For this tart you make a simple crust by crushing Amaretti cookies (or gingersnaps or chocolate or vanilla wafers) and mixing them with a touch of sugar and melted butter and lining a French tart pan. The filling is like a chocolate mousse—good bittersweet chocolate, cream, eggs, vanilla and sea salt. What I love about the tart is that the filing has no sugar -- it’s all about honoring the chocolate and the balance of the sea salt.
Serve the tart in thin slices with hot chocolate (sure, why not, it’s still February), dark coffee, or top it with vanilla-scented whipped cream, frozen yogurt, or crème fraiche.
The tart makes a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift for someone you love. Even if they are the type who would hide chocolate from you.
Plan on letting the tart cool for at least one hour and up to 12 hours. You’ll need a 9-inch French-style round tart pan with a removable bottom for this tart; you can use a regular pie plate but it’s never quite as special.
1 cup ground Amaretti cookies*
5 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar**
The Chocolate and Sea Salt Filling:
1 ½ cups heavy cream
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (65% cocoa), well chopped, or 1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon good sea salt, see head note, plus some for sprinkling on top
2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, optional***
*You’ll need about 20 cookies, depending on the brand and the size. Place the cookies in a food processor or blender and blend until finely ground. You can also place them in a tightly sealed plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin until finely ground. You could also substitute with ginger snaps graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or chocolate graham crackers; 20 gingersnaps= 1/1 2 cups ground cookies. And you can 1 to 2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes (unsweetened) instead of, or in addition to, the sugar.
**I don’t like the pie too sweet. If you like a sweeter crust you can add another tablespoon or two of sugar, but the cookies are awfully sweet.
***Toasted coconut flakes are found in specialty food shops. But you can easily make them: place unsweetened coconut flakes on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the flakes just begin to turn a golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Make the crust: in a bowl mix the crushed cookies, the melted butter, and the sugar. Press the crust into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan. You can also make this in a regular pie plate but it’s never quite as good! Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
Place the tart pan on cookie sheet and bake on the middle shelf for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.
Make the chocolate filling: place the cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Pour the hot cream on top and stir steadily, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt until frothy. Add the whisked egg mixture to the chocolate mixture. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake on the middle shelf for about 25 to 28 minutes. To test for doneness: gently shake the tart and if the middle wobbles a little (and still appears undercooked) but the sides seems solid it is perfect. The tart will continue to cook when it’s removed from the oven and will firm up while cooling.
Remove from the oven and, while the tart is still warm, sprinkle with about ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the coconut flakes, if using, very gently pressing into the chocolate if it doesn’t seem adhere. Let the tart cool for 1 hour. Some claim the tart is best served after an hour of cooling, but I like it best after it’s been covered and placed in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight. Serves 6. Or serves 2 for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Indian-Spiced Meatballs with Yogurt and Mango Chutney
Salmon and Ginger Cakes
I like to coat these fish cakes-- chopped fresh salmon, mixed with ginger,
scallions, cilantro, red bell pepper, and a dash of sesame oil -- in panko
breadcrumbs before lightly pan-frying them. The result is a fish cake that’s
light in texture but bursting with fresh flavors. Serve these salmon cakes
with lemon or lime wedges, and Orange Miso Dipping Sauce (see below).
Orange-Miso Dipping Sauce
East meets West in this refreshing, citrusy dip. Try spreading the sauce
on grilled chicken or fish, or use it as a simple dip for fresh vegetables,
shrimp. It’s even delicious drizzled over a salad.
Walnut Pancakes with Caramelized Bananas
I’m a huge fan of these light, nutty, crunchy cakes. Served with a caramelized banana topping, and drizzled with warm maple syrup, these are a real Sunday morning favorite. Best of all, the batter can be made up to 2 hours ahead of time, covered and refrigerated, and the pancakes and topping can be cooked at the last minute. Be sure to let the batter return to room temperature before cooking the pancakes.
For the Pancakes:
To make the pancakes: whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and the buttermilk together until blended. Add the melted butter, and whisk again to combine. Add the dry ingredients, and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Fold in the walnuts and vanilla, and let the batter sit for about 10 minutes.
While the batter sits, prepare the banana topping: melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar has melted and the mixture begins to simmer. Cook over low heat for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Add the banana slices to the pan in a single layer and cook for about 2 minutes, or until soft and lightly browned. Using a small spatula, carefully flip the bananas over. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and set aside until the pancakes are done.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add about a teaspoon of butter. Ladle 1/3 (one third) cup of the pancake batter into the pan, allowing the pancake to spread on its own; it should be about 4 inches wide. Repeat, making sure not to crowd the skillet. Cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and puffy.
Repeat with remaining pancake batter, stacking the finished pancakes on an ovenproof platter and keeping them warm in the oven. Place the maple syrup in a small saucepan and warm over low heat, about 3 to 4 minutes. Before serving, heat the bananas over medium-high heat for a minute or two, until the bananas begin to caramelize and the brown sugar sauce is bubbling. Pour the bananas over the hot pancakes and serve the warm maple syrup on the side.
Serves 4; makes 8 pancakes.
Substitute 1/2 (half) cup whole wheat flour for 1/2 (half) cup of the all-purpose flour, and add another tablespoon of buttermilk.
Substitute chopped pecans, almonds, or pistachios for the walnuts, or use a combination.
Add 1/8 (one eighth) teaspoon ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice to the pancake batter with the flour.
• Use thinly sliced apples or pears instead of bananas for the topping, cooking until the fruit becomes just soft.
• Add a dollop of crème fraiche, plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt, or sour cream as a topping for the pancakes.
Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce
This is classic bar food, the kind of dish you see everywhere these days. But let’s face it: most Buffalo wings are not only greasy and heavy, they leave you feeling like you made a mistake ordering them in the first place. I admit a weakness for these spicy wings, so I toyed with the recipe a bit and came up with something I really like.
The first thing that distinguishes these wings is that they are baked, not fried, and lightly coated (not glopped) with a tart, spicy sauce. Also, because the wings are baked at a high temperature, the skin gets crispy, and the hot pepper and vinegar sauce soaks in perfectly. Served with celery sticks and a fabulous Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce (see below), these wings make great party food. Ice cold beer seems to be the drink of choice, and don’t forget to pass plenty of napkins.
If you’re serving these for a party, you can bake the wings up to 24 hours ahead, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, simply reheat the wings for about 5 to 10 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven, until hot, and then toss with the spicy sauce.
1/4 cup olive oil
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
Mix the oil, garlic, cayenne, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Pat the chicken wings dry using paper towels, then toss them in the oil mixture to coat.
Place the wings on a large baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes (20 minutes for legs). Carefully flip the chicken over and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken is well browned and cooked through.
Meanwhile, whisk the ketchup, vinegar, and hot sauce until blended in a large bowl. Remove the chicken from the oven, drain off the excess oil, and pour the ketchup sauce over the wings, making sure to coat them thoroughly. Place the wings on a platter and serve hot or at room temperature accompanied by the celery, carrots, and blue cheese dipping sauce.
Serves 4 to 6.
• Use sriracha (Thai chili-garlic sauce) or Chinese chili paste instead of (or in addition to) the hot sauce.
• Add a pinch ground dried chiles to the oil and garlic mixture.
Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce
Serve this dipping sauce with the Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings on page 00,
or as a thick, delicious salad dressing.
It can also serve
as a dip for raw vegetables or cooked shrimp or skewers of grilled beef or
Lobster Salad with Lime and Ginger
In Maine, nothing says summer like a good lobster roll. The basic recipe is pretty much the same throughout the state: plump lobster meat mixed with mayonnaise and, usually, chopped celery. This version is spiked with fresh ginger, lime zest, and crunchy scallions. Serve it New England-style in a lightly toasted split-top hot dog bun, or on a bed of watercress for an elegant appetizer or a light summer dinner.
8 ounces fresh cooked lobster meat, chopped, from a 1 1/2 pound lobster, (about
1 1/2 cups meat)
Mix everything except the salt and pepper in a small bowl until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as an appetizer.
• Top cucumber rounds, radish rounds, or endive spears with a spoonful of the salad for a colorful hors d’oeuvre.
• Substitute lump crab meat for the lobster.
I combined ginger ice cream and coconut milk to create this exotic-flavored drink. How can only two ingredients whirled together fill the mouth with so many flavors? Serve it as dessert or a drink; the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
1 pint ginger ice cream
Add both ingredients to the jar of a blender and blend until completely smooth. Serve immediately.
Serves 2 to 4.
• Add 1/4 cup rum.
• Add 1/4 cup lemon-flavored vodka.
• Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass or grated lemon rind.