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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Make Your Own Chocolate Candy


This Easter, instead buying of store-bought candy full of sugar, make your own healthier version.

For this simple recipe you won't need a candy thermometer or any sort of sweeteners, just high quality dark chocolate, your favorite nuts, and a silicone mold.

I used a mold with 24 small squares, but you can use mini paper cups if you don't have a mold.

I topped the dark chocolate squares with raw nuts but you can get creative here and use fresh raspberries, dried fruit, coconut flakes, pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

8 oz 72% dark chocolate
Raw nuts of choice

Melt the dark chocolate slowly in a glass or stainless steel bowl placed on top of a pan of slowly simmering water. As soon as it's just melted, stir it until smooth.

Place your mold on a sheet tray so it will be easy to transfer it to the fridge later. Spoon the melted chocolate into your mold, making a layer of chocolate on the bottom of each square thick enough to hold the nuts securely but thin enough to make them easy to bite into.

Once you've portioned the chocolate, gently shake the mold to smooth the top of each square. Add your toppings and transfer them to the fridge for two hours.

Once they have set and chilled, work quickly to unmold them because your warm hands will cause them to melt if you handle them too much. Place them directly on a serving plate at room temperature or in a glass storage container in  the fridge.

Take them out of the fridge about half an hour before you serve them. Only move them when they are cold and once they come to room temperature, don't move them at all.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Simple Sole With Lemon Caper Sauce


This fish dish looks fancy and tastes complex but it's surprisingly simple to prepare. You just need one skillet and a handful of ingredients that you may already have on hand: onion, garlic, lemon, oregano, and capers.

A dish this simple begs for variations so feel free to experiment. If you don't have or don't like capers, try olives or anchovies. I used oregano but you could use thyme or basil or marjoram. This time I used red scallions but other times I've used shallot or leek instead. I've also substituted preserved lemon for fresh lemon and even halibut for sole. Each variation is different, but they're all good.

To make the sauce, I used a dry white wine. If you prefer a wine-free sauce you can substitute fish or seafood stock, vegetable broth, fresh chopped tomato (which dissolves into a sauce), or extra lemon juice and a splash of water. If you do add wine, use one you would drink. I used a Seyval Blanc from the Finger Lakes. It's subtle citrus undertones pair perfectly with fish and I served the rest of the bottle with the finished dish.

After you cook the fish and transfer it to a serving plate, I recommend covering it and using the same pan to quickly sauté some chopped greens like Swiss chard with a pinch of sea salt and any residual sauce. It takes just a few minutes and goes great with the sole.

3 tbsp grass-fed or organic butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced red scallions (green parts too)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup drained capers 
1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves or 1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 organic lemon
1 pound Dover sole fillets

Melt the butter in a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until just aromatic, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the capers, oregano, white wine, and a pinch each of sea salt and ground pepper. Zest the lemon into the pan, then cut it in half and juice one half into the pan as well. Reserve the other half.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced and thickened by half. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Season the sole fillets with sea salt and ground pepper. Arrange them on top of the sauce and cover the skillet. Cook the fish over low heat until they flaky and cooked through. Do not over-cook the fish. You can cook thin fillets in just a few minutes without flipping them, which agrees with their delicate nature. Thicker fillets can be flipped gently after 3 or 4 minutes, then cooked until done.

Carefully transfer the sole fillets to serving plates and top with the sauce.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Preserved Lemons


Preserving lemons is easy to do yourself and it's especially convenient if your local market doesn't carry them. You only need 2 ingredients (coarse sea salt and organic, unwaxed lemons) and a clean pint-size glass jar to store them in.

This recipe does need to be made a month in advance but, once the lemons are ready, they will last for a year in your fridge. Make them now, while citrus is still in season, so they'll be ready whenever you are.

6 small organic, unwaxed lemons
5 tablespoons coarse sea salt

Wash a pint-size jar and matching lid in hot, soapy water and dry it thoroughly.

Cut 3 of the lemons lengthwise in quarters and remove any visible seeds. Transfer them to a mixing bow. Toss the lemon wedges with the salt until they are thoroughly coated.

Carefully spoon the lemon wedges into the clean jar, packing them tightly and distributing the extra salt evenly throughout. Sprinkle any salt leftover in the bowl on top of the lemons.

Reserve the lemon zest from the remaining lemons for another purpose (put it in your next cup of tea or dry it for a spice rub). Squeeze the lemon juice, strain out any seeds, and pour the juice over the salted lemons to cover them completely. If need be, place a glass or ceramic weight on top to keep them submerged (like a small ramekin you would use for a dipping sauce or tea bag).

Cover the jar tightly and transfer it to a dark spot at room temperature. Once a day for the first week, turn the jar over, shake it gently for a few seconds to redistribute the salt throughout the jar, then turn it back up.

After one week, prepare another very clean pint-size glass jar. Strain the lemons and reserve the liquid. Transfer the lemon wedges, which should be softer and more malleable now, to the clean jar, arranging and packing them tightly together. Pour the reserved liquid over the top, making sure they are submerged (use a ceramic weight if you have to). Set the jar aside again, in a dark spot at room temperature, and leave it undisturbed for 3 more weeks.

To use the preserved lemons, remove and discard the seeds. Most people also discard the flesh, but I usually don't. I think that the flesh tastes good and I see no reason to throw it away. I recommend tasting it first and if you like it, chop and use the whole wedge. If you don't like it, discard the fruit and chop only the lemon rind.

If the lemons are too salty for you, rinse off the preserving liquid and soak the wedges in water if need be. (The longer you soak them, the more salt will be drawn out.)

When you cook with preserved lemons, take the extra saltiness into account and skip adding any other salt to dishes until you taste them at the end of cooking. Remember that you can always add salt later but you can't take it out.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Raw Chocolate Truffles


These chocolate balls are soft, chewy, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. They're healthy too. Made with raw cacao nibs, walnuts, dates, and coconut, they're full of good fats, antioxidants, nutrients, and fiber.

I also added cinnamon and caynene for a subtle kick and some anti-inflammatory action. (You can add as little or as much as you wish or omit them completely.)

Grinding the ingredients in a food processor is the only way to achieve the perfect texture. Because it brings out the natural (healthy) oils from the walnuts and cacao nibs, the finished balls have an oily texture. Conveniently, an oily outside is the perfect surface for making things stick. And because the natural fats are good for your skin, you can moisturize your hands at the same time. Once you've formed the balls, just rub your hands together until the oils are absorbed.

I garnished these truffles with shredded coconut. Reminiscent of snow, it's a festive touch during winter months but it's delicious all year long. Alternatively, you could garnish the truffles with cocoa powder (photo below) or chopped nuts.

Cacao Nibs


  • 1/2 cup raw cacao nibs
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut plus more to garnish
  • 7 dates, pitted
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Pinch cayenne

  1. Put the cacao nibs in a food processor and pulse to roughly chop. Add the rest of the ingredients: walnuts, coconut, dates, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. Process until they become a smooth, thick, soft, and homogenous mass. It will make a lot of noise and take about five minutes. 
  2. Roll the mixture into uniform balls about one inch in diameter. Drop the balls, three or four at a time, into a shallow bowl of unsweetened shredded coconut (or cocoa powder or chopped raw nuts).
  3. Roll them around until they are thoroughly coated, then transfer them to a serving plate or an air-tight storage container. (If you've rolled them in cocoa powder, you may want to shake them off inside a fine mesh strainer first to remove all of the excess powder.) 
  4. Store the raw chocolate truffles (in small paper cups if you wish) inside an air-tight glass container.  Keep them at room temperature to preserve the soft and chewy texture, or keep them in the fridge if you like them a bit more firm.

Yield: 20 bite-sized balls

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Broccoli Rabe with Anchovies, Lemon, and Garlic


Broccoli rabe is a green leafy vegetable full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Because it has a bitter flavor, it acts like a digestive tonic, stimulating the production of the body's own digestive enzymes.

The bitter flavor of broccoli rabe can be an acquired taste, but this recipe is sure to win over any skeptics. It's savory because of the anchovies, bright because of the lemon, and well-balanced because of the garlic.

Broccoli rabe's sharp flavor goes well with mild foods like chicken or fish, and it helps to balance heavier ones like duck and roasted meats. I like to serve it with slow-roasted chicken.

If you think that you don't like anchovies, add them anyway. They're full of healthy omega-3 fats and give this dish a salty, savory flavor, not a fishy one.

This recipe calls for one bunch of broccoli rabe and yields about 4 cups of cooked greens. To even out the cooking time, I cut the thick stalks in half lengthwise before I chop them.

I used ghee as a cooking fat because medium to medium-high heat is needed to caramelize the greens a bit without overcooking them. Olive oil isn't a good choice because its fragile fatty acids are easily damaged by higher cooking temperatures. If you don't have ghee, you can substitute butter (take care not to burn it) or coconut oil.

When it comes to garlic, one of the main medicinal compounds is allicin and it’s formed from an inactive precursor only upon exposure to air. To maximize the benefits of garlic, maximize the surface area exposed to air by grating it with a microplane, then setting it aside for a few minutes to allow those reactions to happen to their fullest extent.

Allicin is destroyed by heat, so the less you cook garlic, the better. I grate it into the serving bowl while the broccoli rabe cooks, then toss them together at the end. The heat from the broccoli rabe softens the raw garlic flavor without rendering the allicin inactive.

1 tbsp ghee 
5 anchovies
1 bunch broccoli rabe, cut into 1-centimeter pieces
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon
Pinch red pepper flakes

Warm the ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies and cook them until they melt.

Add the broccoli rabe and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, tossing occasionally, until the broccoli rabe is tender and starting to brown, about 7 minutes. (Don't toss it too much or it won't brown.)

While the broccoli rabe cooks, grate the garlic and zest the lemon into a serving bowl. (If your lemon isn't organic, omit the zest.)

Once the broccoli rabe is fully cooked, add it to the serving bowl and mix it with the zest and garlic. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice from one half over the broccoli rabe. Toss it well, taste it, and add more lemon juice if you like.

It should be salty enough from the anchovies, but if it isn't, add a bit of sea salt.

Serve immediately.