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A Classic Chocolate Mousse

Sometimes, going retro is best – especially for the gluten-free folks who love dessert but can’t (or won’t) consume anything with flour in it. This decadent chocolate mousse fits the bill and will not leave anyone feeling deprived. For decoration you can pipe a little freshly whipped vanilla scented cream and a perfect raspberry on top – or shave some chocolate…but frankly it is perfection as is. And this dessert is perfect after a delicious steak and salad (which is what we enjoyed for dinner last night!)

Ingredients:

8 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate either finely chopped or in callets (I highly recommend Callebaut Chocolate. I use their semi-sweet callets which melt quickly and are absolutely delicious.)

1/2 cup whole milk

2 large egg yolks (room temperature)

5 large egg whites (chilled for better beating)

3 tablespoons sugar

1 pinch salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract (best quality possible)

Directions:

Melt the chocolate gently over a pot of boiling water.

Meanwhile, heat up the milk in either the microwave or stovetop until scalding hot.

Once the chocolate is melted, gently stir in the heated milk until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla, and then stir in the egg yolks very delicately until incorporated.

Beat the egg whites until they start form soft peaks and then add the sugar. Continue whipping the egg whites until they are forming firm glossy peaks.

Ladle out some of the beaten egg whites and gently incorporate into the chocolate mixture. Once incorporated, gradually add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold until evenly mixed. It’s important to be gentle with the egg whites so that their airiness is not entirely dissipated.

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Set up 6 coupe glasses or other serving dishes and gently ladle out equal portions into each glass. Cover with plastic wrap and chill/set for at least 3 hours before serving.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

Channeling Grandma Sadie’s Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Do you have a sensory memory of a particular food from your childhood, which a beloved family member would make for you? For my wife and her family, Grandma Sadie’s Cinnamon Coffee Cake is that much loved recipe which had not been baked by anyone in the family in decades.

My mother-in-law recently stumbled across a handwritten copy of the recipe with its charmingly vague quantities (such as “add raisins, sugar and cinammon”), and handed it to me to give it a whirl. Using common sense and past baking experience, I decided to give it a try: the result was exactly the dense, moist textured crumb of my wife’s childhood memory with the right flavor profile. The only thing needed was to ramp up the level of cinnamon and sugar to create a more pronounced line within the cake. My wife’s Aunt Marilyn, teared up when I brought over a freshly baked version of her mother’s cake.

I think it’s important to share family recipes across time and space, so that they are not lost as people pass. Since this is a simple cake, every ingredient needs to be as fresh and high quality as possible. I recommend that you don’t skimp on the quality of your butter, eggs, milk, vanilla or cinnamon.

Ingredients:

2.5 cups All-purpose flour (sifted)

2.5 cups granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups of whole milk

2 large eggs (room temperature)

3 heaping teaspoons of baking powder

1 generous teaspoon of vanilla (preferably high-quality vanilla)

2 pinches salt

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter (room temperature)

3 tablespoons of cinnamon (high-quality cinnamon is best)

1 cup black raisins (I usually prefer golden raisins, but the family insisted that black Thompson raisins are the type Grandma Sadie used).

1 Angel Food Cake Pan (if your cake pan is very large, you may need to double the recipe).

Steps:

Pre-heat your oven to 350 (or 325 if convection).

Take a little butter and grease the inside of the angel food cake pan.

Take the rest of the butter, and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and place into a mixing bowl. My mother-in-law Joan insists that you should hand mix each step (she states that the texture is not the same if the batter is machine mixed).  Once I have creamed the butter and the sugar, I added the flour/baking powder/salt and again hand mix to gently incorporate the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, beat the two eggs, milk and vanilla. Then pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and gently hand mix with a spoon, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until the batter is fully emulsified.

In a small third bowl, take the remaining cup of sugar and the three tablespoons of cinnamon and blend the two together until the cinnamon is evenly dispersed.

Pour or ladle 1/3 of the batter into the bottom of the angel food cake pan.

IMG_5983.JPGTake a spoon and gently sprinkle about 1/3 of the sugar/cinammon mixture onto the batter. Then take about 1/3 of the raisins and also gently sprinkle them onto the batter. In the photo below, I have not completed adding as much cinnamon/sugar/raisins as I recommend in the recipe: this is one time where you can’t be timid with sugar.

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Pour or ladle the 2/3 of the batter, then repeat with the cinnamon/sugar and raisins.

Pour or ladle the final 1/3 of the batter, and again repeat with the cinammon/sugar and raisins. There should be a nice coating of cinammon/sugar on top of the batter (which will then carmelize and form a lovely crunchy crust once baked).

Bake for approx 1 hour (if you double the recipe, you will need to bake for at least 90 minutes). You really need to check the cake every 15 minutes after the 45-minute mark, to ensure the cake is cooked thoroughly. I use a long wooden skewer to check all the way through the cake to ensure it is thoroughly done. Any wet batter means it needs longer. For my double recipe, it took at least 90 minutes for the cake to cook all the way through.

Let the cake cool on a baking rack before removing from the pan. Enjoy!

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Sublime Pork Ragu

As someone raised Jewishly, cooking pork did not come with the upbringing. However, I love pork’s delicate qualities and versatility as a protein. This dish is a big family favorite, and no matter how many pounds I make, it disappears rapidly. I use the combination of the Instant Pot to quickly cook the pork with all the flavors under pressure which helps this denser piece of meat to melt its connective fibers into a tender ragu. For serving purposes, this can be served over a bed of perfectly cooked pasta, or over brown rice, or over polenta, or for the paleo types, over cauliflower rice.

Ingredients:

  1. 3-4 lb pork butt (the butt is actually the shoulder)
  2. 8 cups of chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  3. 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (preferably san marzano)
  4. 3 bay leaves
  5. 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  6. 1.5 cups of chopped onion
  7. 6-8 cloves of crushed/minced garlic
  8. 1-2 carrots, diced
  9. 1-2 stalks of celery, diced
  10. 1 teaspoon sugar
  11. 1 parmesan rind
  12. 1-2 teaspoons dry oregano
  13. 1 teaspoon dry thyme
  14. 1/4-1/2 cup of breadcrumbs

Special Tools:

  1. Instant Pot
  2. Dutch Oven

Steps:

  1. Season the pork butt with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  2. Plug in the instant pot, and start by sauteeing the onion, carrot and celery until slightly softened. Add the crushed garlic and saute for another 30-60 seconds.
  3. Put the pork butt into the instant pot and add the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, and herbs, so that the pork should be covered with liquid. Switch the instant pot setting to pressure cook on high, put on the lid to seal it and let it cook for 45 minutes untouched.
  4. After the cooking is over, let the instant pot sit for a while if you have the flexibility with time, so that the pressure is slowly released. If not, slowly vent the steam manually being careful not to get burned or to let too much steam out too rapidly (it will make a mess if it’s done too quickly).
  5. Open the lid gently once the seal is released, and use a ladle to skim off most of the liquid fat that has floated to the surface and discard or store for use in another recipe.
  6. With tongs, take the pork out and put it into the dutch oven. Remove the string from around the pork. Remove any still solid fat and discard (there is often a ribbon of fat along the outside edge of the pork). Use two forks to shred the meat. Shredding should be quite easy to do.
  7. Pour all of the braising liquid over the shredded pork. Add a parmesan rind and a spoonful of sugar and begin to slowly simmer the sauce uncovered.Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning/salt level if needed. To thicken the sauce without reducing it down too much, add breadcrumbs which gives a lovely texture without altering the flavor profile in any way. Let the sauce cook uncovered on the stovetop for at least an hour (or put the dutch oven in the oven and cook at 350 degrees for at least one hour).

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Lemon Ricotta & Almond Flourless Torte with Raspberry Coulis

This little torte is perfect for a lighter style of dessert and would be great to end a Passover Seder or any meal with a gluten-free (flourless) desssert option. Don’t skip making the raspberry coulis – the contrasting flavors of tart, sweet, creamy and fruity work really well together.

Ingredients:

Lemon, Ricotta Almond Torte with Raspberry Coulis
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened/room temp (I prefer European butters)
1 1/4 cups super fine sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon rind (use organic, unsprayed lemons)
4 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
4 eggs, separate yolks from whites
2 cups almond flour (make sure the flour is finely textured)
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (try to buy fresh ricotta and avoid low-fat/skim with its gums and fillers)
1 cup raspberries (frozen) for coulis
1/2 cup fresh raspberries to decorate top of cake
powdered sugar, for garnish and for coulis

 

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees (convection) or 350 standard. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, grease/butter sides of pan and parchment paper.  Place butter, sugar, vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer until mixture is light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes.  Add lemon rind and lemon juice and beat for 30 seconds until included. Add the four egg yolks and mix for about three minutes until completely combined.  In another clean dry bowl, with clean beaters, beat egg whites until they have reached stiff peaks. (make sure the whites do not have any specks of egg yolk, or your whites will not form stiff peaks).  Fold half of the egg whites into the mixture until incorporated then add the almond flour, gently folding until evenly combined.
Add remaining egg whites and the ricotta cheese, continuing to gently fold batter until all ingredients have come together.  Pour into cake pan and allow to cook for 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is firm to the touch and when a toothpick is inserted into the center and it comes out clean.  Once done, place cake on cooling rack until thoroughly cooled.  Once cooled remove and place on serving plate.  Dust the top of the torte with powdered sugar, and add raspberries in whatever fashion gives you joy.
While the cake is baking, prepare the raspberry coulis. You can either use fresh or frozen raspberries for this sauce. Puree the 8-10 ounces of raspberries with 2-4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. (I do this to taste, as raspberries can be tart and may require more sugar for balance). Strain the solids through a sieve and reserve sauce. Solids can be tossed out.
For plating, I like to pour a small pool of sauce onto the plate, then place a slice of the torte on top.

Baby Boomers Retire In Style: Living The High Life in L.A.

 

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Rooftop pool at The W Residences.

W Residence Rooftop

Rooftop entertaining at the W Residences.

Baby boomers continue to break the mold when it comes to retiring and “downsizing”. This generation wants to remain active, flexible and mobile – and so selling the family house doesn’t mean moving into a smaller condo. Instead many boomers are opting to move into a high-end luxury townhome or condo with all the bells and whistles of a 5-star hotel resort.

Here in Los Angeles, brands like the W and Ritz Carlton Residences are getting in on the act – offering stunning condos in highly desirable locations, like Hollywood, Downtown LA and Santa Monica.  With a 24-hour concierge, valet parking, resort-sized swimming pool, full-scale gym, screening room and other facilities for entertaining including rooftop gardens with views, lounges, fireplaces and wetbars, retirees can enjoy a high quality of life while no longer having to worry about lawn care or home maintenance issues. Having been a guest at the W Residences, I can say that the rooftop views of the Hollywood Hills and iconic Sign, and panoramic views to Santa Monica, are stunning. The rooftop area is fantastic for entertaining and is offered at a minimal cost to the building’s resident/owners.

These condos also allow individuals to be able to simply lock their door and travel without needing to setup any maintenance or management of their home while they are away.  This sort of luxury does not come without a significant pricetag: At the moment, the least expensive unit for sale at the W Residence in Hollywood is unit 6H at a pricetag of $725,000. This 1 bedroom/2 bath unit offers over 1200 square feet of space. The homeowners association dues monthly for this unit runs $1674/month. It sounds hefty, but when you factor in all the amenities included, you actually receive quite a lot of bang for your buck.

If you prefer the energy of downtown Los Angeles, with LA Live, Staples Center, Nokia Theater, the Coliseum, Disney Concert Hall and much more within a short walk or quick taxi/uber ride, the Ritz Carlton Residences offer stunning views, gorgeous amenities and a beautiful rooftop pool area. The least expensive unit there at the moment is Unit 33F, which is a 1 bedroom/2 bath 1078 square foot unit. HOA fees for this unit are comparable to the W Residences, at $1691 per month.  This building also comes with complimentary breakfast each morning for its residences, a Billiard room, plus you can add room service and housekeeping if you don’t want to cook or scrub. The Ritz also has a Wolfgang Puck restaurant in the building and a lovely spa.

Ritz Carlton exterior

Exterior view of the Ritz Carlton and its location at LA Live, DTLA. The building’s exterior is stunning.

If the beach’s calm and breezy energy is more your speed, I would check out the Azzurra in Marina del Rey. I just helped a client buy a unit in the building, and the amenities are similar in scope to the W. The building has a gorgeous resort-sized swimming pool with cabanas, a rooftop jacuzzi and entertainment area with BBQ, fireplaces, heatlamps and wetbar. The units face the beach or the city, and the building includes 24-hour valet, concierge, a screening room, various sized board and meeeting rooms for work, an amply stocked gym including pilates reformers, and more. The least expensive unit in the Azzurra at the moment is unit 1526, which offers 1 bedroom/1 bath, faces the city (rather than the marina/beach), and is priced at $650,000 with HOA fees of $849/month. The location is fantastic for people who enjoy jogging, walking, cycling, dogwalking. The building abutts the Marina del Rey bike path and footpath, and connects you to beaches both north and south.

 

If money is not an issue, the Azzurra offers several units with stunning views from marina to mountain to city in an array of configurations from 2 to 3 bedrooms, some single level and some two-level penthouse style.

There are several new buildings also coming up in downtown Los Angeles that seek to rival the Ritz in luxe accomodations (and pricetags). Not as many are coming to the beach area of Los Angeles, but that is partly due to very strict development rules in cities like Santa Monica, with an activist community that is against high-rise development in the beach area.

One final note especially for singles – many of these buildings offer regular casual social get-togethers where you can meet your neighbors while wine tasting or other fun activities. No stress, no pressure to go, just opportunities to get to know who you are living next to.

 

 

Short Ribs That Melt In Your Mouth

short-ribs-on-polentaLast night, my spouse and I hosted 20 lovely friends at an intimate gathering to thank them for their charitable support of our beloved synagogue. As a special thanks, I cooked up a multi-course meal, and one of the showstoppers of the night was this dish – Braised Short Ribs served on a bed of luscious polenta. This dish is adapted/modified by me from Daniel Boloud’s recipe which appears on the website SeriousEats. If you have never checked out SeriousEats, I highly recommend it. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is a food hacker genius and his hard work on cracking recipes is much appreciated by me!

Here are the steps and ingredients required to make this dish…time is also your friend here as I began to prepare the dish 3 days before serving. For this dinner I prepped enough braised short ribs for 20 people; for the recipe below I am providing the appropriate quantities for 4-6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lb. bone-in short ribs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 stems of fresh thyme
  • Paprika
  • 2-3 cups dry red wine
  • 1 cup ruby port
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces of double concentrated tomato paste
  • 2-4 cups of good quality chicken stock – preferably low-sodium
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Equipment:

  • Dutch oven – I highly recommend this although in a pinch you could also use a slow cooker
  • Sheet pan with rack

Steps:

  1. Place the ribs on the rack in the sheet pan and liberally sprinkle with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and paprika on all sides
  2. Let the meat rest uncovered on the rack in the fridge overnight
  3. Heat up your dutch oven on the stovetop (if you don’t have this, a regular frypan will do) until very very hot, and add the vegetable oil, then sear off the meat on all sides.
  4. Place the seared beef ribs to rest on a plate; then drain off some of the rendered beef fat (short ribs are a fairly fatty cut)
  5. Add the mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery) to the dutch oven and cook on medium heat until the veggies sweat and soften.
  6. Add the garlic and the tomato paste, and continue to cook until the tomato paste begins to slightly carmelize.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325 degrees and place your rack low enough in the oven to accommodate the size of your dutch oven. (Or turn your slowcooker onto high and let it get hot).
  8. Put the ribs back into the dutch oven, and gently mix the veggies around and over the beef.
  9. Pour in the red wine and the ruby port and 2 cups of chicken stock.
  10. Toss in the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  11. Bring the dutch oven to a gentle simmer on the stovetop, then cover tightly with the lid and place in the oven.
  12. Let the meat slowly braise for at least 3 hours. Check on it once an hour to baste the meat and if the liquid level gets very low add more stock. The meat does not need to be fully covered with liquid, but make sure that the lid of the dutch oven is sealing in the liquids so that the meat is gently steaming inside the dutch oven.
  13. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and chill the contents overnight.
  14. The next day, remove as much of the solid fat as possible from the top of the ribs, and carefully remove the bones from each short rib.  They should slide out easily.Also remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  15. Gently reheat the braised ribs covered in the same dutch oven in the oven on low heat (300 degrees) until thoroughly hot. Depending on quantity, this can take at least 30-45 minutes.
  16. While the braised ribs are cooking, start on the polenta.
  17. When the polenta is completed, use a large platter or serving dish and ladle the polenta in, then add the short ribs and sauce. Bon Appetit.

 

 

Moroccan Chicken with Dried Apricots, Chickpeas, Butternut Squash and Green Olives

moroccan-chickenOkay, so admittedly I have never been to Morocco so I make no claims to its authenticity. But it is delicious and reheats beautifully.

INGREDIENTS

1 cut-up chicken

1 can of chickpeas drained (or 12 ounces of dried chickpeas soaked overnight, then drained)

1 onion, cut up

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of cut-up butternut squash

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 cup of dried apricots

1/2 cup of pitted green olives

2-4 cups of chicken broth

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cinammon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

salt & pepper

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

 

 

STEPS

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces to taste, while heating oil in the dutch oven. Sear the chicken with its skin on in the dutch oven until all sides are crispy. Remove the chicken from the dutch oven and pour off some of the chicken fat if you prefer a less oily batch. Then sautee the onions in the remaining chicken fat. Once onions are translucent and slightly golden, add the minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds until garlic is aromatic. Then add the spices in and give a stir to wake them up with the heat and fat. After the spices are warmed up, add in the veggies, and return the chicken to the pot (you can remove the chicken’s skin if you prefer).  Pour the chicken broth over the chicken and veggies to cover, then cook low (300-325 degrees) and slow for at least 90 minutes covered. About 30 minutes before the end, toss in the dried apricots and stir in so that they soak up the delicious juices from the chicken and veg.  Keep an eye on the level of liquid in the dutch oven; if it gets too low add a little water or broth.

To serve, place over a bed of steamed rice or couscous. Even though it’s mixing cuisines, I love to serve this with a cucumber yogurt (raita-style) salad on the side to offset and cool the palate from the spices.

This dish also does well cooked the evening before or in a slow cooker, then served.