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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.]

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[God combines condensed milk and vanilla.]

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[God whips egg whites.]

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[God combines everything.]

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[God spoons them out.]

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

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[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!]

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Now my macaroons

cause orgasmic swoons

just like they did in the Bible.

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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.]

Zany Zuni Bread Salad

There are certain recipes you catalogue permanently in your brain under the heading: “I AM GOING TO MAKE THIS SOMEDAY!” On my list you might find: black and white cookies, leg of lamb, cheese puffs (the fancy ones that Martha Stewart makes). Very high on my list was an ultra-specific dish that caught my fancy years earlier when I first purchased the Zuni Cafe cookbook: Roast Chicken & Bread Salad.

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As you can see by the picture, a few nights ago I succeeded in finally crossing this dish of my list. (Cue Hall and Oats: “This dish, this dish is off my list.”) Was it worth it? Did it disappoint? Are you tired of these questions that force you to click “Continue”?

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From Paris, With Risotto [Plus: A Snazzy Salad]

Let’s say I have this “friend” and this “friend” (in quotes) recently went to Paris and let’s say when he was in Paris he met lots of people who gave him Parisian foodstuffs and while at a market one day he bought a giant glass bottle of risotto. Let’s say he placed it in his suitcase and flew back to the States, ignoring the directive not to bring in food from outside the country. Let’s say this “friend” has a food blog and would like to blog about the risotto he made from the giant glass bottle of risotto last night. Would he be arrested? Would government agents come knocking on his door tomorrow? Let’s keep talking about him in the third person with pictures “he” provided for me over e-mail. Check out the gigantic glass bottle of risotto:

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Why did he buy risotto in Paris? Risotto is Italian. “Well,” he says, “I thought the giant glass bottle was really cool and I don’t remember seeing instant risotto anywhere in the States. Plus, I liked how you still needed butter and wine to make this instant risotto. Parisians may skimp, but they still skimp with style.”

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The Polenta Post

Foodies are often polenta bullies. “You should have polenta in your pantry,” they’ll tell you. “I make polenta all the time,” they’ll brag. “I named my first born child Polenta,” they’ll confess. Foodies really love polenta.

And so tonight I adopted a “if you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy and fried up some polenta, which I presented on my new Ikea plate with fresh made Marcella Hazan tomato sauce. Check it out!

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Has this turned me from one of the polenta picked-upons to a polenta picker on-er? Click ahead to find out…

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Penne Carbonara & My Last Will and Testament

Lauren can have my cat because Lauren’s a dog person and Lolita (who she lived with for two years) will remind her that cats are people too. Lisa can have my “Freaks & Geeks” DVD set because she hasn’t seen the end yet; Alex can have my VHS tape of the Martin Short special that aired on NBC in the 90s with Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks which I think is the funniest thing I own because she thinks it’s as funny as I do; Ricky can hang on to my “Pippin” DVD because he has it anyway and everyone else can divide up my remaining book, cookbook, DVD and CD collections.

I am writing my last will and testament because I had this for dinner last night:

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After hamburgers the night before and pizza the night before that, this was the dish that pushed me over the edge to become a true glutton. John Wayne had “True Grit,” but I’m a “True Glutton.” So if heart failure keeps me from waking up tomorrow, we now know how to divide up my possessions. If I live, it’ll be a while before I make this again–not because it wasn’t outrageously delicious, but because it made me feel guiltier than a man who kills nuns with tweezers.

Do you want to feel that guilty? Does that picture above have you salivating? Do you have a death-wish too?

It’s REALLY easy to make. You probably have all the ingredients already, with the exception of slab bacon which I had left over from the Birmingham Beet salad from the other night. I loosely interpreted a recipe for “Spaghetti Carbonara” from Marcella Hazan which I will loosely reinterpret for you in the next paragraph. This dish comes together best when you do it all in a huge rush: the high octane charges the dish with dramatic flair.

You will need: pasta (spaghetti’s the most preferable, but as you can see I used penne) (this recipe is good for half a box); 1 strip of slab bacon (or pancetta or even regular bacon); some wine (I used old old old white wine that’s been in my fridge for months. I know it’s horrible to use wine you wouldn’t actually drink but since I was only using 1/4 a cup, I didn’t care. And it tasted fine.) FRESH Parmesan cheese. 1 garlic clove.

1. Boil your pasta til it’s al dente; [you want the pasta to finish cooking just as everything else is finishing, so the heat from the pasta will cook the egg]

2. In a large bowl, crack an egg and break it up a bit with a fork. Grate about a cup of parmesan in it and then grind some pepper in there too;

3. Cut up the slab bacon into 1/4-inch strips. Take a Tbs or 2 of olive oil and pour into a skillet; heat on medium heat and add the garlic clove. Let it flavor the oil til it’s golden then remove. Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes until crisp on the outside. Move off the heat and add 1/4 cup of wine. It will sizzle.

4. Then it’s pure assembly. Add the drained pasta to the egg in the bowl; stir around and coat. Then add the bacon and the bacon fat (all the liquid from the skillet) and toss around. Taste. It is delicious. Write your last will and testament and bon apetit!

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.

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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.]

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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.

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Adam: They’re in!

Lebovitz: Now pulse until chopped between fine and coarse.

Adam: Is this coarse?

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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.]

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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.]

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[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.

Birmingham Beet Salad from “Frank Stitt’s Southern Table”

Jason Sholar is an exemplary human being. He ran the “Secret Cookbook Santa” for me this year and completely on his own accord sent me one of my most desired cookbooks from my Amazon wish list: “Frank Stitt’s Southern Table.”

This gigantic beautifully photographed book has an introduction by Pat Conroy who wrote “The Prince of Toydes” (as my mom would say) in which Pat calls Highlands Bar & Grill–Frank Sitt’s restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama–the best restaurant in America. I actually love this introduction: it paints a portrait of the chef quite beautifully. Let me quote from the final two paragraphs:

“Over a year ago, my wife, the novelist Cassandra King, and I joined Frank and Pardis [Frank’s Wife] for a spectacular meal at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant in New York. It was a meal for the ages, and it was one of the great joys of my life to watch Frank smell each dish as it arrived steaming from the kitchen and his eyes light up with pleasure as he tasted each bite with discernment and lapidary pleasure. The restaurant was as formal and plush and forbidding as HIghlands is welcoming and all-inclusive. The meal was Proustian and fabulous and indescribable, as all great meals are.

When Cassandra and I bid farewell to Frank and Pardis that night and walked toward our hotel with all the clamor and splendor and mystery of the great city swarming around us, we both agreed that Alain Ducasse was a splendid chef, but that he was no Frank Stitt.”

For my first foray into Frank’s Southern Table I decided on his “Autumn Beet Salad with Spiced Pecans, Pears and Fourme D’Ambert.”

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I think my attempt at this salad came out quite pretty though I made a few substitutions. I was out of pecans, so I candied almonds instead. This isn’t the greatest choice–almonds are difficult to stab on to a fork–but they added a needed nuttiness to an otherwise nutless salad. I could type out the entire detailed recipe, but I’ll just sketch it for you. You can actually look at the picture and figure it out. What makes it special is the combination of candied pecans, crisped slab bacon bits, sliced pear, fresh-cooked beets and bleu cheese. Take lettuce leaves (the fancy, bitter ones) and toss with oil and vinegar (or make a sherry vinaigrette, like Frank suggests). Then roast beets (Frank’s method worked well: put beets on foil sheet, drizzle with olive oil, red wine vinegar, some salt and pepper, fold up and roast in the oven at 350 for 45 to 60 minutes (until fork tender)). Slice a pear thinly and crisp the bacon bits. Mound the lettuce on a plate and “scatter the beets, pears, lardons, and pecans around and arrange a wedge of cheese on each plate.”

That’s it: a French classic given the Southern treatment. Like Madame Bovary as read by Dolly Pardon. With less cleavage.