Monthly Archives: February 2014

Valentine’s Day Sweets

Most people associate a gift of chocolate with Valentine’s Day.  While a box of chocolates is the traditional sweet, whether it’s dark chocolate bark or chocolate truffles, I intend to make my Valentine a special dessert following a homemade meal.  Below are three of my favorite desserts that are rich and comforting yet relatively simple to make.

Chocolate Ricotta Cheese Cake

 Ingredients:

½ cup of sugar

3 eggs

¼ pound of semi-sweet chocolate cut into small pieces

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

½ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Small splash of orange flavored liqueur such as Triple Sec

1½ pounds of ricotta

You can prepare this recipe in a pie dish or you can use ramekins for individual servings.  I prefer the latter for ease of serving and a more interesting presentation.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the sugar and eggs together, then add the chocolate and other ingredients.  Put the ricotta in last and mix thoroughly.  Butter the ramekins and fill them with the mixture so it reaches about ¾ up the sides of the ramekins.  Place the ramekins in a baking dish and add enough hot water to the dish to come about ½ the way up the sides of the ramekins.  Cover the entire dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until it looks like the mixture is cooked through.  Remove the foil and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Test doneness by putting a toothpick in the center and making sure that the center is no longer liquid.  Remove the dish from the oven and carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath.  Chill the ramekins before serving and top with fresh berries.

Flan with Fresh Fruit

 Ingredients:

5 eggs

14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

1 cup of whole milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

½ cup of sugar

2 tablespoons of water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the eggs.  Mix the eggs, condensed milk, whole milk and vanilla (this is the flan mixture).

Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat and add the sugar and water.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the sugar and water mixture until the sugar melts and turns a light brown color (this is the caramel).  You may need to add more water to achieve a caramel consistency.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the caramel into a buttered 9 inch round pie dish.  Then pour the flan mixture into the mold and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Place the mold into about 1½ inches of hot water in a larger pan.  Bake for about 1 hour.  To test, insert the tip of a knife in the flan.  If the knife comes out clean, then the flan is finished.  Chill the flan before serving.  To serve, place fresh berries on the side of the flan.

Coconut Rice Pudding

Ingredients:

½ cup of short grain pudding rice

3 tablespoons of superfine sugar

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups of whole milk

1 2/3 cups of coconut milk

7 tablespoons of light cream

2 tablespoons of shredded coconut

Soak an unglazed clay pot, such as a Römertopf, in cold water for 15 minutes and then drain the pot.  Add the rice, sugar, vanilla, milk, coconut milk and cream.  Cover the clay pot and place it in a cold oven.  Set the oven to 350 degrees and cook for 1 hour.  Remove the lid, stir the pudding, then replace the cover and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until the rice is tender.  Remove the lid and stir the pudding.  Sprinkle the pudding with the shredded coconut and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.  Serve at room temperature.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and save some room for dessert!

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of The Journal of the Delaware State Bar Association, a publication of the Delaware State Bar Association. Copyright © Delaware State Bar Association 2014.  All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Flan Photo

New Year’s Challenge – What’s the Main Course?

Below is my January column of the Judicial Palate…

Happy New Year! In this month’s column, I offer two recipes – one for an appetizer course and one for a salad course – for a winter dinner party.  I also pose a challenge to you, rather than ask you to commit to a New Year’s resolution, namely, to propose an idea for the main course.  The person who e-mails me by January 31st with the most fitting dish will receive a package of D’Artagnan duck bacon.  No recipe is required, just the idea…although, if you have a recipe, please do not hesitate to share that as well.

These recipes are intended for 6.  The first course is fried duck egg and duck bacon over roasted fingerling potatoes.  This dish offers a unique way to feature duck, not the typical duck confit or grilled duck breast.  Duck eggs are richer than chicken eggs and have a firmer texture.  Duck bacon is thicker than regular bacon and has a pleasant smoky flavor.  D’Artagnan, out of Newark, New Jersey, sells duck bacon that has been rubbed with salt and sugar and smoked over wood chips.

The salad course of Nantucket Bay Scallops over arugula and endive features the highly prized Nantucket Bay Scallops, which are in season from November through March.  These little treasures are sure to wow your guests with their delicate and naturally sweet flavor.  Nantucket Bay Scallops are just a fraction of the size of sea scallops, but they will beat their larger counterpart in any taste test.

Fried Duck Egg and Duck Bacon over Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Ingredients:

6 duck eggs

12 slices of duck bacon

Fingerling potatoes (about 3 per person)

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

French butter

Extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon

Wash and cut the fingerling potatoes.  Use the tricolored (red, white and purple) fingerlings if available as they will add a vibrant color to the dish; otherwise, any fingerlings will work well.  Place the potatoes in a baking dish and season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon and drizzle olive oil over the potatoes.  Place the baking dish in an oven preheated to 400 degrees, and bake for about 40 minutes or until the potatoes are soft when you poke with a fork.  When the potatoes are almost finished, prepare the bacon and then the eggs.

Place the strips of duck bacon in one layer in a nonstick frying pan.  You will probably have to use two frying pans so that the bacon is not layered.  Place the pans over medium heat and cook the bacon until browned and slightly crisp.  Set aside the bacon on a paper towel.

Fry the eggs in the same two pans that you used to cook the bacon.  Place 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in each pan over medium heat.  When the butter is foaming, break and place the eggs in the pans.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook the eggs for about 3 minutes so that the whites are set but the yolks are runny.

While cooking the eggs, place a serving of potatoes on each plate.  When the eggs are ready, remove them from the pan using a spatula, and place one egg on top of each serving of potatoes.  Place two slices of bacon on top of each egg.

Nantucket Bay Scallops over Arugula and Endive

Ingredients:

Nantucket Bay Scallops (about 9 or 10 per person)

Several handfuls of arugula

3 heads of endive

Extra virgin olive oil

Unsalted butter

Finishing Salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 lemon

Place a small bed of arugula and several leaves of endive on each small plate.  The peppery taste of the arugula will complement the sweetness of the scallops.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add a few tablespoons of butter.  Allow the pan to heat up and the butter to foam.  Tilt the pan around so that the olive oil and butter coat the bottom of the pan.  You may test whether the pan is hot enough by running your fingers under water and then “spritzing” water into the pan.  If the water “skeetches”, then the pan is hot enough.  Once the pan is hot enough, place the scallops in the pan with space in between them so that they may sizzle.  These tiny scallops cook quickly – only one or two minutes at most.  They will become opaque when cooked.

Place the scallops over each bed of greens.  Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over the scallops.  Add finishing salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

I look forward to receiving your main course submissions – meat, fish, pasta, vegetarian – all are welcome!

© 2013, La Cucina di Poppiti, LLC.  All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of The Journal of the Delaware State Bar Association, a publication of the Delaware State Bar Association. Copyright © Delaware State Bar Association 2014.  All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.