If Food = Love, This Cake = Hot Sex (Flourless Chocolate Cake for Valentine’s Day)

I’ve been reading a book on food and sex in anticipation of an interview I get to do with the author next week for another website [more on that soon!] and thusly food and sex have been on my mind. Specifically, how the pleasures we enjoy in the bedroom are not so different from the pleasures we enjoy in the kitchen or the dining room. (Fork condoms anyone?) Though many people don’t like to admit it, food is love. It’s the first connection with have with another human being (mother’s breast) and our need for that connection lasts our entire life. Which is why God invented chocolate.

This is the cake I brought to school today as the adult equivalent of the glittery homemade cards we used to put in each other’s 4th grade mailboxes. Of course, there was never any card in MY 4th grade mailbox which is why I turned to cooking. If no one loves me enough to give me a card and food equals love then I’ll cook for myself! [Paging Dr. Freud.)

Rocky Macaroon

[sung to the tune of that Beatles song]

Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Hawaii

there’s a company called Dr. Paulo’s

and one day an e-mail came that took guts

it said: “We’re gonna send you some nuts [and coffee]

How’d you like that boy?”

So I said, “Sure send it”

and I waited for the mail

and it arrived real soon.

Now most macaroons

Have coconut blooms

And rarely involve macadamias

But this recipe here

Is truly sincere

When it says you should use macadamias.* [*lazy rhyming alert!]

Macadamias add crunch

and I have a hunch

that they may very well be nutritious.

I opened the bag

and a nut I did snag

and the taste was truly delicious.

But say it ain’t so

They’re salty, no no

and the recipe says use nuts that are salt-less.

So the bag went away

and I started to pray

“Dear God I believe I am faultless.”

Then God just replied:

“Son step aside.”

And I collapsed in the corner.

[Piano solo while God does all the work.]

[God toasts the coconut.]


[God combines condensed milk and vanilla.]


[God whips egg whites.]


[God combines everything.]


[God spoons them out.]


[God places them in the oven, bakes them and removes them.]


[Thanks, God!]

Now the cookies are done

And won’t it be fun

to dip each one in some chocolate

We’ll melt down some chips

and dunk til it drips

and people will say, “Mmm, there’s chocolate*.” [*Lazy rhyme #2!]


Now my macaroons

cause orgasmic swoons

just like they did in the Bible.


Plus the nuts are still here

I’ll drink them with beer

The coffee will help with my revival. Yah!

[Piano music, fade out. Cue Ringo.]

That’s My Lebovitz! A Crack at David’s Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee

Imagine a sitcom called “That’s My Lebovitz.” It takes place in Paris at the chateau of an emigre American pastry chef who loves to shake his rolling pin at old French women and humor the visiting American nebbish (played by me) who insists on learning things about Paris and baking and taking pictures of his food. Each episode begins with the pastry chef trying a new recipe and at the end, when the nebbish learns a valuable lesson, the nebbish declares in a sing-songy voice: “That’s my Lebovitz!”

This week’s episode–“Toffee Trouble!”–begins when the nebbish rings the doorbell.

Lebovitz: Go away! I’m making toffee butternut crunch! Look at this picture from my website, it’s going to be delicious.


Adam: Lebovitz, you crank, let me in. I have a class tomorrow with a teacher allergic to gluten!

Lebovitz: So switch classes.

Adam: I can’t switch classes. It’s my masters thesis class.

Lebovitz: Then switch teachers.

Adam: Lebovitz, that’s impossible. I’m breaking down the door.

[Adam breaks down the door. Lebovitz is wearing a feather boa and a tiara.]

Lebovitz: Damn you, look what you’ve done. I have a photo shoot in an hour. Is my tiara on straight?

Adam: Listen, that buffy torternut crunch…

Lebovitz: Buffy torternut? You mean Toffee butternut.

Adam: Oh, bless you. Buffy Torternut was my girlfriend in high school.

Lebovitz: Yeah right. Like you went to high school.

Adam: How do I make it? My teacher who’s allergic to gluten loves candy.

Lebovitz: I have the recipe on my website. Read it there.

Adam: But I’m here! And we only have an hour–

Lebovitz: Very well. I set up a station over there for you. Start by toasting your hazelnuts.

Adam: Hazelnuts? I thought this was ALMOND toffenut.

Lebovitz: Well I’m out of almonds. So toast your hazelnuts.

[Adam stands over a fire.]

Adam: Ahh, ok we’re toasty.

Lebovitz: No, you fool, the hazelnuts on that tray. Put them in a 350 oven for 10 minutes.

[Adam does. They come out looking like this.]


Lebovitz: Now peel them.

Adam: Peel them!? How do I do that?

Lebovitz: Did they teach you nothing in law school? You rub them together in a towel ’til the skins come off.

[Adam attempts this. He makes a big mess.]

Adam: Ok, done, what do I do next?

Lebovitz: Put them in a food processor.


Adam: They’re in!

Lebovitz: Now pulse until chopped between fine and coarse.

Adam: Is this coarse?


Lebovitz: I’d say it’s fine.

Adam: Finely coarse?

Lebovitz: Coarsely fine.

Adam: Fine.

Lebovitz: Coarse.

Adam: What next?

Lebovitz: Spread half of the nuts in a pan. Now make the toffee by putting water–

Adam: How much water?

Lebovitz: 2 Tbs. And butter–

Adam: How much butter?

Lebovitz: 1 stick. And sugar–

Adam: How much–

Lebovitz: Oh Jesus. Let me just do this part.

[Lebovitz makes the toffee. Pours it on the nuts and adds chocolate chips.]


Adam: What next?

Lebovitz: In two minutes, spread the chocolate around and add the rest of the nuts.

Adam: And then?

Lebovitz: That’s it.

Adam: You mean that’s it?

Lebovitz: That’s it. It cools and you have candy for tomorrow’s class.

Adam: I don’t believe you.

Lebovitz: Ok, then don’t believe me.

[Adam stands with his hands on his hips. Time passes.]

Adam: Yeah right that this is it. I’m sure there’s another step.

[Lebovitz is silent.]

Adam: I suppose you think you’re making a point by being silent. I suppose you think I’ll break off a piece of this now-cooled candy and try it myself.

[Adam breaks off a piece of this now-cooled candy and tries it himself.]


[It is delicious.]

Adam: It’s delicious.

[The photographer arrives.]

Lebovitz: Ok you need to leave now!

Photographer: Monsieur Lebovitz, the white tigers are in the back.

Lebovitz: C’est bon. (to Adam) Leave you foolish American!

[Adam grabs his candy and scurries out the door. He pops his head back in and says to the camera…]

Adam: That’s my Lebovitz!

Canned laughter. Theme music. Credits.

“Pass Me Some More of that Devil Corn” (Craft Caramel Corn, That Is)

When I met Derrick and Melissa at Craft in October, our meal ended with a tiny gift from the kitchen. Caramel Corn:

Longtime readers of this site will tell you that caramel corn has been the bane of my cooking existence for almost two years now. Disaster after disaster leaves me with burnt, globby messes of shrivelled kernals and inedible bricks of sugar. A few months ago, I had my first caramel corn success with a recipe from site reader Christine. But I even messed up that recipe the second time around, cooking the caramel too long (some might say “burning it”) which led to a funny experience in class where trusting classmates scooped up handfuls, stuffed them in their faces, smiled happy smiles until the smoky burn hit their throats and they stared at me like Bambi might stare at a deer hunter.

I’d given up all dreams of caramel corn glory until that tiny treat you see above was delivered to us at Craft. This was exceptional caramel corn. Perfection: silky, buttery, salty and sweet. All the good things life has to offer. I must have this recipe, I told myself. I will call and ask someone for it when I get home.

But call I did not. Instead, the same must-remain-nameless benefactor who sent me the Balthazar Cookbook sent me the Craft Cookbook. And lo and behold, the caramel corn recipe is on page 240. I attempted this recipe last night to bring to class today. How did it come out? Click ahead and learn the answer.

A Loaf of Vitamin C: The Barefoot Contessa’s Orange Pound Cake

“Loaf” is the name of the imaginary booth I want to open at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. There I would sell all sorts of cakes baked in loaf pans: Amanda Hesser’s Vanilla Bean loaf, The River Cafe’s Pistachio Loaf Cake, their Pine Nut Loaf Cake, the Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Pound Cake and this Orange Pound Cake. Won’t you buy a slice and help me stay in business?

Sophisticated Candy For The Sophisticated Reveler: A Halloween Special

To quote Peter, Paul and Mary: “If I had an orange, I’d make a candied orange peel.”

And so it was that I had an orange left over from the recipe below. And so it was that I made candied orange peel.

Making candied orange peel is very easy. I used a recipe from but it was so easy I memorized it. Here’s what you do.

Buy an orange. Peel it with a vegetable peeler in long strips from top to bottom.

Fill a pot with water, preferably hot water so it comes to a boil faster. When it’s boiling add the orange peel and boil for one minute.


Immediately remove into a strainer and bring to the sink. Rinse with cold water. Dump the hot orangey water out and refill with clean hot water. Bring to a boil again and repeat the process. (Don’t cheat and reuse the water. Just be patient, it’s worth it.)

Once you’ve boiled and rinsed in cold water twice, take a small saucepan and place 3/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in it. Bring to medium high heat until sugar is dissolved and then bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the orange peel and lower to a simmer.


Let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the peel is “tender.” You can actually watch the process of the peel getting candied: it becomes transparent and very pretty.

Remove to a sheet with parchment paper. And let dry for one hour.


And that’s it! Candied orange peel!

What’s that? You’re not satisfied? It’s Halloween and you want me to dip my orange peel in chocolate?

My you’re pushy today, aren’t you?

Very well then: in chocolate we shall dip. Take 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chips and melt over a double boiler. Once melted, dip the orange peel in about 3/4ths of the way. Place on a new sheet of parchment and put in the fridge for 15 minutes for the chocolate to dry. You will have this: [click to enlarge]


The chocolate actually enhances the candied orange peel experience so I recommend it. Can you imagine the delighted faces of the little children tomorrow who come a’knocking for candy when you drop chocolate covered orange peel in their bags? No? Ok, neither can I. Which is excellent because you can keep it all to yourself. Happy Halloween!

Fall into Fall with an inFALLible Recipe: Pumpkin Apple Bread

The very first thing I can remember making on a regular basis–when I was right on the precipice of becoming an amateur gourmet—was pumpkin bread. It’s a great recipe to start with if you’re scared of the kitchen, if you don’t have fancy equipment, if you want all the pleasures of baking without the hassle. It requires two bowls and a whisk. And loaf pans. That’s all. And your apartment will smell like heaven.

I was looking for that recipe the other day, but then I opened my Gourmet cookbook and found this recipe for Pumpkin Apple Bread. If fall were bundled up and baked in a loaf, it would look (taste, and smell) like this:

I just tried to find the recipe on Epicurious because it’s in the Gourmet cookbook, but it’s not there. So I will do as I’ve been doing, lately, and type it out for your cooking pleasure. I am too good to you people.

I love all the spices in here though some people don’t. Like my mom, for example. She once tasted my chai tea and said: “Blech! There’s cloves in there! I hate cloves!”

So if you are anti-Autumnal, like my mom, you may want to stay away—but you fall lovers, step up. This is the bread for you.

For topping:

1 Tbs all-purpose flour

5 Tbs sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 Tbs unsalted butter, softened

For bread:

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

2 tsps baking soda

1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1 (15-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 1/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 Granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (2 cups)

MAKE THE TOPPING: Blend together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a small bowl with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

MAKE THE BREAD: Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 9 X 5 inch loaf pans.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice into a medium bowl.


Whisk together pumpkin…


[Note on my pumpkin! This was the only pumpkin I could find in either Whole Foods or Gristede’s. I’m not convinced it’s solid packed. But the end result was still ok. END NOTE.]

…oil, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl. Add flour mixture, stirring until well combined. Fold in apples


Divide batter between buttered loaf pans. Sprinkle half of topping evenly over each loaf.


Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of bread comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

Cool loves in pans on a rack for 45 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely, about 1 hour.

I stupidly made this very late at night (as I am wont to do) and couldn’t resist a piece at 2 am, when it cooled. This was a bad idea. There is so much sugar in here, I was up for hours.

But my my my, did my apartment smell great. And did this taste great. As a testament to how great it tastes, I dropped half the bread on the floor just now and I’m still going to eat it. Ya, you can judge me, but whatever. I like this bread. Deal with it.

Free Book Churros

One of the perks of my job as The Amateur Gourmet is that people sometimes send me free stuff. When someone e-mails me and says that they want to send me something for me to write about on my site, I tell them my official policy. My official policy is this: “You can send me free stuff and if I like it, I’ll write about it, but if I don’t like it I won’t write about it.” It’s a very good policy.

Recently, someone who works in publishing wanted to send me a book that you see advertised in my blogads. That book is “The Seasoning of a Chef” by Doug Psaltis. This book is a highly controversial insider look at some of the top kitchens in New York. I told my contact person that he could send it but that I probably wouldn’t be able to read it because of school. And sure enough he sent it and sure enough I was too busy to read it. But every time I look at it I say, “My that looks like a good book. Maybe one day I will read it.”

But this write-up isn’t about that book. The next week, that same someone who works in publishing asked me if I’d like a copy of Mark Bittman’s new cookbook: “The Best Recipes in the World.” I leaped at the opportunity. But because leaping isn’t a clear communication when it comes to the internet, I e-mailed him and told him to send one my way. Here it is!

So first of all, this book is like an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia of world food with recipes. And it’s by Mark Bittman. I’m a latecomer to the Mark Bittman party: he’s been doing The Minimalist for years, but because I only got into food fairly recently I have to nudge my way over to his corner of the room and sniff around before I make my approach. I like his show on TV where he cooks alongside great chefs and tries to simplify their recipes. I think it’s safe to say he’s a man after my own heart. We’re both food populists.

As you can see by the above picture, my approach to this book involved mini-post-it notes. That’s because I knew flipping through it would be a time-consuming endeavor and that it would be wise to mark the recipes I want to make in the future. Otherwise, I may be intimidated to go back. Among the recipes I marked are:

– Chicken Adobo

– Pissaladiere

– Fish Tacos

– Arroz Con Pollo

– Black Risotto with Seafood

– Pad Thai

– Naan

– And, of course, churros.

Now those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while won’t be surprised that of all those recipes to try first the one that woke me into action was the desserty one. Here’s why I went for churros: I had all the ingredients, I could make an individual portion, and it was late at night (this was last night) and I craved something sweet and fried. Plus I’d get to use the pastry bag tips I bought at Williams Sonoma a few months ago.

To make churros (as per this recipe) you need:

– olive, corn, or grapeseed oil for frying [I used vegetable oil and it was fine]

– 1 tsp ground cinnamon

– 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs sugar

– 8 Tbs (1 stick) butter

– 1/4 tsp salt

– 1 cup flour

– 3 eggs

To start [and I hope my publisher guy doesn’t mind that I’m giving away this recipe!**] do the following:

[**The publisher has asked me to insert the following:

“Excerpted from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman Copyright (c)

2005 by Mark Bittman. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of

Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be

reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.”]

1. Put at least 2 inches of oil into a large saucepan or deep skillet and heat to about 350F. mix the cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar together on a large plate.

2. Combine the remaining sugar, butter, salt and 1 cup water in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.


Turn the heat to low and add the flour all at once.


Stir constantly until the mixture forms a ball, about 30 seconds.


Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring until smooth after each addition.

Note: I felt that the finished churros, while delicious, were a tad bit too eggy. I wonder if one could get away with only 2 eggs? It’s worth exploring.

3. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag with a large star tip (or you can simply drop spoonfuls of the batter into the oil.)


Press strips of dough about 4 inches long into the hot oil.


Cook as many as will fit comfortably at once, turning as they brown, for a total of 5 to 10 minutes each.

4. Remove the churros from the oil and drain them on paper towels, then immediately roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve hot or at least warm.

Now before I show you the glorious finished product, a brief note on my ghetto pastry bag. I used the Alton Brown technique of a Freezer Bag with the corner cut out. This worked very well until, with the second set of churros, the tip shot out of the corner of the bag into the hot oil!

[This is the tip after being resurrected from the oil.

IMG_10.JPGinspire a musical!]

Ahhhh, and now for the finished product. Who’s ready for some churros?


Great writers make themselves vulnerable and so I will lay myself bare and admit that I ate many many of those churros you see above. In fact, I ate almost all of them. And this was at 1 in the morning. I am a nutritionist’s nightmare. In fact, it’s a good thing Yom Kippur’s here: I have churros to atone for!

In conclusion, I hope you can see by my candidness about getting free stuff that I’m not shilling for anyone. But this Bittman book has great stuff in it. So if you’re into world cuisine and you’re inspired by churros, go check it out! Just don’t spray yourself with oil. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

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