that the eggs are not cooked. It’s not too different than the runny yolks of a fried egg. If you are concerned, just make sure that the eggs you use are pasteurized and you should be just fine.

Classic Chocolate Mousse Recipe
Yields 4 servings

Classic Chocolate Mousse is both rich and creamy, yet light and fluffy.
This is a classic chocolate mousse made French-style. It has less cream, an intense chocolate flavor, and a beautiful, creamy mouth feel.

Note that this recipe needs at least 5 hours in the fridge to set before serving. Read more…

Amy’s Lemon Icebox Cake

Image of a slice of Amy’s Lemon Ice Box Cake with grated lemon zest and chopped pistashiosWhat’s in the (Ice) Box?
If you are looking for an easy Summer dessert that requires no heat and very little effort, look no further that the icebox cake. Its name may bring to mind Leave it To Beaver-type visions of the 1950s. But, in fact, its origins are even older than that. Icebox cakes are the original no-bake dessert!

When refrigeration arrived in the home during the 1920s, ice box cakes became very popular. Usually, they were made by layering cookies or graham crackers between layers of cream and fruit. Then they were then left to set in the ice box until ready to serve. Companies like Nabisco “conveniently” helped the rise in popularity by printing icebox cake recipes on the boxes of their Famous Chocolate Wafers and Nilla Wafers.

One of the best things about icebox cakes is that they are infinitely customizable (as long as you have cookies of some sort and cream). What you add to that is completely up to you. The most popular versions tend to go with chocolatey combinations like Oreo cookies and cream. Graham crackers can be used to make a s’mores version. And the banana cream version with Nilla Wafers is soooo good.

Personally, I am a fan of Amy’s Lemon Icebox Cake. And, for that, I go with Nilla Wafers, although you could also use shortbread cookies to class it up a bit…whatever floats your boat.

On a hot day, the fresh taste of lemon can be just the thing to satisfy your sweet tooth without being too sweet. Just remember to plan for the time it takes to set. I like to use mascarpone because it’s lighter than a traditional cream cheese but you could use either.

Amy’s Lemon Icebox Cake
Yields 10 servings Read more…

Amy’s Carrot Cake

Amy’s Carrot Cake PhotoThe Dos and Don’ts of Carrot Cake
I’m making a carrot cake this weekend for Easter. While it may not be the most innovative choice for an Easter dessert, it is a family tradition. So…

The hardest thing about making a carrot cake for my extended family is that there are a number of rules one needs to follow in order to make it edible for everyone. First off, it better not have any raisins. To the younger members of our family raisins—in any way shape or form—are a horror that cannot be suffered no matter the recipe. I have no idea what event occurred in their early childhoods to foment such a visceral reaction to this particular dried fruit. But, to them, raisins are the very definition of eeew.

To be fair, I have my own issues. For example, you will never see pineapple in my carrot cake. I love pineapple and will happily devour a perfectly ripe one in a single sitting. But, there is something about adding it to a carrot cake that just doesn’t work for me. Also, I will always use pecans instead of walnuts. Doesn’t matter what I am making. Pecans are better than walnuts. There. I said it.

Lastly, I gotta add some coconut. True, it may not be traditional but the added flavor makes it non-negotiable.

When all is said and done, after everyone’s rules have been followed, you are left with a truly classic Eastern celebration dessert, Amy’s Carrot Cake. Let’s be honest though, while the cake does actually matter, its most important purpose, really, is to serve as the vehicle for cream cheese frosting consumption.

Amy’s Carrot Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Read more…

Asparagus, Tomato, and Fontina Frittata

Asparagus, Tomato, and Fontina FrittataLoving The Tall Grass
It’s been a bumpy road to discovering my love of asparagus. As a kid, I would live in fear of the dinners where I would walk through the door and smell it steaming. If we were at my grandmother’s and I saw the hollandaise on the table, I knew it would be a rough night.

Back then asparagus wasn’t as readily available year-round as it is now. So, the arrival of those fat green stalks always heralded the beginning of spring—and filled me with dread thinking about what would be for dinner. From the moment asparagus appeared in the produce section, the regular and preferred vegetable component of our dinners switched from broccoli and frozen peas to a steady diet of asparagus prepared the same way, every time.

I can trace my change of heart vis-a-vis asparagus back to one night when I was living in San Francisco and attending a six-week cooking course. One of the many recipes we made that night was this Ragout of Fava Beans, Peas, and Asparagus with Pecorino and Crispy Prosciutto.

It was a lightbulb moment for me. Until then, I had strangely only had asparagus that was, usually, over-steamed, and I am not sure how I managed it. That recipe opened my eyes and taste buds to what asparagus is supposed to taste like. It’s a totally different experience when it is grilled…or roasted.

After having now explored asparagus used in any number of ways, you might ask what my current favorite way to enjoy asparagus is. The answer: steamed but still crunchy.

Perhaps it’s the obvious link to Easter. But, I also really like asparagus paired with eggs. This Asparagus, Tomato, and Fontina Frittata recipe is a great example. It’s delicious for brunch or paired with a salad for a light lunch. And, it does work well for an Easter buffet.

Asparagus, Tomato, and Fontina Frittata
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and the Food Network
Yields 6 servings Read more…